You invested a significant sum into your Dutch oven, and as such, you don’t want to see it cracked. Unfortunately, you look at it one day that it appears damaged. What happened?
Why did my Dutch oven crack? You have a few things that can crack your Dutch oven, but the most common causes include rapid heat changes, heating when empty, or a poor quality brand. The crack may also already have existed on the enamel, which means that you don’t have to worry about it.
In the following article, we will look at what can cause a Dutch oven to crack and go into further detail about cracking, chipping, and warping. If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid this, keep reading.
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7 Reasons Why Cast Iron Cookware Can Crack
Thermal Shock: The Most Common Cause
Cracks on Dutch ovens commonly happen because of a rapid temperature change that puts undue stress on the Dutch oven.
Let’s take an example of where this happens. You have a cold Dutch oven that you put into an already preheated oven. Never do this.
The Dutch oven doesn’t have time to adjust to the higher heat as it does when you slowly preheat the cast-iron up when the conventional oven is heating up.
I advise against putting a hot Dutch oven into cool water too. You want to let the pot cool off before you slip it into the cool water to avoid drastic sudden temperature changes.
While Dutch ovens made from cast iron are hardy and can withstand high temperatures of up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit when seasoned, you should never let this temperature change come on suddenly.
Expert Tip: Despite popular advice to the contrary, do not pre-heat an enamel Dutch oven before placing bread dough inside because this can cause a thermal shock as the cold bread dough rises. The bread dough may rise even more causing further issues for example bread to the inside of the oven
Enamel Dutch ovens like the ones from Le Creuset require special care because the enamel has a special proneness to cracking when exposed to thermal shock.
Recommened reading – How hot can a Dutch oven get? – here
Quality: It Does Make a Difference
Outside of thermal shock and improper care of your Dutch oven, this cookware sometimes cracks because of inferior quality. You can do everything right with the wrong brand and still have it crack.
In other words, you get what you pay for. Le Creuset and Staub stand out as the finest brands in the culinary arts, and as long as you avoid things like thermal shock or blatant abuse, the Dutch oven will last for years.
With the cheaper enamel cookware, it may start to crack after a time, despite your best cautions. You want to look closely because the crack doesn’t always go straight through to the cast iron.
Never use an enameled Dutch oven with a chip in the cooking region, that is because it may continue chipping, which can put sharp pieces of enamel in your food.
Overheating the Dutch Oven
We previously stated that you can heat cast iron up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, but you probably shouldn’t. Dutch ovens can cook your food well even at a lower temperature because of how cast iron retains heat for longer and conducts heat better than aluminum or ceramic.
That means that you use less electricity because you don’t have to set it at the highest heat setting. One sign of overheated cast iron is that it will smoke if overheated. If left for too long, this can cause it to crack.
Part of the issue comes from how higher temperatures burn off the seasoning, which protects your cast iron. Usually, this won’t lead to a Dutch oven cracking, but you don’t want to risk it.
Preheating an Empty Dutch Oven
Putting an empty Dutch oven into an oven or over a stovetop requires something inside it during the preheating stage. Without it, you risk cracking the enamel of your Dutch oven. You can add cooking oil or water or even butter into the pot.
Expert Tip: Make sure that you always add enough because the other danger is that you don’t put enough butter or oil into the Dutch oven, and it still cracks it. To give you an idea, you want to add enough that it coats the bottom of the pan.
Recommended Reading – Oils for seasoning cast iron – here
Proper Care of Your Dutch Oven
The final note is that you want to properly care for your Dutch oven because this lengthens its lifetime and reduces the risk of cracking.
Never put your Dutch oven in the dishwasher because it can wear away the enamel.
While some brands like Le Creuset say their Dutch ovens are dishwasher safe, it’s not the wisest choice to put them in the dishwasher. Hand washing is preferred.
You don’t have to season an enameled Dutch oven, which makes maintenance easier.
Well-seasoned cast iron pans release the food more easily and last for generations.
Never use steel wool on a Dutch oven because it can corrode the surface or scratch the enamel.
Luckily, enamel can take a beating, but that doesn’t mean that you should willingly give it a beating.
To maximize its lifetime, do these things when it comes to cleaning your Dutch oven:
- Start with cleaning the exterior
- Gently massage the interior for cleaning
- Use a paste from baking soda and water to scrub the pot
Recommended Reading – Learn how to clean enamel cast-iron – here
Take Advantage of Lifetime Warranties
Both Staub and Le Creuset, respected cookware brands, offer lifetime warranties on their Dutch ovens and other cookware if you have cracked or chipped enamel.
Don’t ignore it. Especially if the chips or cracks sit in the cooking region, eating food from it poses a danger.
Many companies will offer lifetime warranties on their Dutch ovens, which you can take advantage of if it cracks or chips. Always be aware of the limitations, however.
Expert Tip: When unboxing cast-iron cookware thoroughly inspect the pieces including the lid before its first use. Check for chips, cracking, warping, the handles and loops lifters on the lid should not compromised in any way.
Cracked Dutch Oven: Can You Cook with It?
As long as the crack or chip doesn’t sit along the cooking area, you can still cook with it. After all, you have cast iron beneath the enamel.
Some people even cook with a crack or chip in the cooking area, but it isn’t advisable because you can get enamel in your food.
Not only that but once your Dutch oven starts to crack and chip, you may see more chips and cracks forming on it. You don’t have to put up with it because many companies offer a lifetime warranty if it does crack.
While you may pay more for Staub or Le Creuset, they support their products. You can replace your cracked Dutch oven for free under Le Creuset’s warranty.
To Finish – Why Did My Dutch Oven Crack?
Hopefully, this article sheds some light on why your Dutch oven cracked and what you can do about it. Also, we looked at how you can avoid cracking it, to begin with.
Fall back on the warranty if it cracks. Many companies offer an outstanding warranty on cast iron products because of how cast iron has a reputation for lasting generations.
If you avoided doing the things mentioned here and your Dutch oven still cracked, it could just come down to the brand or product quality.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks
Thanks for the video music – Ben Sound