Should You Use A Dutch Oven With Chipped Enamel?

If you've ever been to a flea market, antique sale, or second-hand shop, you've likely seen your fair share of used enameled cast iron Dutch ovens. The prices on this traditionally expensive cookware are, no doubt, more than appealing. Despite a few scratches and stains from years of use, many second-hand Dutch ovens are in perfectly useable condition. However, there is always that moment when you come across one with a really good price — more than likely, it's chipped. While it may be tempting to ignore this fact in favor of the price, rethink your position.

Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are among the most sought-after and prized cookware of all time. They are aesthetically pleasing, conduct heat extremely well, and will last, provided you take care of them properly. However, as with any piece of cookware, the enamel will wear down over time. 

While most light scratches and discoloration can be considered standard wear and tear, chipping presents a deeper, far more hazardous problem that cannot be ignored. Sadly, you shouldn't buy a chipped enamel Dutch oven for a great price unless you plan to use it as a flower pot — that's all it would be good for at the end of the day.

Why you shouldn't cook with a chipped Dutch oven

Cooking with a chipped enamel Dutch oven is not recommended by any major manufacturer or industry expert. Enameled cast iron is made by baking a slurry mix of glass, pigments, and clay onto the surface of a cast iron pot. The two fuse together and the glass mixture creates an enameled coating, protecting the cast iron beneath to provide a cooking surface. While the raw cast iron underneath the enamel will not harm you, a small chip in the enamel will only continue to grow until it is beyond repair.

A deep chip in the enamel will also leave the inner layer exposed — this is rough and unpolished, and therefore far more likely to break. As you're cooking, small bits of enamel can potentially break off into your food. Not only does this worsen the damage to the pan, but small bits of enamel in your food are not what anyone wants. 

A cheap, chipped Dutch oven is going to cause more drama than it's worth. Some scratched and stained cookware can be easily repaired, but chipped enamel, sadly, cannot be saved.