Is Chipped Enamel Cookware Safe for Cooking?

What Is Enameled Cookware Made of?

Enamel cookware is popular because of its beautiful appearance and easy cleanup. In addition, enameled cookware is an ideal choice for people searching for non-reactive cooking vessels for their kitchen.

Enamelware is made by fusing a coating of glass to metal at very high temperatures to create a smooth, non-porous finish. The inner core can be cast iron, steel, or aluminum. The glass-like coating protects the metal surface from corrosion, makes clean-up easy, and prevents the metal base from reacting with the food. Due to strict FDA regulations, enameled cookware is safe for preparing food and ensures that the coating does not contain any substance that may have a harmful effect on anyone’s health.

 brand new enameled cookware

Is Scratched Enamel Cookware Safe?

If the damage to your enamelware is the result of dark marks caused by metal utensils, and if the enamel coating is not damaged and removed, you can clean and use such cookware to cook your meals. Dark traces of metal utensils are imperfections that can be removed by cleaning. Simply add some lemon to baking soda to make a paste and gently rub the surface with a non-abrasive sponge, then rinse with warm water.

You can also clean knife marks with a Bar Keepers Friend powder cleanser and a non-abrasive sponge.

To avoid damage to the enamel layer, use non-metallic utensils, such as those made of silicone, wood, or bamboo. Also, let your enamel cookware cool gradually.

enameled scratched plate

Is Chipped Enamel Cookware Safe?

Enamel coating may chip if it is dropped or hit by a hard object, revealing the metal underneath. This will compromise the functionality of the cookware as the unprotected metal core can leak harmful ingredients into food.

Another potential problem is small, sharp enamel particles that can get into the food and cause mouth and throat injuries.

Finally, enamel with chips has a rough surface that is not easy to keep clean and may harbor germs and bacteria.

enameled pan with chipped coating

How Does Chipped Coating Affect the Functionality of Enameled Cookware?

Enameled cast iron cookware: If the enamel coating on the cooking surface is damaged, the metal core will leak the iron molecules into your food. There are some opinions that a certain amount of leaked iron could be beneficial for people with iron deficiency. However, it is not easy to determine the right dosage of iron this way and it should be avoided. Excess iron in the body acts the opposite of an antioxidant and can cause cell damage and serious health issues, including damage to the brain and liver. To avoid these problems, you shouldn’t try to provide your body with added iron by using iron cookware. Discard enameled cast iron cookware with chipped email or stop using it for cooking and serving food.

Enamel on steel cookware: This cookware has either carbon-steel or stainless-steel interiors coated with a thin layer of glass. While carbon steel or stainless-steel cookware can be reactive if you cook or store food with acidic ingredients, enamel on steel cookware is safe for preparing any type of food.

A glass-like coating may chip, or crack like any other enamelware. If the base is made of nonreactive steel, chipped items won’t leak metals into your food. Note that reactive types of steel may be prone to rusting and reacting with food.

To stay on the safe side, discard pieces with chipped enamel coating as the damaged area could continue to chip and may be hard to keep clean.

Enameled Aluminum Cookware: Modern enamel aluminum cookware has a cast-aluminum core and enamel coating. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat while enamel coating makes cookware sleek and easy to maintain like new. Cast aluminum core makes this cookware much lighter than cast iron enamel cookware.

While there is no approved evidence that aluminum is unsafe, aluminum may have some harmful side effects, especially for people with reduced kidney function.

To minimize the risk of health issues linked with aluminum, discard cooking vessels with chipped or cracked enamel, or not use them for preparing food.

Is It Possible to Repair Chipped Enamel Cookware?

If your cookware is relatively new, check with your cookware manufacturer if the damage wasn’t your fault. The company may replace the damaged cookware item with a new one.

If you try to repair enamel cookware, such a repaired cooking surface won’t be food safe.

You can use enamel repair kits to repair external enamel surfaces that won’t come in contact with food.

Is Vintage Enamelware Safe to Use in the Kitchen?

Although enameled cookware made its way to America in the mid-1800s, the FDA started to regulate levels of lead in the 1970s to ensure that enamel cookware is safe for contact with food. In the past, some manufacturers used additives like lead and cadmium in the production of brightly colored enamelware.

Since enamelware produced before 1970 was not subject to lead level regulation, you don’t want to use it to cook and store food due to possible high levels of toxic metals like lead and cadmium.

It is also possible that pieces produced around 1970 have a very thin layer of enamel coating prone to chipping. 

Before using old, enameled cookware, you need to check for cracks and chips. You also have to know the manufacturing process and the exact year in which the item was made.

Since vintage enamelware can look very attractive and rustic, many pieces from earlier periods could have value for serious collectors.

If you have vintage enamelware, you can decorate your kitchen by placing it on your shelves or use it as a beautiful vase for freshly picked flowers.

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