Cell identity is determined by specific gene expression patterns that are conveyed by interactions between transcription factors and DNA in the context of chromatin. In development, epigenetic modifiers are thought to stabilize gene expression and ensure that patterns of DNA methylation and histone modification are reinstated in cells as they divide. Global erasure of epigenetic marks occurs naturally at two stages in the mammalian life cycle, but it can also be artificially engineered using a variety of reprogramming strategies. Here we review some of the recent advances in understanding how epigenetic remodeling contributes to conversion of cell fate in vivo and in vitro. We summarize current models of epigenetic erasure and discuss the various enzymes and mechanisms that may operate in cellular reprogramming.