Cast Iron vs. Enameled Cast Iron - Why?
I'm looking to purchase my first cast iron skillet in the next few months and am trying to learn more about the difference between regular cast iron skillets and enameled cast iron skillets (like Le Cruset). I have a Le Cruset dutch oven that I would save in a fire I love it so much, but don't have anything else cast iron.
Is the enameled cast iron better with acidic items like wine or tomatoes? Does the regular cast iron build up a better fond? Can the enameled cast iron go under the broiler with a steak in it? I'll be cooking on a gas cooktop with one high heat burner and in an electric oven.
Thanks for your help!
My personal choice was cast iron (non enameled) for skillets. I don't really do acidic cooking in skillets - I would use my le creuset dutch oven for that and I also have the buffet casserole from le creuset in two sizes. For the skillet, I will mostly be doing meat searing, bacon (I don't eat it but have been findng reasons to cook it to season my skillet) and eggs. I've heard good and bad things about the le creuset black satin enamel finish on their larger skillets so I'm not sure how good it is (as far as it's non-stick-ness).
Many sources say not to cook acidic foods in a straight cast iron utensil. I think some people get away with it but it could be because their pans are well seasoned (not something you have the luxury of with a new pan).
I also chose cast iron because it adds some iron to your diet and I wanted a challenge ;) I finally am at a place where I'm happy with mine. I reasearched a lot of initial seasoning techniques and had a few glitches along the way. But last night was the ultimate victory, I cooked some killer scrambled eggs in it last night which is something folks around here said was not a good idea.
I also chose cast iron for the affordability factor. Amazon has my lodge cast iron (I got 12", 10" and 8") for great prices and free shipping. I believe walmart carries it too. Why not try one out and see how you like it? Get a size different than the LC one you are eyeing and play with it.
With plain cast iron, you can use very high heat for such things as blackened fish. Le Creuset recommends low to medium heat (still plenty of heat to sear, in my experience). Cast iron is OK for metal utensils; LC recommends non-metal tools. Food adhesion seems about the same to me, with seasoning. LC looks handsomer if you want to bring pan directly to table.
I have six cast iron skillets and non are enameled. Cast iron holds a lot of heat, but is slow to heat up. Adding two layers of enamel makes it even slower. Enamel is fine for a dutch oven or other piece that's used for a lot of wet cooking. When I steam mussels I use my one enameled pot, but for skillets, I prefer going bare.
I don't know how enamel is regarding fond, but plain cast iron is not so good for that. You don't get the best caramelization, and when you deglaze you inevitably get some little grains of carbon (part of the seasoning layer) that turn your sauce grey. I have one stainless steel pan and the only time I use it is when I need fond.
So, as with every question regarding what type of pan is best, depends on what you want to cook.