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Dec 9, 2008 10:28 AM

Enamel Coated Cast Iron v. Non-Coated Cast Iron

I am an avid cast iron user and love the finish and flavor that it gives the food. I am wondering if anyone has had experience with both coated and non-coated cast iron that can provide insight into whether or not the food is comparable or not at all. I guess just logically thinking I feel that the direct contact with the iron is an added bonus of the non-coated as far as flavor, but I have never used a coated one so it is only an assumption.

So the real question here, is there any noticable difference in flavor and finish with the coated v. non-coated?

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  1. The main difference in cooking is that you can use higher heat with plain CI frying pans; enameled manufacturers sadvise using low to medium heat.

    1. Flavor-wise, for me, the difference is that I can get a char on the CI, especially the grill pan, that I can't get with the enameled CI. (Maybe others can, but I can't.) But I can get a nice browning with the enameled, and, of course, unlike the CI, I can put acidic foods in the enameled. So, the difference is more about what each type of cookware is used for, at least for me. They both perform beautifully when asked to do what they're intended for. Why don't you try a small piece of the enameled? I get as much use out of my little cocotte as I do the larger enameled French oven. Since you appreciate CI, if you cook with tomatoes, wine, vinegars, so on so forth, as I do often, you might enjoy having at least one enameled piece. And....they are so easy to clean by hand, but can also go in the dishwasher.

      1. unlike plain cast iron, you don't have to season enameled cast iron. Uncoated cast iron seems to produce better bacon, but as others have noted, uncoated cast iron interacts with acidic foods like tomatoes and alters the taste. So if you want to make a tomato sauce, you might do it in an enameled pot but not in plain cast iron. Enameled cast iron is also less prone to rust and you can soak it for a while, unlike plain cast iron. Most of the time you can use them interchangeably. The biggest difference, of course, is price.

        1. Thanks everyone...I guess I will get a piece of enamel-coated and try it out!

          1. As others have said, you just can't get as good a sear on enameled cast iron. I don't currently own any enameled pieces, and I don't miss it. There's nothing I could do in enameled cast iron that I can't in plain cast iron, but the opposite is not true.

            9 Replies
            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              i would not recommend making tomato sauce in a plain cast iron pot

              1. re: chuckl

                I can and do. As I said once in another cast-iron thread, if you're making Grandma's special lemons braised in apple cider vinegar or something like that, plain cast iron is probably not the way to go. but if your cast iron is properly seasoned, acidic foods and even tomato sauces will come out fine.

              2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                First there is no practical problem with acidic foods in plain cast iron.
                Theoretically maybe , but i have simmered tomato based sauces for many hours in plain CI for 50+ years with no damage.
                Further , the enameled ware is far more prone to sticking than unadorned cast iron.
                I wish you luck with your decision.
                Having experience, i have no need of luck.

                1. re: mr jig

                  I'm not talking about "damage," but cast iron will certainly alter the taste of any acid-based dishes like tomato sauce. It's not about being a health hazard, it's about having a taste that I personally do not care for and that would not occur without cast iron.

                  1. re: chuckl

                    No offense, but I just read the other current cast iron thread in which you say that you don't have to season any part of cast iron except the cooking surface, and I'm pretty sure that's why you're getting a nasty taste from things you cook in it. You're not using properly seasoned cast iron. To repeat, you CAN cook tomato sauces and other acidic foods in plain cast iron, as long as that cast iron is properly seasoned inside and out.

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      My experience has been that chili (which is 50% tomato, 50% meat onions, beans, etc.) does fine in my DO, and that spaghetti sauce (which is 80% tomato, 20% meat, onions, etc.) will strip the seasoning and get funky in a hurry.

                      No way around it, acidic stuff will do a number on the seasoning. A well-seasoned pot just has more seasoning to burn through before the contents reach bare metal. And becuse of the way dutch ovens get used (a lot of "wet" dishes) the seasoning isn't always the best . Popping corn and baking bread seems to help..

                      1. re: MikeB3542

                        Re the general discussion, it's not that one *can't* cook acidic foods in CI; it's that many people don't prefer to do it and for them, there is a good enough reason not to do it. Looking at this from the other direction...I love a good char on my meat and skin-on poultry, and I don't think any venues produce that as well as a grill on an open fire or CI. But I'm not going to cook the most delicate of French sauces in CI, if I can help it, and I'm not even going to do a routine white sauce in it, because the color will be off.

                        Yes, I can cook my meat and chicken in materials other than CI, but if I want a char, CI is the most *effective* choice. Likewise, I *can* make a sauce in CI (enameled or not), but it's not the vessel or choice for potions containing eggs or cream or things that need instant or rapid heat adjustment.

                        So, to expand my skills and cooking accomplishments (and enjoyment), I want to have a range of cooking materials on hand and use the material that is best for the job at hand.

                      2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                        I've made plenty of tomato based dishes in a plain CI dutch oven for years to rave reviews. Never quite understood why the fuss about tomato in cast-iron, I simply haven't had the same experiences. Note typically the sauces have seared ground meat with the drippings in which a soffrito is sauteed into which crushed tomatoes are cooked.

                        1. re: kevine

                          I think there are people who can taste the difference, and those who cannot. That is why some people think it is OK to use bare CI for acids. It is probably a matter of genetics.