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Dec 30, 2008 07:29 PM

Cast iron cookware. Enamel the way to go?

I've decided I want my cookware to be cast iron. I'm thinking of purchasing the enamel covered cast iron stuff. Any brand recommendations? Yes to enamel? No? Why? Any experience with enamel covered cast iron? Regular cast iron? I have a flat surfaced stove, btw.

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  1. I own and use both regular cast iron and enameled (Le Creuset). The plain iron pans include two large frying pans from Lodge (12 inches and 14 inches) and a very old Griswold flat griddle, and the main Le Creuset is a large dutch oven. The main difference is that you can cook anything in the enameled pan, but you would not want to cook anything acidic in the plain iron pan. A tomato sauce, for instance, would not only eat away your pan's "seasoning", but it would also leach an incredible amount of iron into the sauce, leaving you with an iron-flavored mess. There are those who disagree with the tomato/acid caution, pointing out that many old-time cooks only had the one large pan, and that they used it to cook basically everything, but I've experienced the nasty iron flavor myself, and I stand by that advice.

    The other thing, of course, is that cast iron will simply rust if you leave even a little water on it. My mother always washed her pan (usually with just water, but sometimes with mild soap and water), wiped it out, and then put it back on the burner for a minute to evaporate every last bit of moisture. I remember her doing that when I was 5 years old, and she still cooks almost everything in that same pan 37 years later.

    1 Reply
    1. re: angusb

      I've been thinking of possibly investing in just a large dutch oven. I really love the idea of taking something from the stove to the oven. If not cast iron... what do you think of coppered heavy bottom cookware? Any specific brand recommendations?

    2. Plain cast iron is indestructible - except for rusting if you don't take care of them.
      I love my cast iron skillets, so much so that my 12" doesn't even have a home in a cupboard. It lives on the stovetop because I use it pretty much every day for something or other.
      I've had enameled cast iron skillets and haven't been happy with them.
      Enamel is glass.
      You can heat cast iron as hot as your stove will go with no problem - and I often do when I sear steaks - but my enameled cast iron "crazed" after awhile. "Crazed" = those tiny little cracked-looking lines.
      I guess de-glazing some dishes didn't help a bit. The cooler liquid hitting the vitreous enamel while the cast iron held the full heat probably caused the crazing.
      The enamel also never gets the same non-stick quality that good well-seasoned plain cast-iron does. An egg will always stick to the enamel. (Some people are going to disagree with me.)

      I do have some Le Creuset Dutch ovens which I love but that's about it.
      Can't see the value in most other pieces of enameled cast iron.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MakingSense

        This is very helpful advice. I was thinking of really making a sizeable investment into this and using this as my sole cookware. I will have to reconsider. Thank you for mentioning the crazing. I had no idea whatsoever!

      2. No reason at all to make all your cookware one
        type. The big advantage of plain cast iron is that
        you can sear at high heat without worry. The
        big advantage of enameled cast iron is
        that it looks nice if you bring it to to the
        table. Cast iron disadvantage: It heats unevenly.
        Other negatives: Some report it discolors acidic sauces;
        it's also heavy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mpalmer6c

          Ditto that. I love my cast iron pans and dutch ovens, but they are still specialty pieces. I use them enough that they are permanently perched on the stovetop, but most of my cooking still done in stainless steel or anodized aluminum -- they heat up fast, have handles that stay cool, and they are light. In the case of my stainless, I can toss it in the dishwasher.

        2. I have both plain and enameled cast iron but use them for different recipes. I received a Le Creuset oval dutch oven (3 qt. or so) and use it for any acidic ingredients as well as baking Chris Kimball's N0-knead bread. The others are skillets, griddles, etc., some covered, some not. I love the way cast iron cooks...nothing like it. BUT I gave away the enameled skillets. Everything sticks. The main problem with cooking only with cast iron is that it is SOOOOOOO heavy and as we get older, our wrists get weaker. Believe me, I'm a living example! You might want to get a lighter weight large pot to make spaghetti or other items and need quarts and quarts of boiling water.

          1. Go with a plain cast iron pan.

            Get for pennies on the dollar at your local thrift shop instead of paying through the nose for a name brand.

            Season it and take care of it and it will reward you ten fold, if not more.