Seasoning Enameled Cast Iron
I just bought my first piece of enameled cast iron, a Le Creuset 5.5 QT Round French Oven. Now, I know both Le Creuset and Staub say their enameled cast iron requires no seasoning. But in reading a lot of comments on Amazon, I found one long, detailed comment that advocates seasoning from a guy who owns 23 pieces of enameled cast iron. I'd like anyone with the time and interest to read the first comment at this link and tell me what you think:
For those who don't want to make the jump, I'll summarize: he says for a new piece of enameled cast iron, before using it the first time you should season it two or three times (over a period of that many days) with olive oil at low heat, so that the oil is absorbed into the pores of the new enameled cast iron. Then, and this is the kicker, because he feels duck fat is high quality, he cooks a duck to have that fat absorbed into the pores. Plus, he feels it helps a new owner learn temperature control.
I really do not think you should season an enameled cast iron cookware, certainly, not the kind of ~400 F seasoning in oven or worse, the high temperature seasoning on cooktop This is simply because the enameled surface will crack at high temperature.
According to Staub, there is a certain level of seasoning for black matte enameled surface, but one should do so at low temperature and require no intentional seasoning -- basically it will season as you cook normally. Here is the link to that Staub FAQ (the top Q&A):
This guy you referenced has said and written a few things which I question. He wrote: "When grease and oil is heated it thickens and degrades. Solids form. That's why olive oil begins the cooking process with no cholesterol yet at the end of the cooking process you end up with cholesterol."
It is true that "unsaturated fat" can turn into "saturated fat" at high temperature, which is why olive oil, full of unsaturated fat, may not be all that healthy in high temperature cooking. For example, a "monosaturated fat" can convert into "saturated fat" by breaking its double bond at high temperature: http://www.nature.com/horizon/livingf...
I am sure we can see that happening
However, I do not believe fats can convert to cholesterol on a cooking pan. Cholesterol looks nothing like a fat molecule. It looks like this:
I won't put too much weight onto this person's opinions.
Cast iron is not porous.
There are no pores to absorb anything.
Enamel isn't porous either, it's glass.
Now.. that said... there are *some* enameled cast iron pieces that aren't enameled on contact surfaces, like the top edge of some dutch ovens, etc. For those, if you want to avoid rust, feel free to season that bit. Dampen a paper towel in oil, wipe it on the exposed cast iron, and bake at 450 for an hour.
That right Chem. Oil clings to the porous surface to make that hard carbon seasoning. If you polish cast iron to a glass like surface, it just won't season right, just like enameled pans won't take seasoning. I just don't get some pinheads trying to get people ruin their cookware.
Oh by the way I just read all amazon reviews of this Anthony guy. I think he is on the ban Dihyhrogen Monoxide ( H2O) band wagon, or hes on some wacky weed.
re: yakitat jack
Ha ha ha. You serious? Maybe something about H2O diluting our life force. :)
I didn't read through his review because when he said oil (fat) can turn into cholesterols, I decided to stop reading.
Well, maybe I will sit down and read his reviews one day and get a kick out of it.
re: yakitat jack
Would what he says to do "ruin" cookware? Rubbing a little oil on the inside seems harmless at worst. After all, he's not saying to season it in a hot oven, just rub it with olive oil while heating it slowly on the stove, until the oil shimmers at most but doesn't smoke. And he emphasizes temperature control, never going above medium heat. I thought enamel might be slightly porous after what I read in the "Le Creuset vs Staub" thread, in which some say that the Staub develops a seasoning and becomes more nonstick with use.
I know your question is toward yakitat, but I figure you won't mind if I jump in just a bit. No, what he said will not ruin the cookware. As the Staub link I provided earlier, a black matte enameled surface is not the same as the usual glossy enameled surface and thus it can take some form of seasoning. Staub advises achieving this as part of regularly cooking, but you can certainly speed this up by doing low heat seasoning – mimicking cooking without the foods. I will copy and paste two Q&As here.
What are the benefits of black matte enamel versus the shiny enamel?
Our black matte enamel is highly indestructible and provides better cooking results; over time your Staub pot will slowly season itself as oils used when cooking will penetrate the pores of the black matte enamel. The black matte enamel will also brown, braise and reduce better!
Is Staub non stick?
The black matte enamel surface is not non stick. Using oil will prevent most sticking, yet there still may be sticking which helps to brown, braise and reduce your meals better. Over time your Staub pot will naturally create a non stick surface on the bottom that you get from seasoning a piece of rough cast iron.
However, if you would like your Staub product to have an immediate, nonstick surface you can coat the surface with vegetable oil and heat it on a low setting. The oil will penetrate the pores of the matte enamel and create a natural, nonstick surface.
I am not saying that that person’s review is absolutely wrong. I am just saying that some of the things he said is too Gung Ho. Like you must perform this seasoning he provided and you must use duck fat and only duck fat, not chicken fat or pork fat. He is a bit over-zealot about it, as if your cookware will explode if otherwise.
Again, you can season a black matte enameled surface, but not a typical smooth enameled surface. Your Dutch Oven or French Oven is highly unlikely to have a black matte surface. Best of luck.
Thanks Chemicalkinetics, your replies always make a lot of sense. You hit on the key point for me right away: he was talking about Staub - in fact, all 5 of his cookware reviews were of Staubs, not Le Creuset.
BTW, in his most recent review he backed off a little on the duck thing.
I guess I looked at it a little differently than others. I ignored his attempts at scientific explanation (most people who cook aren't great at that anyway) and instead noted that he owns a lot of enameled cast iron and has a lot of cooking experience. That impressed me more.
I think part of the problem is talk of "seasoning" and "pores". Some people look at those as very specific, technical terms, and I suppose that's correct. But I was thinking that there's some logic to the idea of there being microscopic roughness in even an enamel surface, and hence it might be a good idea with a new pan or pot to initially fill that in with a good fat like olive oil rather than some sort of carbonized gunk that could result from messing up one's first meal. Yakitat Jack said something along the lines of my thought process, except he recognized better than me that shiny Le Creuset enamel is very smooth..
As you make clear, the Staub enamel is designed to be rough(er), and even with Staub they don't advocate any sort of seasoning, they just say their cookware naturally becomes somewhat seasoned through use.
BTW, for my first use of my Le Creuset I'm making beef barley soup. The meat (beef shank) browned very nicely in a little oil, barely stuck. So that was my "seasoning". :)
Thanks again to all for the discussion. It has been educational.
100% sure. Cast iron is not porous.
Pores are holes, NOT surface roughness. I think people are simply mistaking the surface roughness that cast iron has due to the sand-casting process.
If you polish cast iron, it'll still season, just like carbon steel pans and woks season, and I don't think I've come across anyone saying carbon steel is porous. If you "polish" something that's porous, it's still porous...think of wood. So Yakitat Jack's reasoning doesn't make sense... if cast iron was porous, 'polishing' it should make no difference.
Try a Google search for "cast iron micrograph" and look for yourself. You'll see flakes of graphite embedded in the metal, but no holes.
Ok. I agree pores are little holes. But what i meant by porous is surface roughness. You need that roughness for carbon seasoning to cling to. If you season polished carbon steel like cast iron it will flake off. That is why the seasoning on steel is thin. I have never seen a Staub pot (never too old to learn) so if it is black matte enamel, I can see why you would want to season it, but not a nice red shiny enamel pot. Oh yes polishing cast iron does make a difference. I lap grind all my camp dutch oven lids to to the pot to get a tight seal (I tag each set for I.D.). The rims will not season as good as the rest of the pot.
Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide was hoax in the 90's for gullible people and politicians. For a good read go to www.dhmo.org/
3G: "Enamel isn't porous, either, it's glass."
From: "Failure of Vitreous Enamel Coatings" by Cleeland & Morgan in Engineering Failure Analysis, Vol. 3, Issue 3, September 1996, pp. 149-155:
"The fact that porosity was found in the vitreous enamel coating is not in itself unusual, since all enamel coatings contain pores..."