Please help! Learning to cook with LC enameled cast-iron
I recently bought a 5.5 qt dutch oven and 3.5 qt braiser and would like to ask for help in learning how to cook with enameled cast iron. I was very excited, but my first attempt was a disaster and I am now worried that my big investment will go down the drain.
The Le Creuset instructions stated never to heat an empty pan, so I added the oil to the cold pan and then tried to heat slowly. I then added onions and later tried to sear/brown pieces of chicken. Most of my meat stuck horribly and left the flavorful crust on the pan!!! Other pieces didn't brown enough... (I may have panicked and turned down the heat). What am I doing wrong? I was using the 3.5 qt braiser to stir-fry, since I had read that it could be used for this purpose (user reviews seemed to love this braiser for its versatility). I read some suggestions that advise heating an empty pan and then adding oil to prevent sticking, but I was worried about this due to the manufacturer's instructions. Is that the way to go?
Possible issues I came up with:
- not enough oil?
- should have pre-heated empty pan and then added oil?
- turned meat too soon?
- too hot?
- not hot enough or not heated evenly?
- wrong use?
Any tips would be greatly appreciated. I know that others cook beautifully with LC cookware, so it must be some user error on my part. In the past, I used a non-stick All-Clad skillet for this purpose but I am trying to phase out non-stick cookware. Thank you for any suggestions!
I REALLY appreciate everyone's input and suggestions (and recipes)! I will try to experiment with these different techniques for better results, but it sounds like the overall consensus is that enameled cast iron is not the best choice for stir-fry applications. I was hoping that it could be a stand-in for my old 12" non-stick... Oh well.
I hope that I'll have more success cooking other things with my new LC pans. It was my first attempt to cook with enameled cast iron (I have mostly SS and non-stick), so hopefully I'll get the hang of it as I use it more. Thank you again for all the tips!!!
indy, you might be aware already, but Molley Steven's "All About Braising" is a very resourcefull book for LC and DO cooking. I decided to buy the 3.5 qt braiser and 6.75 oval DO primarily based on the recipes in this book. Both of the recipes in the links are from her book. There are recipes requiring a larger DO than a 5.5 qt but you can modify the amount of ingredience anytime. You can check it out how people love this book at the "Home Cooking" board's cookbook of the month. It is very useful book especially for fall and winter time when you appreciate the slow-cooking comfort food. Happy cooking:)
I don't think you can really use a LC enameled cast iron cookare for stir fry. Maybe you can, but it is one of the lowest ranking cookware for stir fry. Seriously, I would rate, carbon steel, bare cast iron, anodized aluminum.... almost everything above an enameled cast iron for stir fry.
There are several things of stir fry which goes completely against with an enameled cast iron cookware. For example, many stir fry (in fact, most) requires very high heating surface. There are a lot of sudden heating and cooling involves. You don't want too much oil in stir fry. Many stir fry requires quick movement of the foods which involves tossing the foods constantly. None of these goes well with an enameled cast iron cookware. Use this cookware for something else, but stir fry. Otherwise, you will be constantly struggling this.
indy, You got good advices and I agree with all, but I would say enameled cast-iron is not the best tool for stir-fly. I have the 3.5 braiser but I use it for the type of recipes like "saute/simmer". For stir-fly, carbon steel or bare cast iron pans are more suitable because stir-fly requires short time cooking with high heat. ( I don't say LC CANNOT handle stir-fly. I say it is not the best tool.) I have one old cheap SS wok type pan, which I don't mind ruining or discoloration with high heat, so I use it when I want to sir-fly. I love the LC braiser as I make saute/simmer type a lot more than stir-fly. LC is very good at simmering. It keeps things warm longer than SS etc and looks beautiful on the dinner table. It also shines for the recipes using it in the oven for simmering long time. So, I recommend to use the recipes which require browning, degrazing, and simmering for the braiser. Also, pasta sauces with which you can mix bolied pasta in the braiser and bring it directly to the table. I also like to use it to make pancakes, keep them all in the pan, bring to the table. While eating some, rest are still warm in it. It is also used as a big casserole dish and as a small roasting pan, too. So, Don't worry. There are a lot more uses for the pan rather than stir-fly, which it is not necesarily best for. I use this pan more than a couple of times per week. Just FYI, I just put the link of the recipes which I make repeatedly with the braiser. The second one needs overnight marinating but otherwise it is so simple and so good. Hope it helps:)
Thanks for making me feel better... I was beginning to fear that I just blown my limited kitchen budget on pans I don't know how to use! :) I really hope that I'll have more success with different applications and with more experience. It is my first time using cast iron of any sort - it is a very different style of cooking. I really appreciate the recipes and your suggestions on what types of food to cook.
For the sticking, you want to use about 2 tablespoons of good vegetable (soybean) oil. I used canola oil for a while but had problems with it scorching while I was searing. Soybean oil has a higher smoke point.
Start out at medium high not full blast. Let the oil get hot enough to shimmer. If you doubt your self, you can use a kernal of popcorn. When it pops, the oil is hot enough. Be careful, this can cause some oil to splash up.
Put the meat in and let it set there for 3-4 minutes. If you try to move the meat before 2 minutes or so the meat will stick, but after 2 minutes or so, it will lift off.
Once the meat is brown, remove the meat and deglaze to get the stuck brown bits (called fond) off the bottom of the pan. You can use onions or a little wine or even a little water. I usually use at least a little water before I saute the veggies.
Once I add the veggies like onions or mirepoix, you can turn the heat down a little.
You should be fine from there.
Thank you for your detailed suggestions. I was using grapeseed oil (which I think has a high enough smoke point), but I am guessing now that I may not have used enough oil and did not let the oil get hot enough (btw, the popcorn tip is great!). I started panicking when things began to stick, so I probably tried to move the meat too soon too. I'll have to have patience and faith that it will lift off! Thanks again for your input.
While I do not think there is only "one way" to solve your problem, I personally like to warm my LC ovens a bit before adding oil and/or butter, despite the conventional suggestion of LC instructions. Furthermore, keep in mind that LC is enamled cast iron, thus it does take longer to heat up than most pans. That being said, they are incredible because they do indeed distribute heat evenly once they reach your desired temp.
Like many pieces of equipment, it is worth trying several approaches to see what works best for you and your stove/oven. The above works for me and I always obtain a fantastic sear which leads to a wonderful braise (I just made Boeuf Bourguignon a few days ago in one of my LC Ovens). I should note that I've used the successful preheating approach with both gas and induction.
Thank you for letting me know that I can pre-heat the oven before adding oil/fat. I was worried about going against the LC instructions and damaging the pan, but it sounds like you and others have not had any issues with this. I will continue experimenting, with better results hopefully! Thanks again. BTW, I use a gas stove.