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Another enameled cast iron cookware topic and question

Sid Post Dec 20, 2011 08:07 AM

My head is so full of contradictory posts right now, I'm more confused after reading several threads then when I began. I'm not interested at all in the cheap thin cast iron many people rave about. Bad ovens and ranges really require a HEAVY piece of cookware for heat retention and even cooking. Nothing ruins a good steak like putting it into a pan and loosing all the heat, having the anemic range sputter back up to temperature, leaving me with a subpar poorly cooked steak. What a kill joy!

I want to add some enameled cookware for acidic cooking and for when I don't want the addition of iron to affect flavors. Staub and Le Crueset are easy but spendy choices. If I need to spend that much to get great (not good enough) cooking performance, I will need to save up and go there. I want a tight fitting lid that will retain moisture too!

I have looked at various brands like Paula Deen, Emerilware, and similar and have been under whelmed by their lightweight and lids that don't seem to fit properly. I'm also leary of porceilen finishes from China and other dubious parts of the world leaching lead.

Does Lodge enameled cookware compare favorably to the French competition? I know its made in China but, I'm thinking the Lodge name will ensure a good safe enamel finish. Are they nice heavy durable pans? What other brands compare favorably with the French? Or, do I need to give up and save longer for the Le Crueset or Staub options?

Above all, I want performance within in reasonable price constraints. Specifically, I'm not looking to pay 10 times the price for a 2% gain in performance. However, I can pay $200 for a pan if it really is worth the money.


  1. Jay F Dec 21, 2011 03:48 PM

    Here's a nice one by Le Creuset in Indigo: http://www.ebay.com/itm/150723505432?...

    I love Le Creuset, and this is my favorite color. Not my auction, but it's very HTF, so I thought I'd post it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jay F
      Chemicalkinetics Dec 21, 2011 04:49 PM

      You may want to edit the link.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
        Jay F Dec 21, 2011 04:51 PM

        Thanks. Now it's working: http://www.ebay.com/itm/150723505432?...

        1. re: Jay F
          Chemicalkinetics Dec 21, 2011 04:52 PM


    2. b
      bbqJohn Dec 21, 2011 08:29 AM

      A rondeau/brazier would work as well or I often use a 4 or 6 inch hotel pan with foil and sometimes parchment to help seal.



      1. m
        mikie Dec 20, 2011 06:46 PM

        You are wise to avoid the "famous chef" enameled cast iron, it's not the bargan it appears to be. Although the performance may be as good or similar to the French brands, it's longevity is in question. They are much more prone to enamel chipping than the French brands. I also don't think the lids fit as well. The Lodge enamemed cast iron is probably the best of the made in China brands, but I don't know if they are made in a Lodge factory or just made in China, there is a difference. There are some companies that have factories in China that are run by x-pats and they tend to have better quality and standards than the companies that are simply cranking out parts or products for the lowest possible price.

        For searing a steak, you probably want bare cast iron, it will take the heat the best. Enameled cast iron is really not made for searing steaks.

        I really like cooking in my enameled cast iron, mine is all Staub, just what I happened to start with and like the color. I also like the quality of the Staub. As far as the quality of the finished food product, I'm not sure how much difference one could expect. Cast iron, enameled or not, is not real high tech, so how much difference can there be in the cooking quality from one to another. I just know I don't like cooking in chipped cookware and I was told early on that Staub and LC are so much better in that regard, so that made my decision easy.

        1. Chemicalkinetics Dec 20, 2011 02:24 PM

          Obviously, many would tell you that Le Cresuset and Staub are the best for enameled cast iron cookware. If you would like to look elsewhere, then I will suggest Lodge Color cast iron (enameled) and Tramontina enameled cast iron cookware. They both have good reputation.

          " Are they nice heavy durable pans?"

          I have the Lodge Color and I can tell you that Lodge Color enameled coowkare are heavy. Heavier than Staub or Le Creuset. I am not sure if it is a good thing for you because many people prefer the lighter and thinner Le Cresuset.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            mcf Dec 20, 2011 03:53 PM

            I forgot about the Tramontina. Have read only good things about those, too.

          2. paulj Dec 20, 2011 08:28 AM

            What are you cooking?

            You mention searing steak. Plain cast iron, such as a 10" Lodge skillet, is probably your best bet. You don't want an enameled pan for this. The cast iron is not a very good heat conductor, and won't heat evenly on the stove top. But it will heat evenly in the oven, and being heavy will retain a lot of heat. But, I am just as happy using thin carbon steel on a butane hot plate.

            On the other hand, for low and slow braising, enameled cast iron is nice. But I've been doing that for years with out such a pot. I have plain cast iron (e.g. a chicken fryer), enameled steel, cast aluminum dutch oven, and even earthenware. The well known Good Eats chuck roast recipe wraps the meat in foil and uses an ordinary oven pan.

            15 Replies
            1. re: paulj
              mcf Dec 20, 2011 08:43 AM

              Cast iron isn't a good, even heat conductor?? It is superb for just those properties. I love searing on cast iron, unenemaled, or browning before braising in my enameled LC the way all the great chefs I see doing it.

              1. re: mcf
                redstickboy Dec 20, 2011 09:08 AM

                I bought the $49.99 Lodge from Amazon a few weeks ago and really like it. Couldn't see $200+ for the Le Cruset but I never had access to one to try it out. The Lodge lid doesn't provide an airtight seal but if you need that you can put a layer of foil on the rim of the pot first.
                I've used it on the stove and in the oven. Two things to watch(1) The knob on the lid is only good to 400deg per the factory brocure. But you can get a Le Cruset SS one for a few $s and replace it.(2) Theentire pot is CI so the handles get just as hot as the rest of the pot so be careful. Good luck in your choice.

                1. re: mcf
                  paulj Dec 20, 2011 09:21 AM

                  Compared to aluminum and copper, cast iron will heat slowly, and the temperature contrast between the part of the pan over the burner, and off on the rim will be stronger. Being thick it won't have the localized hot spots that you get with thin aluminum pans, but that's because of the heat capacity, not conductivity.

                  1. re: paulj
                    mcf Dec 20, 2011 09:50 AM

                    Cast iron, enameled or not, is slow to heat, yes, but it's really even and retention is excellent. I note that a lot of chefs sear/brown in both. I have for many years, too.

                    1. re: mcf
                      kaleokahu Dec 20, 2011 12:23 PM

                      Hi, mcf:

                      No, CI doesn't heat evenly on the stovetop (unless you're cooking on a solid-surface hob). There is a thread here proving it--huge temperature differences between center and edge of pan on virtually all home hobs.


                      1. re: kaleokahu
                        Sid Post Dec 20, 2011 01:12 PM

                        Thick cast iron still does a lot better then the other materials I have tried. Aluminum and stainless steel heat very unevenly for me in the thickness pans I have personally tried. I can see the electric coil pattern in several of my pans while cooking something "clear" or something thin (depth of liquid) like a gravy.

                        1. re: Sid Post
                          kaleokahu Dec 20, 2011 06:06 PM

                          Hi, Sid:

                          If you have electric coil hobs, that is an *advantage* with cast iron (as long as you don't put an oversize vessel on an undersized hob). Better than home gas and induction hobs, that's for sure.

                          But the truth is that if the pan and hob aren't matched (and the coil functioning) perfectly, the edge of the pan can be 100+ degrees different than the center, and you can *forget* about the walls conducting much heat.

                          That said, if CI is mediocre, SS is terrible (unless it's clad, then it's back to mediocre).

                          Hapy Holidays,

                          1. re: kaleokahu
                            Sid Post Dec 21, 2011 07:04 AM

                            I can match the cast iron to the coil size. One of the large coils has seen a lot of use and definitely heats differently from the other one. My small stuff fits the small coils.

                            I use a Calphalon Tri-Ply skillet with similar results.

                        2. re: kaleokahu
                          mcf Dec 20, 2011 01:43 PM

                          I've found it to be mighty even for decades now, but not if you're in a rush... takes a while to get there, and then quite a while to cool afterwards.

                          1. re: mcf
                            Sid Post Dec 21, 2011 07:08 AM

                            With cast iron on my old geezer stove, you definitely don't want to be in a hurry. It's thermal capacity is also a real advantage over the other options.

                  2. re: paulj
                    Sid Post Dec 20, 2011 10:21 AM

                    I have a 10 and 12 inch Lodge cast iron skillet for searing. Pork and beef roasts seared in them typically go into stew, chilli, or a slow braise (in an old pan) with veggies.

                    I want to cook different things that are more acidic so, no raw cast iron. I'm also tired of using thin inferior stainless pans that don't retain moisture with their loose fitting lids too. My nice gas cooktop and convection oven are things of the past so, I'm stuck with an old cheap rental stove for now. I want the heat retention of heavy cast iron for even cooking as that old geezer of a stove cycles through on and off cycles.

                    1. re: Sid Post
                      paulj Dec 20, 2011 10:32 AM

                      Quality enamel cast iron pots do not have tight fitting lids. Look at the rim of the best, heaviest pans. Notice 3 little bumps - like a tripod they let the lid sit on the pot without rattling. And traditional earthenware pots often have a small vent hole.

                      If you are experiencing a lot of moisture loss, you might be using too high heat (either on stove top or oven). Parchment paper under the lid can also serve to reduce fluid loss (foil too). Classically dough has been used to seal pots. But even with seals like this you need to keep the heat low. You want the steam to condense under the pot lid, not build up pressure.

                      Can you simmer on the stove top, or bake in the oven? If so, then you have enough heat control to braise, even without a $200 'French oven'.

                      1. re: paulj
                        Sid Post Dec 20, 2011 10:39 AM

                        I try to cook at a low to medium temperature in the oven but, the old geezer works more like a light bulb - either off or on. That's why I want/need a heavier pot.

                        The electric coils all heat differently but, I can keep fats and oils just below their smoke points.

                        I'm not scorching my food FWIW.

                        1. re: Sid Post
                          paulj Dec 20, 2011 12:17 PM

                          It's fairly typical for an oven (electric, not super fancy) to have an on/off thermostatic control (just like home baseboard heaters).

                        2. re: paulj
                          mcf Dec 20, 2011 01:50 PM

                          "Quality enamel cast iron pots do not have tight fitting lids. Look at the rim of the best, heaviest pans. Notice 3 little bumps - like a tripod they let the lid sit on the pot without rattling."

                          My LC DO doesn't have them. My Staub has very small humps, but there's a lip at the edge close to the inside rim of the pot where they're shallower/flattened and the pot closes so that steam is not escaping when it's covered. Both seem to seal very well, even with stuff simmering or boiling inside.

                    2. mcf Dec 20, 2011 08:14 AM

                      Found almost 600 reviews on amazon.com... have no personal experience of it. It appears to be very well reviewed though one revisited review indicates a lid fit problem: http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Color-6-Q... amazon just put a lightning deal on the 6 qt down to $49.99.

                      What I can tell you is that I have one very well used LC DO and a smaller, new Staub one. Of the two, the Staub (5.5 qt $159) lid is better fitting, the enamel finish at the edges and elsewhere seems to have more integrity and I bought a black one because the constant staining of the interior my my CL bugs me a lot, but not everyone feels that way. If I ever need another, I'll buy Staub, not LC.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mcf
                        Pietime Dec 20, 2011 08:57 AM

                        The Lodge is heavy & good quality. Kroger sells the 6 qt for $40 - holiday special.

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