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Feb 28, 2012 06:51 PM

How to cook in cast iron - especially enamled cast iron

I've looked around for an answer to this but cannot seem to find one.

How do you cook in cast iron? How do you cook in enamled cast iron?

I bought a 10" Le Creuset skillet from BB&B for $32 (it was used and returned, cleaned it up) and we've used it three times. The first two times we used potatoes and the entire bottom was coated in burnt potato. First time, I used a tbs or 2 of olive oil, preheated on low and then cooked on medium. My assumption was that the heat was too high. Second time hubby did it with way too much oil and the temp did not go above low-med. Third time I tried to brown cubed chicken but all it did was cook it. Admittedly, I have struggled for some reason with searing meat. Even in my All-Clad pan I have an issue. I just haven't figured it out yet. Anyway, the chicken didn't burn and coat the bottom which was good.


What were we doing wrong? Please be brutally honest about it - I only bought the pan because it was so dang cheap and it was caribbean blue. I know a lot of people can't stand the gritty cast iron, and others have been cooking in it for decades with no problem.

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  1. Well, I am not sure. Here is my experience. I have many different LC (white interior) older cast iron pots and pans. I use them alot. I love them. They are NOT non stick. They are not good for everything. They require lots of oil. I often do a quick spray with a "pam" type spray- then add a bit of olive oil before I saute. They should not go above medium heat. I don't consider them "fry pans" and use my bare cast iron to fry chicken in.

    IMO, these pans do a great job when you need to saute onions and garlic in olive oil, then add some chicken breast- brown it- drop in some chicken stock and spices- then add a pat of butter to make a pan sauce. Very quick "saute pan dinner" or sauced foods (french style) type dinners. Also good for cabbage and sausage, pasta and tomato/pesto, curry veggies, etc. Think...smooth, easy foods.

    NOT good for fried chicken, potato, eggs, pork chops or "wok" style foods.

    I hope this helps.

    1. Your pan is not hot enough AND you're probably using too much oil.

      Get your pan hot. Hot like Africa Hot.

      Then use 1 teaspoon (not tablespoons), maybe just a bit more, of oil to lightly coat the pan. This is because when searing, the oil is less of a cooking medium and more of a way to get uniform surface contact between the meat and the pan. This will give you a nice, even caramelization and prevent some spots from burning while other spots are still pale. As such, when it's heating, swirl the oil around to get a thin coating over the bottom of the pan.

      Then put whatever you want to sear or cook on the pan and don't move it. Resist that urge to move. It'll tell you when it's ready to be moved, when just the slightest nudge will dislodge the meat from the pan.

      Good luck.

      1. My LC frying pans are enameled on the outside but not the cooking surface, so you might need to season it like you would any other cast iron until you achieve a slick patina. At that point it won't need much oil.

        1. To be honest, you told us about the three times you tried, but you didn't quiet tell us your problem in details.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            The problem is that I can't figure out how to use it as it is brand new to me - I gave the three examples to help "diagnose" what my problem is. So far it sounds like it was the oil and using potatoes in general.

            1. re: Mojave

              By the way, some people find it useful to wash the potato first. Some of the burning you see may come from the loose potato starch, so washing the cut potato will remove the excess starch. It may just reduce your problem.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Thanks I'll try that - that makes sense, as the potato we were able to eat was cooked just enough and not burned.

          2. Hi, Mohave:

            Potatoes are pretty much the worst-case scenario for ECI, IMO--you can count on them sticking.

            What kind of a hob are you using under it, and are they perfectly matched size-wise? If mis-matched, or you are cooking on anything other than a coil electric or a commercial gas hob, you are probably getting somewhat uneven heat, which will exacerbate potatoes sticking over the hot spots.

            Beware getting your new skillet super hot when empty. You can craze, blister and raise the enamel, as Wahine knows from ruining a 9Q DO.

            IOW, I don't think you're doing anything especially wrong.


            7 Replies
            1. re: kaleokahu

              Thanks - it's just one of those things I guess I need to gain my confidence in.

              I have a regular gas n grate stovetop. The grates are the same size as the bottom of the pan.

              1. re: kaleokahu

                Does the type of hob and size of it matter? I thought that cast iron is good at maintaining an even heat throughout its surface?

                1. re: iliria

                  "Does the type of hob and size of it matter?"
                  yes. Using a hob that's significantly smaller than your pan is a recipe for very uneven heat in the pan.

                  "I thought that cast iron is good at maintaining an even heat throughout its surface?"
                  Not really, if we're talking about using it on the stovetop. Aluminum (and copper, obviously) heats much more evenly.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    I have one 11" A-C LTD2 (D5) pan. At low to medium flame on a small hob, it heats rather evenly, judging by the browning effect.

                    1. re: GH1618

                      That's all-clad, right? Since All Clad is typically made with either aluminum or copper, it heats more evenly. That said, the center is still surely hotter than the outside of the pan, and it would heat even more evenly if you had a larger hob that still could be turned to low.

                      You can check heat distribution with an IR thermometer if you care to. Even a light dusting of flour can give you a reasonably decent idea of how much hotter the center of the pan might be compared to the outside. Here are a couple in-depth threads on the matter:

                      All that said, heat doesn't have to be 100% even for a pan to cook well enough. It's just a consideration.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        Yes, All-Clad. The D5 technology is the five-layer design with the central SS layer. This is supposed to slow the heat transfer through the pan to the inside, allowing more heat to move transversely through the outer alluminum layer(s). So the pan is less responsive to changes in the heat source, but more even. I'm not going to get an IR thermometer to quantify it. I've used it, and I like it. That's enough for me.

                        1. re: GH1618

                          "This is supposed to slow the heat transfer through the pan to the inside, allowing more heat to move transversely through the outer alluminum layer(s). So the pan is less responsive to changes in the heat source, but more even."

                          That is the claim for the even heating. Even heating is nice, but it is not essential for many cooking.