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Matte-enameled cast-iron vs. bare cast iron vs. carbon steel

v
vonshu Dec 25, 2012 10:53 PM

Hello, so I received a Le Creuset matte-enameled cast iron skillet as gift. http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO...
Firstly, I am curious as to what this piece of cookware would best be used for? I am wondering if I would be better off returning this and getting a bare cast-iron or carbon steel skillet. Specifically, I want a pan that can sear at high temperatures, has even heat distribution, can go in oven or stove top, and can be used to make a pan sauce, using potentially acidic ingredients like red wine.

From what I have read, enameled cast iron is not the best for searing at high temperatures as it can damage the enamel. I know the black matte-enamel is supposedly a bit different from the glossy enameled, but how much difference does it actually make? Also, I believe bare cast iron wouldn't be ideal for an acidic pan sauce as a metallic taste can leach into the sauce. I don't know much about carbon steel, but would that be my best bet to get? Does anyone have any recommendations for brands for a decent carbon steel fry pan/skillet. I know lodge is a good cheap brand if I end up going with bare cast iron.

Also I realize there is a similar thread below, but I feel my question is different enough that it should be in a new thread, if anyone disagrees, I apologize.

  1. a
    andrewtree Dec 26, 2012 07:00 PM

    I wouldn't use any of the pans you are suggesting, SS will do a better job for each of your criteria

    1 Reply
    1. re: andrewtree
      c
      Cam14 Feb 16, 2013 02:59 PM

      Most SS has a recommendation for use on medium heat or lower, similar to enameled cast iron. That said, with stainless you can get a nice fond from chops or chicken to make a great pan sauce. If it was up to me I'd keep the nice one you have or trade it for SS triply for medium heat cooking and acidic foods and get a bare cast iron too. Bare cast iron is so inexpensive, The advantage of the SS might be a little faster temperature control on the stove top and long term durability, (no chipping), the enameled cast iron may be a little better at easy clean up. Cast iron is also very good for oven baking with crispy edges, (cornbread, pineapple upside down cake, casseroles, oven roasted veggies or gratins, rustic pies, pizza) but bare cast iron can do that too and barbeque duty outside worry free because it's so cheap. You may want to contact LC on the differences of the black matte enamel for higher heat cooking.

    2. g
      GH1618 Dec 26, 2012 07:14 PM

      I'd keep it. It's better for making an acidic sauce than either bare cast iron or carbon steel. Does it have a lid?

      1. Chemicalkinetics Dec 26, 2012 07:39 PM

        <can go in oven or stove top, and can be used to make a pan sauce, using potentially acidic ingredients like red wine.>

        Everything else you said before this, made me want to tell you to go for bare cast iron or carbon steel. However, the moment you said acidic sauce, I think they are not your first choices.

        <Also, I believe bare cast iron wouldn't be ideal for an acidic pan sauce as a metallic taste can leach into the sauce>

        That is probably the secondary issue. The primary issue is that the seasoning can be runied by the acidic sauce. To be clear, it can, but it does not have to be. It really depends the acidicity level of the solution, but we won't know until it is too late, right? Let me put it this way. I regularly make tomato soup based in my cast iron Dutch Oven and it has been fine. However, once I made a much more acidic Chinese sauce (sweet and sour sauce) in my carbon steel wok, the acidic sauce ate away my seasoning in one session.

        < I don't know much about carbon steel, but would that be my best bet to get? >

        Both bare cast iron and bare carbon steel rely on a seasoned surface for cooking. So neither of them should be your prefered choice for making acidic sauce.

        <Does anyone have any recommendations for brands for a decent carbon steel fry pan/skillet.>

        DeBuyer is considered very good for carbon steel cookware, but there are other brands.

        P.S.: I do agree with andrewtree. If you want one pan (as opposed to multiple pans) to do all you have described, then a thick stainless steel cladded cookware may work better. A stainless steel cladded cookware can easily handle acidic sauce. It does ok for searing (not as good as bare cast iron), and it has better heat distribution than cast iron (enameled or not).

        1. kaleokahu Dec 26, 2012 08:00 PM

          Hi, vonshu:

          Sear at high temps? Check.
          Even heat distribution? Not particularly, especially on a low gas setting.
          Oven & stovetop? Check.
          Acidic pan sauce? Check.

          As for best use, I would say its best use would be as a roasting pan.

          You're probably not going to damage the enamel with regular use, although I would not believe LC's claims about the DW.

          Aloha,
          Kaleo

          1. m
            Mexcuk Feb 14, 2013 08:48 PM

            Well, maybe I'm a maverick but I cook acidic and super acidic, think tomato and very hot chili sauce, in my bare cast iron and although it does eat away the seasoning you just have to oil it a bit after washing and leave the oil. I use a olive oil in a disposable napkin. no problem ever. I would love the friend or relative that gave any LC. Keep it and enjoy!

            1. m
              mikie Feb 14, 2013 10:51 PM

              As with so many things, there really ins't one pan that does it all best. Others have addressed the issues with the three types of pans you are considering. I'd keep the LC, I have a Staub braiser, essentially an enameled cast iron frying pan with no long handle and a lid. I use it for a ton of stuff, but it's best for things that start on the stove top and move to the oven. I can sear tuna steaks in it if needed, or I can cook a fratata with excellent results. It holds up well to acidic sauces and wine deglazing. If you really want to do a high temperatue sear on a steak, well, it's probably not the best choice and you may need a different material for that particular cooking technique. A different piece of equipment for a different technique is fairly common, you don't use a santuku when a filet knife would be best for the job.

              1. j
                John Francis Feb 15, 2013 12:36 PM

                On America's Test Kitchen, they use Le Creuset (or similar) for just about any meat that requires slow cooking. On the other hand, Alton Brown of "Good Eats" doesn't, and often uses a bare cast iron Dutch oven. You pays your money...

                1. s
                  sueatmo Feb 16, 2013 02:06 PM

                  For the uses you are interested in, I'd invest in a good stainless saute pan and a CI skillet. And, no, deglazing with an acid based sauce isn't a good idea in a bare CI pan. You can sear in it though.

                  I use my stainless saute pan a lot. You can find them in many lines. If you go there, buy one that is built like a tank and has a encapsulated bottom. I don't think you can buy a solid stainless pan any more, but you don't want that even if you could.

                  1. w
                    wyogal Feb 16, 2013 02:18 PM

                    I am loving my Staub pieces. I received them as a gift, 14 pieces, for Christmas.
                    I also have bare CI, which I love, as well. But, I use them differently, as mentioned, the acidic stuff does not go in the CI.

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