ECI skillets - do they bring anything to the table?
I was wondering how people felt about enamel cast iron skillets along the lines of Le Creuset and Staub. Namely, I wanted to know whether people felt they offered anything that wouldn't be offered by a clad stainless steel or bare cast iron skillet.
Pros over clad SS:
Cons compared to clad SS:
Can't use metal utensils
Enamel can chip
Possibility of thermal shock
Pros over bare CI:
no need to season
can be washed like all your other non-CI pans
Cons compared to bare CI:
all the others as with clad SS
I really wanted to get an ECI skillet when I was searching for a non-reactive skillet, but ended up getting clad SS because the ECI, though much prettier, couldn't be shipped to me overseas, and I did want something that I was less worried about bashing around the kitchen.
I've owned several ECI skillets over the years. IMO, these pans are neither fish or fowl. Their chief "advantages" are: (1) they don't rust like bare CI; (2) their owners like that they match their existing ECI; (3) they are less reactive than bare CI; (4) they tend to hold heat better than most SS clad; and (5) they LOOK like they clean up better than bare CI.
Other than (2) and (4), these are not advantages over SS clad. ECI skillets *do* accept some "seasoning", but nothing as nonstick as bare CI.
IMO and on balance, a good clad skillet is superior to ECI skillets.
I can't speak from experience, but the new enamel on Le Creuset skillets is supposed to be an improvement, with better nonstick character.
Cook's Illustrated liked the old enamel well enough, too.
This is their 2007 review, with the older interior enamel:
""Pretty" pan was well proportioned and easier to handle than others. Sloping sides made eggs and sauce easier to scrape up. Achieved "beautiful crust" on steak and corn bread. On first test, eggs stuck ferociously, but results improved dramatically in second round, with minimal sticking. Can't use metal utensils or stack anything inside without damaging enamel finish."
Well obviously they are non reactive so that is a benefit over bare cast iron. But you get that with clad stainless also. They do keep food hotter longer than clad stainless though. I don't have any of the skillets, I do have 2 different sizes of the LC braisier and I usually use them for curries, pilaf, gratins ( before I bought gratin pans) any braised dish with a lot of acidic ingredients like meatballs in a tomato based sauce. I bought them before I had clad stainless and my main selling point was longevity and being non reactive.
If you want an even heating surface (avoiding heat or cold spots) and a nonreactive surface, then a stainless steel cladded pan is better than an enameled cast iron pan.
If you want stickless pan or a pan which can take up very high heat, then a bare cast iron cookware is better.
For a slow cooking vessel like a Dutch Oven, an enameled cast iron construction if fine. For a high heat quick temperature responding cookware like a skillet, there are better options.