What is enamel cookware?
Enamel cookware is cookware that has an outer coating of porcelain enamel. The cookware has a base of stainless steel, aluminum, or, most commonly, cast iron.
Why do manufacturers coat cookware in enamel? For several reasons.
First, the porcelain enamel coating is less prone to sticking than other cooking surfaces, like stainless steel. This makes cleanup a cinch. It is also non-reactive, so you can cook acidic food without worrying about health issues.
Enamel is available in a wide variety of colors, so it’s attractive. Lastly, the enamel is safe for all types of heat sources, which is great for home cooks and chefs alike.
What are the advantages of enameled cast iron cookware?
Enameled cast iron takes the best of cast iron construction and pairs it with all the advantages of an enamel coating.
Cast iron products are durable and versatile. My cast iron skillet is a kitchen workhorse. I use it all the time to cook all types of food. If that’s not enough? When properly seasoned, it develops a natural nonstick coating.
So what’s the catch?
Raw cast iron cookware has a couple of drawbacks. It can be a little tricky to care for and clean.
Want to toss your bare cast iron skillet in the dishwasher after dinner? Sorry.
You’ll want to hand wash raw cast iron without dish soap to avoid rust and breaking down the seasoning.
Speaking of seasoning, bare cast iron cookware requires seasoning prior to cooking. And that process can be a hassle.
Do you love cooking tomato-based dishes and other acidic foods? Not the best idea for a raw cast iron pot. The acid reacts with metal and can cause trace amounts of iron to leach into your food.
Will it harm you? Extremely unlikely. Can it affect the taste of your food? Absolutely. No one wants metallic-tasting marinara.
For all of those reasons, using enameled cast iron is an attractive option for the chef and home cook.
What food works well in enameled cast iron cookware?
One of my favorite things about enameled cast iron? You can cook almost anything in it.
From side dishes and vegetables to beef stew and bread, this cookware can handle it.
Don’t get too excited, though. There are a couple of caveats.
Enameled cast iron takes a while to heat, and you shouldn’t overheat your pot. If you plan to use your cookware for stir-frying or searing meat on high heat, you may have issues with your cookware.
While enameled cast iron resists sticking, it’s not technically nonstick. Foods won’t slide off like they do with a Teflon surface. Be prepared for that if you want to use your cookware for sticky foods like scrambled eggs.
How do you care for enameled cast iron?
No doubt, enameled cast iron cookware can be expensive. So you want that investment to last. To keep your cookware at its best, you should avoid using metal utensils. The metal can chip or scratch the enamel.
You should also clean your enameled cast iron soon after use. Prompt cleaning can help prevent stains on the enamel interior. It also means your cookware is easier to clean.
You should hand wash most enameled cast iron. Some manufacturers claim their cookware is dishwasher safe. I would still be cautious about putting it in the dishwasher. Hand washing is your safest option.
Enameled cast iron does not like extreme temperature changes. If you plunge your hot cast iron pan into cold water, you might crack the enamel. Yikes.
A good rule of thumb is to heat and cool slowly. Slow and steady will keep your cookware in tip-top shape.