Taking Cast Iron Up A Notch With Enamel

We’ve already taken a look at regular cast iron cookware and the care and effort that goes into maintaining it. I thought we’d fancy things up a bit today and look at cast iron enamel cookware.

The difference between regular cast iron and enameled is…wait for it…enamel. Not only does the enamel seal the cast iron and protect against rusting, but it provides an opportunity to add something to cast iron cookware that wasn’t there before…color!

cast iron enamel care

There are a few changes in how you care for cast iron with enamel.

For starters, you don’t have to season it any more. The seasoning process of cast iron cookware is used to seal the pores of the iron to give it a nonstick surface and protect against rusting.

On the down side, as durable as the enamel coating is, you need to be careful not to use abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads as they could scratch the enamel surfaces. It is also recommended to use wood, plastic, or silicone utensils for cooking to minimize scratching. One of my favorite things about plain cast iron was that I could use my stainless steel utensils with it and not have to worry about any damage.

Other than that, most enamel cast iron cookware has an anti-chipping guarantee. You would have to drop your cookware on a hard surface or subject it to thermal shock (going quickly from hot to cold, or cold to hot) to damage the enamel.

cast iron cookware manufacturers

There are many different companies that manufacture enameled cast iron cookware. Someday I would love to sample and explore all of them, but I thought I’d start out with three that you’d be more likely to find easily in your lives: Le Creuset, Lodge, and Staub.

cast iron enamel cookware comparison

Although all three will ultimately deliver great enamel cast iron pots and pans, they each have their subtle differences.

le creuset cast iron enamel cookware

Le Creuset has been around and making enamel cast iron cookware in France since 1925. Le Creuset pots and pans are all made from individual moulds, meaning, they make a mould out of sand for one piece of cookware. Once the iron had been poured into that mould, a fresh mould is created for the next. This helps insure quality and precise iron thickness in each individual piece.

I couldn’t find the specific info to say this next part for a fact, but Le Creuset may have been the first to use porcelain enamel with cast iron cookware. In 1957 they purchased their competitor: Les Hauts Fourneaux Cousances. I wanted to know more about them but couldn’t fin anything on when their company started.

“Le Creuset” means “the crucible” or “pot”. The first pigment color they used was an orange color that they used in homage to the orange color of molten iron. Le Creuset cookware sets added a bright splash of color to an otherwise gray kitchen cookware collection. They have many more colors than orange to choose from now.

They also now make ceramic cookware with their patented enamel coating. A lot of people are interested in a ceramic cast iron cookware combination in their home, having their cookware match their bakeware.

You’re definitely getting precision and care with Le Creuset. Each piece goes through 15 different people before being finished. Because of all the care and finesse, these are among the more pricey enamel cast iron cookware sets.

staub cast iron enamel cookware

Staub is another French enamel cookware factory that has been around for over 40 years. Staub cookware sets are similar to Le Creuset in that they pride themselves on the precision and care that goes into each piece.

Staub pots and pans come in multiple colors, though not as many as Le Creuset. The Staub coloring process is a layering process to bring about high gloss and a depth to each piece.

One major difference in Staub is that the lids for their cookware have a set of small spikes on the underside to help increase the basting process during slow cooking.

lodge cast iron enamel cookware

Lodge is a family run cast iron cookware manufacturer that has been running since 1896! Definitely the oldest where cast iron is concerned, but most Lodge cookware sets aren’t enameled.

For being an American company, Lodge pots and pans that are enameled are actually imported from China. This cuts costs and brings a more affordable enamel cookware option about, but the care and precision aren’t necessarily there.

cast iron enamel cookware sets

As with regular cookware, you want to make sure you’re getting the right pieces in your kitchen. Here are the minimum items you should consider if putting together your own cookware set.

cast iron enamel skillet

An enamel cast iron skillet is number one on the list for me. Just as with regular cast iron, enamel cast iron should be preheated at low to medium temperatures. The iron will retain heat for a long time, so cranking the heat higher than you need in an attempt to heat it faster will result in cooking on a higher temp than you need.

Lodge, Staub, and Le Creuset frying pans all have a satin black enamel interior. Although they all say their interior doesn’t require seasoning, it does in a sense. You don’t have to go through the process of actually cooking the cookware by itself with a coating of oil, but the enamel interior will absorb oil as you cook. I call it “seasoning-lite.”

You’ll want to use oil for sure the first few times you cook on any of the enamel cookware with the satin black finish.

cast iron enamel sauce pan

Another essential in any set, the sauce pan should be great for cooking something secret. I’ll give you a hint…it is in the name. SAUCE!

cast iron enamel roaster

Not necessarily the normal choice for a cookware set, but something to think about with enamel cast iron cookware. Cast iron has a high heat tolerance, so having a roaster is a good idea.

The roasters for all three brands has a sand colored enamel finish that is glossy. This smoother enamel makes getting cooked food out an easier process than with the skillet. Plus, the lighter colored enamel enhances the presentation factor with food.

cast iron enamel dutch oven

The Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven is the first type of piece they made. Well, technically the dutch oven has different names for different brands. Lodge calls theirs a dutch oven, Le Creuset has a French oven, and Staub’s version is a cocotte.

No matter what the name is, they are all great for slow cooking, especially because the lid is heavy enough to seal the cooker tight.

If you want some durable cookware that will allow you add a splash of color to your kitchen, enamel cast iron cookware is the way to go.