Cast iron and enameled cast iron are two types of cookware that can be incredibly daunting to newbies in the culinary world. Heated debates, coupled with the battle for supremacy between these two combatants, leave you feeling a little unsure about what you should look for in this cookware.
Give and take, both these pots are low maintenance and don’t require much care. However, unlike traditional cast-iron, enameled cast-iron doesn’t need to be seasoned before use. They are non-stick. Enameled cast iron is not prone to rust, hence it can be easily washed with soap and water.
Some swear by bare cast iron as they feel it’s more robust for outdoor cooking, and the food tastes better, while others say enamel cast iron is comfortable to cook with, easy to clean, and convenient. So, who is right? Let’s find out.
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What Is Cast-Iron?
Cast-iron cookware is made from the melted iron cast as a single metal piece, including the handle. It can withhold and maintain high temperatures making it an excellent choice for frying and searing. It’s also an ideal choice for braised dishes and long-cooking stews.
Cast-iron utensils are thicker than similar-sized cookware and capable of storing heat longer than other materials. The thermal mass feature in cast-iron heavy-duty pots and pans allows them to retain heat for an extended period and continue cooking food after removing the heat source.
Types of cast-iron cookware include; skillets, deep fryers, Dutch ovens, flat-top grills, waffle irons, woks, karahi, crepe makers, and more. Cast-iron does best in the outdoors and makes a classic staple for camping. They hold up well in the open fire, plus you don’t have to worry about ruining the finish.
However, when it comes to cleaning, the cast-iron should be wiped after use or washed in mild soapy water with a stiff brush and then reapplied with a thin layer of fat or oil.
What Is Enameled Cast-Iron?
Enameled cast iron features vitreous enamel paint on the surface that prevents it from rusting and eliminates the need for seasoning the metal. It’s also more comfortable when cleaning and can fit in a dishwasher and the microwave. It’s an ideal choice for slow cooking as it helps draw flavors from foods.
Enameled cast-iron cookware offers different pigmentations that make them attractive to the eye. Unlike cast iron, the ability to withstand searing heat and resist sticking are lost through enameling. If you overheat, drop, or add cold water to a hot pot, chipping the glazed coating can occur.
Enameled cast iron is mostly used for indoor cooking and offers the best results when cooking on the stovetop. Enameled Dutch ovens, in particular, keep moisture in which makes the food tastier.
Cast Iron and Enameled Cast Iron Comparison Table
|Cast Iron||Enameled Cast Iron|
|Materials||Raw cast iron = 98% iron and 2% carbon||Cast iron + virtuous enameled coating|
|Design||Dutch oven, skillets, griddles. A large choice of sizes and shapes in all types of cast iron cookware||Dutch ovens, French ovens, Cocotte, skillets, griddles, Braisers, bakeware. A large choice of sizes and shapes in all types of enameled cast iron cookware|
|Finish||Dark gray/black gets darker with more use||Exterior shiny in various colors, interior light or dark|
|Heat Source||Suitable for all heat sources indoor and outdoor||No open fires, naturally induction ready, ceramic, glass stovetop, gas, electric, oven|
|Temperature||Will withstand temperatures in excess of 500 °F||Temperatures up to 500 °F depending upon the cookware quality and design (knobs and handles should be oven safe)|
|Performance||Nothing compares to the ability to sear steaks on a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. If the surface is maintained non-stick properties are excellent||Not non-stick when searing oils or liquid required. Comparing slow cooking, roasting, and baking both perform well|
|Durability||With maintenance will last your lifetime and beyond||With care can last a lifetime although the enamel will deteriorate long|
before the cast iron
|Clean Up||No dishwasher, no soaking, no soap, scourers & hot water, dry immediately||No dishwasher, warm soapy water, soaking then nylon scourers, dry thoroughly|
|Maintenance||Season before first use, season regularly||Seasoning the enamel is not required, you can season bare cast iron rims on pots and lids to prevent rusting|
|Iron Release||Yes, less with regular seasoning||No, if the enamel is intact|
|Price||Less expensive||More expensive|
Differences Between Cast-Iron and Enameled Cast-Iron
Now that you have understood what the two apply to, we are now going to look at the features that differentiate the cookware. Let’s dive in.
Cast-iron cookware features a classic black or brown color and includes pig iron, and scrap steel to give them a rugged look with excellent factory seasoning.
Almost every American home kitchen has one of these for searing T-bones, frying eggs, crisp golden cornbread to roast a chicken.
On the other hand, enameled cast-iron cookware comes in vibrant colors with a glossy finish that makes a design statement in any kitchen.
It’s easy to clean and fits comfortably in a dishwasher, making it an ideal choice for all-purpose cooking and keeps food evenly cooked.
Sizes, Shapes, and Colors
There are a plethora of sizes and shapes of cast iron skillets, fry pans, Dutch ovens, grill pans as well as many cast iron accessories required when using seasoned cast iron, especially outdoors. Unfortunately, the colors are limited to gray, darker gray, and black.
In comparison, there are many more sizes and shapes available in enameled cast iron cookware. Availability is due to the fact that there are more kitchens throughout the world than campfires.
Colors vary from brand to brand. Luxury enameled cookware manufacturer Le Creuset has the largest range of virtuous enamel colors of any brand – approximately 20 with limited additions being added regularly. The Staub color range sits at 9-10 earthy core colors with a dark enamel interior.
Check out my up to date Le Creuset Color Guide
Reactiveness to Rust
A cast iron can acquire some rust over time, mostly if the manufacturer’s seasoning is stripped off through chemical, physical or electric means.
Washing your cast-iron in a conventional dishwasher or with soap can strip off the factory seasoning and lead to rust, quality, and performance issues.
Also, avoid cooking acidic foodstuffs such as tomatoes with your cast-iron cookware as it damages the seasoning. However, you can re-season with a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil.
Seasoning new cast-iron before its first use is always beneficial.
99% of an enameled cast-iron pot, skillet, or lid doesn’t need to be seasoned as the glazed enamel coating prevents rust.
The exposed cast-iron around the top of the pot/skillets and the rim of the lids should, in fact, be seasoned to prevent rust.
Cast-iron cookware is heavy and dense, making it durable and based on use can last generations. They can withstand open flames and high temperatures, making them an excellent choice for outdoor use.
On the other hand, enameled cast-iron utensils have a short life expectancy and can last 3-5 years, and need special attention to last long. They don’t tolerate high heat, and the glazed enamel coating can come off with rough usage.
However, you can use enameled cast-iron cookware in a microwave and wash in a dishwasher without worry.
Studies indicate that cast-iron cookware leeches significant amounts of iron in the food depending on its water content, acidity, and how long the food was cooked, among other factors. Individuals who are anemic can benefit from this effect.
When the enamel coating starts to come off in enamel cast-iron, it’s possible to find small chips in the food, particularly after a few years of usage. However, a seasoned enameled cast iron will work well.
When a cast-iron is adequately seasoned, you can expect it to fry and sear various dishes without any problem thanks to its non-stickiness feature.
It’s an ideal choice for braised dishes and long-cooking stews and can also make a good for frying potatoes and stir-fries. Different foods have varying tendencies to stick to a non-stick surface.
Cast-iron pans make an excellent choice in baking cakes, making cornbread, and cobblers. The non-stick surface allows food to be brown without sticking.
None of us likes to struggle scraping off food from the bottom of the cookware, but with enameled cast-iron, this might be a daily challenge.
“No Dishwashers” Although cast iron and enameled cast iron manufacturers advise you can place their brand of pots and pans in a dishwasher they also advise that hand washing is preferred.
Although cast iron is durable and can last you for years, it’s hard to clean and maintain, and most soaps are not compatible with the seasoning.
Chefs’ advice is to wipe after use or washing with hot water, a chain mail scrubber, or a stiff brush. Another option is to scrub the surface with coarse salt and a clean towel.
To avoid rust dry cast iron cookware immediately, preferably on a warm surface.
When should you season your cast iron? You should season your cast iron before its very first use. The out of factory seasoning is only a thin layer to protect the iron from rust and corrosion when in transit and while waiting on the shelf for you to purchase it.
After you start using the cast iron pan! As soon as your food starts sticking to the surface and/or your shiny ‘Patina” or cooking surface starts to look dull.
You can wash enameled cast-iron with soap without worrying that you might ruin the non-stick properties. Also, they don’t trap intense aroma, making them an ideal choice for cooking various foods.
Cast Iron Seasoning, Cleaners and Conditioners
Many brands of cast iron and enamel cast iron manufacturers to have available for purchase seasoning, cleaners, cast iron conditioners to elongate the life of the pans as well as a huge range of accessories safe to use on these cookware types.
While cast-iron doesn’t come in vibrant colors and needs seasoning to maintain its properties, enameled cast-iron cookware can cost three or four times as much as its counterpart. It is also easy to conserve thanks to the enamel glazed properties.
Which is Better Cast-Iron or Enameled Cast-Iron?
Here is why you would want to purchase cast-iron cookware over an enameled cast-iron and vice versa. Here are the pros and cons to guide you.
Pros & Cons – Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware
|Excellent heat retention||Doesn’t offer a variety of colors|
|Non-stick cooking properties when properly seasoned||Needs maintenance|
|Highly durable||Needs seasoning|
|Even temperature distribution|
|Can withstand extreme heat|
|Can leach a significant amount of dietary iron into the food|
|Doesn’t require special attention|
Pros & Cons – Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
|They don’t rust easily||Price|
|Offers different methods of cooking||Not non-stick|
|Convenient and comfortable to clean||Not as durable as seasoned cast-iron|
|Vibrant colors||Can’t tolerate high temperatures|
|You can use it in a microwave||Can’t be used with all heat sources|
|Doesn’t need seasoning|
|Easy to maintain|
|You can wash in a dishwasher (I wouldn’t)|
See this article I prepared outlining in full detail the pros and cons of enameled cast-iron cookware.
Final Thoughts – Cast-Iron Vs Enameled Cast-Iron
There are many varying differences between cast iron and enameled cast iron.
There are also lots of products in both categories, and both are capable of cooking a variety of foods sufficiently and efficiently.
However, to make the best decision regarding which product you need, the question boils down to what you plan to use it for and how you’re going to use the cookware.
You can give a few a try and see which one works best for you.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks
Thanks for the video music – Ben Sound