If you enjoy cooking, you’ll probably have some cookware that you have purchased for your kitchen. Enameled cast iron is one of the more expensive choices of material for cookware. However, is enameled cast iron cookware safe?
Enameled cast iron cookware is safe because it is a durable material that does not leach iron, has a naturally non-stick surface, and does not rust. These qualities make it a safe choice as it minimizes the risk of health problems associated with cookware made from other materials.
Let’s first take a look at regular cast iron, and see some of the concerns raised about them. We will then see how the qualities of enameled cast iron make it a safer choice for your cooking.
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What Is Enameled Cast Iron?
The ‘enameled’ in enameled cast iron refers to the fortifying of glass with iron to create a new mixture of material. It differs from regular cast iron in that regular cast iron consists of nearly 100% iron. (Pure iron is rare, so regular cast iron cookware is made of around 98% iron.)
Enameled cast iron is the perfect choice for cookware because it is a more stable material compared to regular cast iron. Let’s look at some of its qualities.
It Does Not Leach Iron
The defining feature of enameled cast iron is that it is inert, meaning that it does not leach iron when interacting with heat. The addition of glass into the material gives enameled cast iron its inert quality.
This means that there are no concerns about additional iron leaching into food caused by the heat applied or the acidity of the food cooked.
With this product being reliably inert, there is no risk of iron overloading which can lead to health problems.
Learn about the safety of traditional seasoned cast iron cookware.
Its Surface Is Naturally Non-Stick
The non-stick feature of enameled cast iron means that food particles do not stick stubbornly to the cookware after cooking.
Regular cast iron is non-stick provided that you season them correctly and regularly. Seasoning cookware is a process in which you pour a layer of oil on the cookware and heat it to retain its non-stick nature.
It is unnecessary to season enameled cast iron cookware because they naturally retain their non-stick feature. This is despite repeated use and washing.
This non-stick quality enameled cast iron cookware makes them easy to wash. There is no risk of stubborn food particles sticking to the cookware, requiring more vigorous scrubbing.
This quality makes them convenient to clean. However, it also makes them safer to use, in the sense that it is less likely for trace particles of food to remain stuck on the surface of the cookware and contaminate your next meal.
It Does Not Rust
Iron eventually rusts. Rusting is a process in which iron reacts with oxygen in the air to produce iron oxide, colloquially known as rust. While iron gives off a silver sheen, rust is discernible from its reddish-brown color.
Because rust changes the color of iron, it is not particularly aesthetically pleasing. Rust can also be unsafe.
When rust interacts with bacteria, you are at a greater risk of being infected if you have an open cut. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to a dangerous infection known as tetanus.
Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system caused by a bacterial toxin, leading to painful muscular contractions. This disease can be life-threatening.
Therefore, the ability of enameled cast iron to not rust is not just a convenience in that you don’t need to change your cookware once rust forms—it’s also a safety benefit.
Related read check out this article where I dig deeper into these two types of cast iron cookware Cast-Iron Vs Enameled Cast-Iron.
Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Safer?
Let’s review the facts presented in this article to answer this question.
- Regular cast iron can leach iron into food; enameled cast iron does not. This means there is no risk of iron poisoning.
- Regular cast iron needs to be seasoned regularly for its non-stick quality to be preserved; enameled cast iron is naturally non-stick and does not need to be seasoned. This means there is no risk of stubborn food particles sticking to the surface of the cookware.
- Regular cast iron can rust; enameled cast iron does not. This means that there is no risk of rust-related health and safety issues.
In view of these facts, enameled cast iron cookware is safe to use.
What Are The Concerns With Regular Cast Iron?
Regular cast iron has been used as a material for cookware for centuries. This material has been used in cookware ever since humanity learned to fashion tools out of iron. They are also relatively affordable, making them very popular in kitchens around the world.
However, there are some concerns about regular cast iron that you need to know. Let’s look at a few of them.
It Leaches Iron
One of the primary features of regular cast iron is that it leaches iron into the food when used as cookware.
This isn’t necessarily dangerous, in the past, when dietary iron levels were low, this was a welcome feature. Sufficient dietary iron is essential for healthy growth and development.
A group of people who are sometimes recommended to take iron supplements is menstruating women. This is because menstrual bleeding results in the loss of iron.
If women menstruate heavily, they may be deficient in iron. In this case, the added iron from regular cast iron products can be a good thing.
Another group of people who need iron supplements is people suffering from iron-deficiency anemia. Anemia is a medical condition in which a person lacks red blood cells.
Since iron is needed to produce red blood cells, the lack of dietary iron can lead to anemia. The symptoms of anemia are weakness, decreased energy levels, and shortness of breath.
Therefore, it is clear that a little additional iron can be a bonus for some people.
However, in today’s world, dietary science requires thorough monitoring of vitamin and mineral sources. The ambiguity of the amount of iron that leaches from the cookware is not considered positive because it cannot be regularly monitored.
Different grades of cast iron cookware can leach different amounts of iron into the food. Having too much iron in the diet can lead to the opposite medical problem, which is iron toxicity.
Iron toxicity occurs when the levels of iron in the body are too high. This can cause symptoms such as stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting.
Because the amounts of iron leaching cannot be quantified, regular cast iron cookware is not regarded as being entirely safe.
It Interacts With Acidic Food
You might remember from your high school science lessons that acids can react with metals. Iron is a metal. A known feature of regular cast iron cookware is that it interacts with acidic food, causing it to leach more iron.
Examples of acidic foods are fish, processed foods, and meats such as beef. When cooking these foods using regular cast iron cookware, the iron in the cookware reacts with the chemicals in acidic food and releases more iron into the food.
Sometimes this additional iron can be tasted in the food the taste can be described as metallic and bland. However, frequently the additional iron leaves no impact on the taste of the food, especially when there is a large quantity of food being cooked.
This ties in with the first concern of regular cast iron cookware: iron leaching is unpredictable and difficult to quantify. Other factors that can affect the amount of iron leached are the length of cooking and the amount of heat applied to the cookware.
Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Pros and Cons
Enameled cast iron cookware can be easier to maintain than seasoned cast iron. Both can withstand heat at high temperatures. Although you will have to take extra care with enameled cast iron – it should be treated like glass when using hot and cold temperatures.
Read more about the pros and cons of enameled cast iron in my article.
Here are a couple of questions that are often asked about enameled cast iron cookware.
Can you put enameled cast iron in the oven?
Yes, enameled cast iron can be used in the oven generally it is oven safe up to 500 F. Enamel cast iron is also interchangeable between the stovetop and the oven.
Is enameled cast iron non-stick?
Enameled cast iron is non-stick if you do not dry cook. Put simply you need oil, lard, butter, or other liquid in the bottom of the pan.
Can you cook eggs in enameled cast iron?
Is enamel cookware non-toxic?
The enamel coating that covers cast iron cookware is non-toxic. It is made of glass, and it is safe to use on all types of cooktops, including induction. Enameled cast iron is also a good choice for those who are looking for a non-stick option.
While the enamel coating will eventually wear away with use, it is not harmful to humans or animals. In fact, many people choose enamel cookware because it is one of the safest options on the market.
Learn the facts about re-enameling cast iron cookware in my article: Can you re-enamel cast iron cookware?
Conclusion – Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Safe to Use?
Enameled cast iron cookware is a safer option than regular cast iron in that it does not leach iron, has a natural non-stick quality, and does not rust. It is a better choice of material for cookware.
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