Are you shopping for a new pot or pan and considering enameled cast iron?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of enameled cast iron cookware? How does it perform, and how easy is it to use and maintain?
In this guide, I break down the pros and cons of enameled cast iron cookware. You’ll learn:
- How it’s made
- How it looks, feels, and performs
- The differences between enameled and regular cast iron
- How much it costs
- And more
Keep reading if you’re ready to buy new cookware but aren’t sure if enameled cast iron is worth it.
Use the links below to navigate this guide:
- What is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware?
- Pro: Versatile
- Pro: Long Lasting
- Pro: High Heat Tolerance
- Pro: Excellent Heat Retention
- Pro: Non-Reactive
- Pro: Attractive Design
- Pro: Compatible With All Cooktops
- Pro: No Added Iron Taste
- Con: Heavy
- Con: Vulnerable to Thermal Shock
- Con: Prone to Chipping
- Con: Rough Bottom
- Con: Food Sticks
- Con: Harder to Clean
- Con: Heats Slowly
- Con: Uneven Heating
- Con: Hot Handles
- Con: Expensive
- Bottom Line: Should You Buy Enameled Cast Iron Cookware?
What Is Enameled Cast Iron Cookware?
As the name suggests, enameled cast iron cookware has a cast iron base. Cast iron cookware is forged from a single piece of metal that includes the handle.
This metal is composed of approximately 98% iron and 2% carbon. Cast iron cookware is thick, heavy, and retains heat well.
Enameled cast iron has an additional layer that coats the iron. This enamel coating is similar to porcelain and gives the cookware a smooth, glazed appearance.
Enameled cast iron is used to make a variety of cookware, including skillets, dutch ovens, braisers, and casserole dishes.
There are several functional differences between bare and enameled cast iron, which I cover in detail in this article. A few of the differences worth noting are:
- Cleaning/Maintenance: Bare cast iron must be seasoned, whereas enameled cast iron does not.
- Cookware Variety: While bare cast iron is generally limited to skillets, pans, and other stovetop cookwares, enameled cast iron is often used to make a broader range of items (i.e., dutch ovens, braisers, casserole dishes).
- Performance: Enameled cast iron is non-reactive and can be used to cook very acidic foods without getting damaged. Bare cast iron will react with acidic materials and shouldn’t be used to cook things that include large quantities of citrus, wine, tomatoes, or vinegar.
Now that you know the basics about enameled cast iron cookware, let’s review the pros and cons.
Enameled cast iron cookware is incredibly versatile. You can use it to braise, grill, simmer, fry, or bake. It works in the oven, on a stovetop, or under a broiler.
In most cases, it’s easy to switch between cooking methods. Just double-check the product packaging for manufacturer recommendations, including temperatures.
When handling enameled cast iron, always use an oven mitt because the handles get extremely hot.
Le Creuset even offers a lifetime warranty with its enameled cast iron cookware.
Enameled cast iron cookware has the advantage of regular cast iron’s high heat tolerance. The enamel forms a non-stick coating that can handle temperatures far higher than PTFE or ceramic non-stick.
Le Creuset, Staub, and Lodge cookware can handle temperatures of up to 500°F. Made In enameled cast iron is oven-safe up to 580°F. In most cases, the enameled cast iron lids that come with the cookware are also oven-safe.
Pro: Excellent Heat Retention
Enameled cast iron has excellent heat retention thanks to its thick base and walls.
Heat retention is a vital part of any cookware’s performance. If a piece of cookware can’t retain heat when cold foods are added, it won’t deliver a good sear on meats or cook evenly.
In another article, I tested the heat retention of several Dutch ovens, all of them made of enameled cast iron. I placed 32 ounces of room temperature water in each pot, put them on the stove at high heat, and brought the water to a boil.
After removing it from the heat, I measured the temperature of the water after 10 and 20 minutes and compared the results.
|Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven||Water Temperature (after 10 minutes)||Water Temperature (after 20 minutes)|
I replicated the same test with stainless steel and hard-anodized aluminum pots to compare the heat retention of enameled cast iron cookware vs. other cookware types.
Water in the All-Clad stainless steel pot after 10 minutes was 113.7°F and 94.4°F after 20 minutes.
Water in the Calphalon hard-anodized aluminum pot after 10 minutes was 120.3°F and 100.6°F after 20 minutes.
As the results prove, enameled cast iron cookware provides superior heat retention.
The coating on enameled cast iron cookware is non-reactive to acidic foods. In other words, the material won’t break down and leach into your food when it’s exposed to foods like tomato sauce, citrus, wine, etc.
This is a major advantage that enameled cast iron has over bare cast iron. Acidic foods will strip a bare cast iron skillet’s seasoning and react with the iron, leaving behind an unpleasant metallic taste.
Unlike regular cast iron or non-stick cookware, enameled cast iron pieces come in a wide variety of colors. The enamel is smooth and glossy, and you can find this cookware in just about any color.
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Lodge favors more rustic tones for its cookware, such as deep reds and simple blues.
Staub carries a more extensive color catalog than Lodge, but it offers fewer options than Le Creuset. Classic, modern colors such as forest green, cherry, or steel gray are its go-to options.
The inside of the cookware is usually a lighter color, such as eggshell white or beige. The light color allows you to monitor browning and font development; you’ll be able to easily see when your food is done.
Some brands, such as Staub, opt for dark interiors, which hide stains and discoloration better but make it more difficult to monitor the doneness of your food.
Iron is magnetic; therefore, all enameled cast iron cookware is compatible with induction cooktops. Enameled cast iron cookware also performs well on gas or electric stoves, thanks to its strong heat retention properties.
Traditional cast iron cookware imparts a certain amount of iron into your food. While this is safe and potentially helpful from a nutritional standpoint, it can cause your food to have a slightly metallic flavor after cooking in a bare cast iron pan.
Enameled cast iron does not have this issue. The coating prevents the transfer of iron into your food and eliminates the taste issue associated with uncoated cast iron.
Cast iron cookware, including the enameled variety, is the heaviest you can buy. Keep your relative strength and mobility in mind when deciding if it’s right for you.
On average, cast iron skillets weigh between 4 and 12 pounds. 12-inch skillets typically weigh about 8 pounds, and 10-inch skillets weigh around 5 pounds.
Keep in mind that these numbers don’t include the weight of the food/liquids. If you’re cooking a large pot of soup in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, make sure you have the strength to handle it safely.
Cookware weight can vary by brand as well as size. While comparing Staub and Le Creuset, I found that Staub’s cast iron cookware weighed 20% more (on average) than the same pieces by Le Creuset (this is because Staub cookware is thicker than Le Creuset).
Thermal shock is a problem that occurs when you wash or immerse hot enameled cast iron cookware in cold water. The sudden temperature change causes the material to shrink and expand rapidly. This results in cracks in the enamel, which can spread over time and cause irreversible damage to the cookware’s surface.
To prevent thermal shock, gradually heat and cool your enameled cast iron cookware. Never take a pan from the fridge and place it directly into a hot oven, and never rinse a piping hot pan with cold water.
The coating on enameled cast iron cookware can break more easily than the metal beneath it.
If you drop or bang the pan or accidentally hit it with a sturdy utensil, the enamel may chip off or scratch and expose the bare cast iron.
If that happens, it’s recommended that you replace the cookware. Once the enamel is chipped, pieces of the coating will continue to break off and possibly get into your food.
Although enameled cast iron tends to have a fairly smooth surface, sometimes the bottom of the pan is rougher than the rest.
If your pan has a rough bottom, it can scrape or scratch a glass cooktop. Avoid dragging your cookware across the surface –– lift the pan completely when moving it, and be careful when putting it down.
Enamel is stick-resistant, but it’s not totally non-stick like ceramic or PTFE (Teflon) coatings. You’ll need to use oil or butter to prevent food residue from sticking to your pan, especially when cooking delicate foods like eggs and fish.
All cast iron cookware, including enameled, must be hand washed.
Enameled cast iron cookware doesn’t need to be seasoned, but the pan’s rim may be exposed (without enamel). If this is the case, you can simply use a paper towel to wipe some cooking oil along the rim before putting the pan away.
It’s crucial to dry the pan completely before storing it, as the rim and any other exposed areas can become rusty if they’re left damp for long periods.
Many enameled cast iron pots and pans are labeled as dishwasher-safe, but the truth is that you should always hand-wash your cookware regardless of what the label says. The dishwasher’s extremely hot water and harsh detergents will break down the enamel over time.
Enameled cast iron cookware is made with thick, heavy walls. When you combine that with iron’s poor heat conduction, you get slow-heating cookware.
I performed an experiment to compare how quickly cast iron skillets heated up. I found that, on average, it took about 3 minutes and 50 seconds for a cast iron skillet to bring three cups of water to a boil.
Aluminum cookware (whether hard anodized or non-anodized) heats up much faster. When I compared several non-stick frying pans using the same water-boiling technique, most of them boiled the water in under three minutes.
The table below shows the complete results from my tests. The first two rows are cast iron skillets. Although these skillets are not enameled, the coating won’t impact how fast the cookware heats.
|Pan||Time to First Bubbles||Time to Boil|
|Lodge cast iron skillet||3 minutes and 15 seconds||3 minutes and 58 seconds|
|Calphalon cast iron skillet||3 minutes and 7 seconds||3 minutes and 41 seconds|
|Made In stainless steel fry pan||1 minute and 40 seconds||2 minutes and 21 seconds|
|Misen non-stick fry pan||1 minute and 50 seconds||2 minutes and 25 seconds|
|Anolon non-stick fry pan||1 minute and 55 seconds||2 minutes and 27 seconds|
|T-fal non-stick fry pan||1 minute and 50 seconds||2 minutes and 32 seconds|
|Gotham Steel non-stick fry pan||1 minute and 58 seconds||2 minutes and 32 seconds|
|Rachael Ray non-stick fry pan||1 minute and 47 seconds||2 minutes and 36 seconds|
|Calphalon non-stick fry pan||1 minute and 45 seconds||2 minutes and 40 seconds|
|Hestan stainless steel fry pan||1 minute and 52 seconds||2 minutes and 47 seconds|
|GreenLife non-stick pan||2 minutes and 11 seconds||2 minutes and 47 seconds|
|Circulon non-stick fry pan||2 minutes and 7 seconds||2 minutes and 55 seconds|
|All-Clad stainless steel skillet||1 minute and 55 seconds||2 minutes and 55 seconds|
|Ballarini non-stick fry pan||2 minutes and 15 seconds||3 minutes and 12 seconds|
Once the pan or Dutch oven is preheated, it will cook food evenly –– but before this, you may notice that food cooks faster in some spots than others.
Cast iron cookware is all one piece, meaning the handles are cast in the same mold and connected seamlessly to the rest of the pan. Because of that, the handles are likely to be very hot during and after cooking.
Always use pot-holders or oven mitts when handling enameled cast iron pots and pans.
While bare cast iron cookware is quite affordable, enameled cast iron is expensive.
The exact price for one of these pieces will vary depending on the brand.
For example, Le Creuset is one of the most expensive enameled cast iron cookware brands available. Its premium-quality enameled cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets are made in France.
Lodge is another respected cast iron cookware brand with a long history, but they produce their enameled pieces in China, which significantly reduces their cost.
Take a look at this pricing chart to get an idea of how different brands compare:
Click the prices to view more details about each item on Amazon.
|Dutch Oven||Price||View Details|
|Lodge 4.5-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Lodge 6-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Lodge 7-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Staub 12-Inch Skillet||Amazon|
|Staub 4-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Staub 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Staub 6-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Staub 7-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Le Creuset 7.25-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Le Creuset 5.25-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Le Creuset 8-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Le Creuset 12-Inch Skillet||Amazon|
|Le Creuset 10.25-Inch Skillet||Amazon|
|Tramontina 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven||Amazon|
|Tramontina 12-Inch Skillet||Amazon|
Now that you know the pros and cons of enameled cast iron cookware, it’s time to decide if it belongs in your kitchen.
Let’s quickly recap the main points.
The advantages of enameled cast iron cookware:
- It’s versatile. You can use it to roast, fry, braise, or sear all sorts of food.
- It’s highly durable and can last many years if you take good care of it.
- Like regular cast iron cookware, enameled cast iron can handle high temperatures (typically ranging from 450°F to 500°F).
- It’s compatible with all cooktops, including induction stoves.
- The enamel coating makes the cookware non-reactive to acidic foods and prevents iron from leaching into your food and imparting a metallic flavor.
The disadvantages of enameled cast iron cookware:
- It’s heavy. On average, 12-inch skillets weigh eight pounds.
- It’s susceptible to thermal shock, which can cause the enamel coating to crack.
- Enamel is likely to chip if you drop the cookware or smack it into something.
- Some enameled cast iron cookware has a rough bottom that can scratch glass cooktops when dragged across the surface.
- Enamel has some non-stick properties, but it isn’t as effective as ceramic or PTFE coatings.
- You must hand wash it. Cleaning it in the dishwasher can degrade the enamel.
- It takes a long time to heat up. It also heats unevenly, and it’s best to let the cookware fully preheat before adding food to it (this prevents uneven cooking).
- Since cast iron cookware is made of one piece of metal, the handles can get very hot.
- Enameled cast iron cookware is more expensive than bare cast iron, though pricing varies by brand.
All in all, enameled cast iron cookware is versatile, durable, and attractive.
It’s also heavier than other kinds of cookware, and the coating can crack or chip. It also requires more care than regular non-stick or stainless steel options.
If you want cookware that can go from the stovetop to the oven and you’re willing to pay the additional cost and put in the effort to maintain it, then enameled cast iron is a great choice.
Learn more about about the best enameled cast iron cookware in the reviews below.
- Is Le Creuset Worth the High Price? An In-Depth Review
- Lodge vs. Tramontina: Which Dutch Ovens Are Better?
- 6 High-Quality Alternatives to Le Creuset Dutch Ovens
- Staub Dutch Oven Review: Pros, Cons, and Test Results
- Le Creuset vs. Tramontina: Which Dutch Ovens Are Better?
- Made In Cookware Review: Pros & Cons You Need to Know
- The 6 Best Frying Pan Materials (With Comparison Chart)
- Pros and Cons of Cast Iron Cookware: What to Know Before Buying
- Cast Iron vs. Enameled Cast Iron: 10 Differences You Need to Know
- Ceramic vs. Enameled Cookware: What’s the Difference?
- Carbon Steel vs. Cast Iron Cookware: 10 Key Differences
- Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel Cookware: What’s the Difference?
- How to Clean Enameled Cookware: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Lodge vs. Le Creuset Dutch Ovens: What’s the Difference?
- Is Tramontina a Good Cookware Brand? An In-Depth Review
- Lodge Dutch Oven In-Depth Review: Pros and Cons