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Reliable, durable, and long-lasting. People have used these words to describe cast iron cookware for decades, centuries even.
However, nothing is perfect. With all these benefits of using cast-iron, there must be trade-offs, right? Those who are familiar with cast iron will agree.
While many purists simply do not mind, no one can deny the fact that cast iron cookware requires higher maintenance than most other materials out there. You would have to season it after every few uses, wipe it dry to prevent rusting, not use it in a dishwasher, just to name a few. Having durable cookware like this definitely has its own set of inconveniences.
What if there’s something out there that is almost as durable as cast-iron, without most of these shortcomings? You’d be happy to know that just by coating cast-iron with enamel, most of the problems go away.
But what are the pros and cons of enameled cast iron cookware? Are there any health risks associated with enamel cast iron? In terms of brand, you’ve surely heard of Staub, Le Creuset, Lodge, etc. Which is the best? In this article, we discuss all of these.
If you’re looking for the absolute best enameled cast iron skillet and can’t wait to read for the answer, our top pick is the STAUB. Premium build quality, exceptional performance, it has everything you’re looking for in an enamel-coated cast iron skillet.
If you’re looking for something with a lower price tag while offering about the same experience, our recommendation is to go for the Landhaus.
For the most budget-conscious readers, take a look at the Crock Pot Artisan piece. While it is not without drawbacks, it offers a well-balanced entry into the world of enameled cookware.
Click here to skip straight to our list of top picks!
Table of Contents
- 1 Enameled Cast Iron vs Cast Iron: Pros and Cons
- 2 Health Risks with Enameled Cast Iron?
- 3 Shopping Guide: What to Look For in Enameled Cast Iron Pans
- 4 Our Picks for the Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillets
- 5 Best Utensils for Enameled Cast Iron Skillets
- 6 Cleaning and Seasoning Guide for Enameled Cast Iron Pans
- 7 Wrap Up
- 8 Related Posts
Enameled Cast Iron vs Cast Iron: Pros and Cons
Since most of you reading this are probably closely comparing enameled cast iron with their non-coated counterparts, we will work off of that.
For starters, if you’re conscious about iron leaching out from the pan you’re using into your food, enamel completely covers the cast iron surface of the cookware. Sometimes, when cooking over long periods on cast iron, especially acidic foods, you can even taste a little iron in your cooking. Enameled cookware prevents this from happening.
Subsequently, with an enameled cast iron skillet, gone are the days where you would have to regularly season your cookware. Because the iron layer is not exposed to the environment, seasoning is not necessary. Guess what? This also means there is no need to wipe every drop of water off of your skillet in fear of it rusting!
Of course, again, nothing is perfect.
Although enamel can withstand heat higher than any common stovetop is able to put out, it does chip and crack when used on high heat. This happens because of the difference in thermal expansion between enamel and cast iron, which causes them to pull apart too much at high temperatures. For this reason, avoid using enameled cookware on an open fire.
With an extra layer on top of the already-heavy cast iron, enameled cookware also weighs more. In addition, the extra layer also brings in a higher cost, which makes enameled cookware pricier than plain cast-iron ones.
Health Risks with Enameled Cast Iron?
As with any other material, those who are health-conscious will look deeper into whether enamel has any health risks when used in the kitchen.
The single most brought up health risk associated with enamel cookware – is leaching of lead. On the surface, this sounds like a valid claim. Since enamel is made of a ceramic material – porcelain – which contains clay, which in turn contains lead, it is easy to see why this purported health risk is frequently mentioned.
However, if you buy from a trusted and reputable manufacturer, that worry is pretty much uncalled for. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all glazed ceramic surfaces to only contain a maximum of 3 ppm of leachable lead.
So our final take on this – enameled cast iron cookware is absolutely safe to use. Just make sure to only buy from legitimate and dependable manufacturers.
Shopping Guide: What to Look For in Enameled Cast Iron Pans
Now, what to actually look for in an enameled cast iron pan or skillet?
In our opinion, many of the desired characteristics of a cookware can be found in easily any enameled cast iron piece. You’re able to wash them with soap, cook acidic foods in them, throw them in a dishwasher (most allow) – just to name a few things bare cast iron cannot do. On top of that, you can do away with the seasoning that plain cast iron needs, as all enameled cookware pieces come with mild non-stick properties by themselves.
For the induction-heads out there, most, if not all enameled cast iron pans are induction-ready too. But just to be safe, do take a minute or two to make sure of that.
Here we’ll list a few common things to take note of when shopping for an enameled cast iron cookware.
Size and depth
This goes without saying, just as with any pan or skillet you might purchase. As standard, 10” and 12” are the norm. As for depth, a little over 2” provides more versatility.
There is no denying that enameled cast iron cookware is one of the heaviest among its counterparts. Many of you who have had experience with bare cast iron will know that the material is already much heavier than the typical non-stick. Now add a whole coating of enamel on top of the cast iron and you can imagine.
While this shouldn’t be a big problem to some, except for the fact that your wrist might get a little tired over lengthy cooking sessions, it can be for people who have trouble lifting heavy objects. If you’re that someone, take the extra time to check out the weight of a skillet. An overly-heavy piece only ruins the cooking experience.
If you’re used to the advantage of cast iron cookware in that they have virtually no limit to the exposed temperature, you’re going to have to adjust your expectations a little.
For enamel-coated cast iron pans, many have about the same range of temperature limit as non-stick cookware, around the 400-500°F mark. If you’re foreseeing a lot of high heat cooking, or usage in the broiler, look for one that is able to withstand a higher temperature.
In our list, the STAUB is one such example, which happily tolerates up to 900°F. Incredible claim for an enameled cast iron piece!
Our Picks for the Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillets
Here are our list of top picks for the best enamel-coated cast iron skillets. Divided and labeled into a few categories, be sure to skim through and pick the right one for yourself!
French-made STAUB is a name highly respected in the enameled cast iron space. With many chefs advocating and swearing by the brand, it proves to be one of the most trusted when compared to its counterparts.
Having a history of nearly half a century, the expertise is reflected in this well-made piece of cookware. Made in France, the workmanship shines through. It carries onto real-world cooking as well, as the pan is able to offer steady heat distribution, so that every part of your food is perfectly cooked.
Cooking surface is made of black matte enamel. Being ever so slightly rough, it allows for better browning of food.
Apart from its utility value, with STAUB offering many color options out of its range, the frying pan offers a high aesthetic value as well.
Size: 10” at its widest, around 8.5” of cooking surface at the bottom
- Stunning and flexible color options, including matte black and a deep dark red that just shouts premium
- Low, curved sides make it easy to flip when cooking
- Pouring spouts on either side for easy fat removal
- Smooth bottom makes it suitable for all stovetops, including glass and induction
- Oven-safe for up to 900°F
- Dishwasher-safe although hand wash recommended
- Pricy option compared to the others, but you’re paying for the quality and reputation
While we found the STAUB piece to be our very favorite, it does have less reviews online than this Le Creuset one. If you’re one who trusts that the best is where the crowd is, or simply had good experience with this brand, the Le Creuset is a very close runner-up to the STAUB. Besides, the popular cooking show America’s Test Kitchen also crowned this as their best cast iron skillet.
Being made in France as well, this piece of cookware features exceptional workmanship. Smooth matte enamel interior, well-coated exterior, this skillet leaves no doubt about its quality.
While it does also offer quite a few color options, there isn’t one in particular that tickles our fancy. They do have one that mimics the appearance of stone cookware, so if you’re into that, might want to check it out.
One thing that this has which the STAUB doesn’t, is the inclusion of a big, looped helper handle (STAUB has a smaller one without a loop). Located on the opposite side of the long handle, it provides support when moving the pan around. For this category of cookware which is naturally heavy, it is a must-have for some people, and comes in handy (get it?).
Size: 10.25” at its widest, around 8” of cooking surface at the bottom
- Large loop handle helps with lifting the pan
- Pour spouts on two sides to allow for drip-free pouring
- Smooth bottom which makes it suitable for glass top stoves
- Oven-safe for up to 500°F
- Pricy but you’re paying for quality just as with the STAUB
After looking at the highest-priced and most reputable brands, this one is a turn in the completely opposite direction. But just how much usability and quality can be squeezed into a piece priced the lowest on our list? Clearly, don’t expect something like the STAUB or Le Creuset, but not too bad for its price!
It comes in a few sizes – namely 8”, 10” and 12” – so you’re able to more easily choose one based off of your exact needs. It distributes heat fairly evenly, which makes it more than good enough for day-to-day cooking.
But of course with its low price, quality is not top-notch. There are reports online that the enamel coating chips with just a few months of use, with some even reporting it came chipped. While some are happy that customer service has since replaced their pieces, some are not as lucky and have been unable to reach them reliably.
For this reason alone we urge that you make the decision yourself. If you’re willing to shell out a little more, we would recommend looking into our Best Under $50 instead.
Size: 10″ at its widest, and 8.5″ of bottom cooking surface
- Two pour spouts on either side but is a little too rounded for our liking
- Oven-safe for up to 500°F
- No helper handle of any sort
- No mention of dishwasher-safe
- Some reported it chips easily, which does not affect the functionality a whole lot, but definitely hinders its appearance and care that needs to go into making sure it does not rust
Not a brand nearly as reputable and well-known as the two top ones on our list, but is surprisingly pleasant to use. Almost everything that the STAUB and Le Creuset provide, at a fraction of the price.
It comes in only one color, but boy, does it do it well. The deep red exterior gives off a very premium feel, combined with the glazed black interior, makes it very aesthetically pleasing to look at.
The skillet is coated with four layers of glass-fired enamel that is absolutely food-safe. Feels good in the hand, it also distributes heat very evenly during cooking. However for those who would like to stay away from heavy cookware, be warned. This weighs 7 pounds!
Size: 12.5” at its widest, with the walls curved and rounded into a bottom that measures 8.4” across
- Four layers of interior enamel coating which makes it more durable
- Pour spouts on both sides for easy pouring of liquid and fat
- Comes with a helper handle to make lifting easier
- Oven-safe for up to 450°F
- Slightly shallow at 1.7 inches, especially when compared to its competitors
- A little lacking in natural non-stick properties, especially when compared to the STAUB and Le Creuset
- Quite heavy at 7 lbs
- Not dishwasher-safe
Cuisinart, being a household name for standard cookware, has done it again with their enameled cast iron pan.
Having strong and durable enamel finish that coats their great cast iron construction, this pan provides great value for its price. Be aware though, as we have seen several reports of people claiming that the coating comes off over some use. If it does happen though, you’d be glad to know that the pan is covered with a lifetime warranty.
Providing a wide handle that makes it very easy to hold, it also has a helper handle on the other side to allow for more effortless lifting. Compared to its competitors though, the helper knob handle is a little on the shorter side.
It comes in two colors – red and blue, both of which are not amazing but do look pretty good.
Size: 10″ at its widest, and 8.5″ of bottom cooking surface
- Handle is wide, giving a very comfortable grip
- Knob handle on the other side for easier lifting, especially out of the oven
- Oven-safe but no mention of maximum temperature, which typically falls around the 450°F mark
- Some reports of chipping off after not very long usage
If you’re not familiar with who Rachael Ray is, she is a celebrity cook who has won three Daytime Emmy Awards and in 2011, won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Cook. Now you may be thinking, how good can a self-branded piece of skillet be? The answer to that, it may very well exceed your expectations.
Although obviously not on the level of top-tier cookware, Rachael Ray’s cookware sets are often applauded for their quality at an affordable price tag. This one’s no different.
Coming in only the signature Rachael Ray shimmer red finish, the enameled skillet is quite the looker. But it is not all looks though, as the construction holds well too and is durable and sturdy. Heat distribution is fairly even, providing excellent searing and browning.
Size: 12″ at its widest, and about 10″ across of cooking surface
- Pour spouts that makes it convenient to letting out liquid
- Wide looped helper handle making it extremely easy to lift
- Oven-safe for up to 500°F
- Heaviest on the list, weighing close to a whopping 10 pounds! Definitely skip it if you have problems handling heavy items
- Not dishwasher-safe
Best Utensils for Enameled Cast Iron Skillets
Now that you’ve skimmed through our list of top picks for enameled cast iron skillets, here’s a little about the best practices when using them as well.
You may have heard that enamel cookware is as durable as bare cast iron ones go, in terms of the ability to use metal utensils on them. While this may be true, you might still want to look out if you’re going with the more value-friendly options.
Some of the budget-friendly options have a coating that is not as durable and scratch-resistant as the pricier ones, and tend to chip after excessive usage. Using metal utensils will only accelerate the process.
Does this mean that if going for a higher-priced option, it’s safe to use metal utensils on them?
While manufacturers of the higher-end pieces say that it is generally okay to use metal utensils, for maximum protection though, we recommend that you stick to wooden ones, or equivalent. Anyway, the more expensive a piece of cookware is, the more care you’re supposed to put towards it, right?
Cleaning and Seasoning Guide for Enameled Cast Iron Pans
I believe a handful of you are looking at enameled cast iron cookware, due to the very reason that you get to skip all the cleaning and seasoning particulars that a regular cast iron would require. Now that you’ve pulled the trigger and gotten yourself an enamel-coated cast iron skillet, you can enjoy its significantly lower maintenance.
To clean an enameled cast iron pan, simply cool it for a few minutes (or thermal shock may occur which cracks the coating), and wash it the way you like, even with soap. After which, simply leave it to dry. Yes, it’s that simple!
That being said, do note though that if the particular piece you’ve bought has exposed cast iron, e.g. typically around the rim to prevent lids from chipping off the coating, you would still need to wipe it dry. This is to prevent rust, the exact same reason why you would wipe a cast iron pan dry after washing.
Now, do you need to season an enamel-coated cast iron pan? Not at all. The main reason for seasoning cast iron cookware, is to give it patina, or in other words, a layer of carbonized oil. This, apart from making it non-stick, also prevents the pan from rusting. Since enamel doesn’t rust, and already has mild non-stick properties by itself, seasoning is absolutely not necessary.
That being said, its non-stick performance is not amazing. If you expect the same as with Teflon products or even well-seasoned cast iron, you’d be a little disappointed. However there is a way to improve on it, which is to heat on medium for a few minutes with your choice of oil before putting any food in.
There you have it, our list of top recommendations for the best enameled cast iron skillets.
To recap, if you have enough to shell out for the absolute best piece of enamel-coated cast iron skillet, go for the STAUB. With exceptional craftsmanship that translates incredibly well into real-world usage, this skillet has no issues getting you through a few years’ of satisfied use.
If the STAUB is over your budget and you would like to search a little lower, the Landhaus has our wholehearted recommendation. Offering about the same durability and reliability as the STAUB and Le Creuset at a much affordable price, no regrets here.
However, if you’re getting one just to see if an enameled cast iron piece is for you, and would like something really cheap to begin with, look into the Crock Pot Artisan 10” skillet. While it is really basic and has some reported chipping issues, it is enough to give you just a taste of what enameled cookware is all about, at a really low cost.
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