How to Pick the Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillets

How to Pick the Best Enameled Cast Iron Skillet

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From Staub, Le Creuset, to Lodge, when it comes to enameled cast iron skillets and cookware, there are certainly a lot of brands out there to choose from. But does it really matter which brand or make you go with? After all, they are all made of the same enamel right? Wrong.

High quality enameled cast iron skillets have many benefits, from being non toxic, non reactive, oven safe to resistant to rusting. But the reverse is also true – poorly made ones can contain toxins such as cadmium, PTFE, and chip or crack easily.

In this article, I’ll take you on a tour of how enameled skillets are made first before diving deep into how to pick out the best, safest ones for your family. Let’s get started.

What Is Enameled Cast Iron Skillet?

You might have guessed it from its name already, but enameled cast iron skillets are simply cast iron pans that has been coated with a vitreous enamel glaze.

How Is Enameled Cast Iron Skillet Made?

This is really a two part question- the enamel itself, and the cast iron skillet.

The enamel is made of powdered glass, clay, and water. Pigments made of minerals such as cobalt, praseodymium, iron, or neodymium are sometimes added to produce vibrant colors.

The cast iron pan itself is made first by molding it into the desired shape. It is then cleaned by sandblasting or by pickling in acid. The quality of the cast iron base can directly influence the quality of the enamel. The cast iron pan should be:

  • At least 3mm thick
  • Recently cast
  • Free of contamination
  • Free of graphite, sulfides, and sulfur
  • Free of inclusions, bubbles, and pores

A base coating made of metal oxides such as cobalt, nickel, copper, manganese, and iron is applied to make the enamel stick to the metal.

Can Enamel Be Toxic or Hazardous to Health?

Because of its organic composition, high quality enamel-coated cast iron cookware is one of the safest cooking surfaces to cook in. It’s durable, won’t lead or iron, and is non reactive to acidic foods. However, the operative word here is high quality enamel.

With that said, here are a few potential health issues to watch out for with enameled covered cookware:

Lead and Cadmium Leaching

High quality enamel is completely organic and free from hazardous elements such as lead and cadmium. The key is to purchase enameled cast iron cookware that follow the California Proposition 65 standards for lead and cadmium content, the strictest standard currently available.

Low quality enameled cast iron cookware can leach cadmium and lead into your food because of the mixture used to give the end product a lustrous appearance. Food acidity and heating can further increase the risk of cadmium and lead leaching.

Iron Leaching

Unlike bare cast iron cookware, enameled cast iron cookware won’t leach iron because of the enamel coating that completely encases the pan or pot. This makes enameled cast iron cookware a good option for people with hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder characterized by iron overload.

PTFE and PFOA

Good quality enameled cast iron cookware are PTFE and PFOA-free. This means that this type of cookware do not release toxic fumes, making it safe for high heat cooking.

All things considered, enamel coating is one of the safest types of nonstick coating for cookware. 

What Cooking Surfaces Do Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Work On?

Enameled cast iron is compatible with all types of heat sources and stovetops. This means that you can use it without any worries if you have gas, electric, ceramic and induction cooktops.

This type of cookware is also oven-safe up to 500°F. However, this can be lower depending on the material used for the handle

You can even use your enameled cast iron to store food in the fridge and freezer. And, since it is aesthetically pleasing, you can use it to serve food.

One thing you need to remember is to prevent sudden temperature changes to avoid breaking. This means you should wait for your Dutch oven to cool down before soaking it in water.

Additionally, enameled cast iron cookware shouldn’t be used in microwave ovens and on outdoor grills.

What Can You Cook and Not Cook in Enameled Cast Iron Cookware?

Enameled cast iron cookware are inert and suitable for high-heat cooking. This means that you can safely use it to cook acidic dishes like tomato sauce. The same goes for high-heat cooking techniques like searing and stir-frying.

Remember to move the tomato sauce to another container after cooking or for storage to prevent staining.

Main Types of Enameled Cookware to Consider

There are several types of enameled cookware that you can choose from to cook your favorite dishes. The most popular ones include:

  • Frying Pan – Though it comes in different sizes, this often does not come with a lid. It works best for shallow frying, searing, and browning foods.
  • Skillet – Often confused with frying pans because they serve almost the same purpose, skillets are at least 2 inches deep. This makes them more suitable for deep frying than a frying pan.
  • Dutch Oven – When they hear the term enameled cast iron, this is the type of cookware that most people think of first. It is a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. It’s best for long, slow cooking, such as in making roasts, stews, and casseroles.
  • Casserole Dish – A large deep pan, it can be used to bake and serve casseroles, hence its name.

At a Glance: Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Pros and Cons 

Here are the main advantages of enameled cast iron cookware:

  • Prevents the cast iron base from leaching iron
  • Does not require seasoning
  • Low-stick
  • Can withstand high temperatures
  • Suitable for all types of stovetops
  • Oven and freezer-safe
  • Available in many vibrant colors
  • Non-reactive
  • Does not rust
  • Easy to clean
  • High-quality ones are non-toxic
  • Lasts for decades with proper care

There are also some disadvantages however:

  • Heavy
  • Lower thermal conductivity compared to bare cast iron
  • Prone to chipping and cracking
  • Can break with sudden temperature changes
  • Not compatible with metal kitchen utensils
  • Expensive
  • Shouldn’t be washed using abrasive cleaners
  • Not as nonstick as seasoned cast iron
  • Washing by hand is recommended

The Most Popular Enameled Cast Iron Skillet Brands

There are brands that have been producing enameled cast iron pots and pans for centuries, and known around the world. The top three brands are:

Lodge

Founded in 1896, Lodge is one of America’s oldest cookware companies. They offer both cast iron and enameled cast iron cookware. Unlike their cast iron products which are made in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, their enamelware are manufactured in China with strict specifications for quality and safety.

Le Creuset

A French company established in 1925, Le Creuset is best known for its colorful enameled cast iron cookware. Though some of their other types of cookware are made in other countries, their enamelware is still made in Fresnoy-le-Grand, France.

Standard sand casting methods are used to make the cast iron component. Then, they are finished by hand and coated with two layers of enamel. Each piece can take about 10 hours and 15 people to complete.

They have a very strict no-flaw policy so about 30% of their finished products are rejected and recycled to produce a flawless product.

Staub

Staub is an independent French brand which was acquired in 2008 by German company Zwilling J. A. Henckels. They offer many double glazed enameled cast iron products.

Their enameled cast iron products stand out because of the small elevations in the lids. According to the company, this ensures continuous basting and even cooking.

The Differences

So what are the main differences between these three well known enameled cookware brands?

  • Performance – Because of the quartz in the cast iron in Staub’s cookware (particularly their Dutch ovens), it browns meat beautifully. As such, many chefs swear by Staub.
  • Construction – In terms of build quality, the Staub and Le Creuset stand out. Staub has a thick, consistently smooth enamel layer and glossy paintwork. On the other hand, the Le Creuset’s enamel is smoother than the Staub, making it look and feel so much like glass. The Lodge is understandably inferior to the two, having a slightly inconsistent enamel.
  • Design – Staub’s lids have the tightest fit among the three. Compared to the other two’s straight bodies, Lodge’s Dutch ovens have a slightly bowed out body, making mixing the food easier. As for the handles, Lodge has the best, being oven-safe for up to 500°F.

All in all, you get your money’s worth with the Staub and Le Creuset’s beautiful craftsmanship. But, for regular cooks, the Lodge is a great entry level enameled cast iron cookware.

My Favorite Enameled Cast Iron Skillets and Cookware

For regular household use, it’s hard for me to justify spending several hundred dollars on a Staub when I can get a comparable one in terms of performance and safety for a fraction of the cost.

The following are my five favorite enameled cast iron skillets, dutch ovens and pots that are safe, high performant, and wallet friendly.

Zelancio Enameled 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet

Sale
Zelancio Enameled 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, Oven Safe Smooth Surface Frying Pan. Perfect for Steak,...
  • SKILLET: Perfect for cooking your favorite foods including steak, eggs, chicken, vegetables, and so much more!
  • VERSATILE: Our ovenproof skillet can go straight from stove to oven to table. Perfect to braise, sauté, simmer, bake, marinate, or slow simmer.
  • SUPERIOR DESIGN: Our coated cast iron skillet features an ergonomic handle, pour spouts, and superior heat distribution and retention to evenly tenderize meats, poultry, and vegetables.

Nonstick: Low-stick

Oven-Friendly: Broiler and oven-safe up to 500°F

Cooktop Compatibility: Gas, electric, ceramic, and induction cooktops. Over campfire.

Dishwasher-Safe: No

Average Weight: 6.5 lbs

Dimensions: 18.5″ X 10.5″ X 2″

Place of Production: China

Pieces: 10-Inch Enameled Cast Iron Skillet 

Available Colors: Teal, red, orange

Warranty: 1-year manufacturers warranty

Zelancio Enameled 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet Quick Review

Cut down on your cleanup time with the Zelancio Enameled 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet. Not only is it compatible with all types of cooktops, this vibrant skillet can go from stove to oven as well. Plus, it’s low-stick so food doesn’t stick to it with proper temperature control. Some buyers also advise seasoning it every now and then to protect the enamel layer and improve its nonstick properties.

Unlike other enameled cast iron skillets that we’ve tried before, the Zelancio’s rim won’t rust because it has 3 layers of black enamel on its interior and rim. There are also thoughtful little features that make it even better. This includes the looped handle for safe storage and spouts on both sides which make pouring sauces easy for both right and left-handed people.

One thing it lacks is a lid. We definitely wouldn’t mind paying a little extra for a lid to match this beautiful piece. The handle also gets hot, so you need to remember to use mitts.

Overall, the Zelancio is a good cheap enameled cast iron cookware that you can use to make healthy dishes for your family.

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillet 

Sale
Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillet with Iron Handle, Cherry
  • 11-3/4-inch enameled cast-iron skillet with dual pour spouts
  • Chip- and crack-resistant enamel won't react to foods
  • Integral iron handle and opposite helper handle for secure transport

Nonstick: Low-stick

Oven-Friendly: Oven and broiler-safe up to 500°F

Cooktop Compatibility: All cooktops including induction 

Dishwasher-Safe: Yes

Average Weight: 6.5 lbs

Dimensions: 18-⅘” X 13-½”

Place of Production: France

Pieces: 11-3/4-Inch Skillet

Available Colors: Caribbean, cassis, cherry, flame, Marseille

Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillet Quick Review

If you’ve got a lot of hungry mouths to feed, then splurging on the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Skillet might be a good idea. At 11-3/4-Inch in diameter, it’s big enough to cook several steaks at once. And, just like the Zelancio, it has spouts on both sides for easy sauce pouring. 

Since this Le Creuset Skillet is too heavy to lift with one hand, we like that it has a small helper handle so moving it feels more secure.  It also has a looped longer iron handle for easy storage. But, if you want to nest it with other cookware as one buyer does, make sure to use fabric separators to prevent scratching.

We were disappointed that at its price point, it doesn’t come with a lid. The handles get hot as well since they’re also cast iron. But, we got a silicon handle to solve that problem.

At more than twice the price of the Zelencion, this Le Creuset Skillet is very expensive. Still, we recommend this beautiful piece for being very durable and offering excellent heat distribution.

Check the video below to see the Le Creuset Skillet in action:

AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven

AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Red
  • Enameled cast-iron
  • Cast iron for even heat distribution and retention
  • Vitreous enamel finish won't react to food

Nonstick: Low-stick

Oven-Friendly: Oven-safe up to 400°F

Cooktop Compatibility: Suitable for all cooking surfaces

Dishwasher-Safe: No

Average Weight: 13.06 lbs

Dimensions: 13.54” x 11.02” x 7.08”

Place of Production: China

Pieces: 6qt Dutch oven (also available in 4.3qt and 7.3qt)

Available Colors: Blue, green, red, white

Warranty: 1-year limited warranty

AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Covered Dutch Oven Quick Review

The AmazonBasics Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is a good choice for people who want to take advantage of the benefits of enamelware without spending big bucks on expensive brands like Staub. One buyer who owns a Staub and Le Creuset said that the quality of the AmazonBasics is so close that it’s hard to justify spending a small fortune on famous French brands.

We love the looped handles that allow for a more secure grip during transport. Of course, it also has a tight-fitting lid, a must for any good Dutch oven.  We’ve only had it for a few months but it has a heavy and sturdy feel to it that makes us think it will last for years with proper care.

The only drawback, aside from its heavy weight, is that food has a tendency to stick. The key lies in making sure that the cookware is hot enough before you start cooking. 

At the end of the day, AmazonBasics has a good balance when it comes to price, performance, durability, and quality.

Bruntmor Enameled 2-In-1 Cast Iron Multi-Cooker

Sale
Enameled 2-In-1 Cast Iron Multi-Cooker By Bruntmor - Heavy Duty 3 Quart Skillet and Lid Set,...
  • DISCOVER THE HEALTHIEST WAY TO COOK YOUR FOOD - It's time to say goodbye to chemicals and flimsy cookware. The Bruntmor ultimate pre-seasoned cast iron Multi-Cooker set is here to help you eat...
  • THIS IS THE LAST SKILLET YOU'LL EVER HAVE TO BUY - One thing that separates cast iron cookware from the rest is extreme durability. Our sturdy skillet and lid set is made to withstand abuse and endure...
  • LESS SCRUBBING, MORE FREE TIME - Stop wasting your valuable time scrubbing your pans and start spending quality time with your family! The Bruntmor cast iron Dutch oven features an enamelled surface,...

Nonstick: Low-stick

Oven-Friendly: Yes

Cooktop Compatibility: All cooktops. Even over campfire.

Dishwasher-Safe: Hand washing recommended

Average Weight: About 13 lbs

Dimensions: Frying pan is 9.5” inside, skillet is 9.75” inside 

Place of Production: China

Pieces: 1 frying pan, 3qt skillet. Fits together to become a Dutch oven.

Available Colors: Red

Warranty: 1-year limited warranty

Bruntmor Enameled 2-In-1 Cast Iron Multi-Cooker

The Bruntmor Enameled 2-In-1 Cast Iron Multi-Cooker takes skillets and Dutch ovens to a whole new level by combining them. Use the frying pan as the lid to the 3qt skillet to turn them into a Dutch oven. One buyer even said that this duo is all he needs to cook his food when he goes on camping trips.

We noticed that this versatile multi-cooker is amazingly easy to clean especially once you’ve seasoned it as some users suggested. On top of that, this mini set is well-built. The enamel is thick and consistent. You can expect years of service from this Bruntmor Multi-Cooker with proper use.

Just like all enameled cast iron cookware, this product is on the heavy side. So, it’s a good thing that it has a helper handle. Another drawback is that it requires seasoning before it becomes nonstick.

These are small issues that we don’t really take away from the Bruntmor’s value, especially considering what you get for such an affordable price.

Lodge 3.6 Quart Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish 

Sale
Lodge 3.6 Quart Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish with Lid (Carribbean Blue)
  • Broil, braise, bake or roast up to 500 degrees F. Saute, simmer or fry on any stovetop, including induction.
  • Cast iron is unparalleled in heat retention and even heating. The smooth glass surface won't react to ingredients, plus eliminates the need to season.
  • Lodge Enamel Casserole Dish is the perfect tool to marinate, refrigerate, cook and serve.

Nonstick: Yes

Oven-Friendly: Yes, up to 500°F 

Cooktop Compatibility: Electric, ceramic and induction cooktops

Dishwasher-Safe: Hand washing recommended

Average Weight: Not indicated

Dimensions: 14.4″ x 12.55″ x 3.4″, 11 3/4″ diameter, 2 1/8″ deep

Place of Production: China 

Pieces: 3.6qt casserole dish with lid

Available Colors: Carribean blue, oyster white, spice red

Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty

Lodge 3.6 Quart Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish

Last, but not least, the Lodge 3.6 Quart Enamel Cast Iron Casserole Dish is our pick for your broiling, braising, baking or roasting needs. Not only does it provide even heat distribution, it also has excellent heat retention. This is why one satisfied buyer said that this product is able to cook food consistently while also keeping the food warm for a longer period of time.

This piece has a smooth, glass-like surface that makes it suitable to go from stovetop to oven to table. It has an evenly enameled off-white interior while the rim is covered with black matte enamel, preventing rusting. Though we didn’t experience it firsthand, we read that Lodge also has excellent customer support. A buyer who got a defective product got a replacement after just one email, no questions asked. Moreover, Lodge is very honest when it comes to where their enamelware are manufactured.

Since it’s enameled cast iron, it is very heavy so it might not be suitable for people who have trouble lifting heavy things. Other than this, most of the critical reviews we’ve seen are due to defective products.

All in all, we highly recommend this attractive and affordable Lodge Casserole Dish if you want to get a premium quality product without having to spend a small fortune.

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