One of my most treasured family heirlooms is a pink enamel coated cast iron cooking pot given to me by my grandmother. I have spent years marinating, cooking, heating and presenting food in it and hope to use it in the years to come. It begs the question: Is Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware Safe to Cook in?
Enamel coated cast iron cookware is one of the safest choices to use as a cookware due to the hardened enamel surrounding the entire cookware. It prevents leaching of iron into food, is acid resistant, is corrosion free, and a great heat conductor and distributor able to withstand high temperatures.
The downside of enamel coated cookware is that it’s generally pricier and heavier. Furthermore, the enamel can chip, which exposes the metal inside the pot to rusting and other issues non enamel cookware have.
What is Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware?
The clue is in the name. Enamel coated cast iron cookware is basically cast iron cookware that has an enamel glaze applied to its surface area inside and outside the pan, pot or vessel. We often find cast iron cookware sets coated with porcelain enamel. This is basically iron coated with a form of glass which is fired on to the iron body.
Reasons to Buy and Use Enamel-Coated Cast Iron Cookware
The main reasons for buying and using an enamel coated cast iron set are that it:
- Prevents the leaching of iron into food
- Prevents the rusting of the cookware
- Eliminates the need for seasoning cookware
- Provides a non-stick layer
- Withstands high temperatures
- Is a good heat conductor
- Doesn’t corrode
- Available in many attractive colours and shades.
Is Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware Safe?
As mentioned, in general, enamel coated cookware is considered one of the safest cookwares available. The enamel coating shields the pan or pot from rusting, metals leaching, and some other health hazards faced by other types of cookware.
Prevents Iron Leaching into Food
Pure cast iron cookware can be unsafe as it interacts with and leaches iron into the food being cooked. This can result in higher iron levels being present in our blood. However, enamel coated cast iron cookware is safe-to-use and healthy to cook in, as there is no fear of the cooked food interacting with the iron.
Prevents Food Burning
The enamel coated cast iron cookware provides a non-stick surface which makes both cooking the food and cleaning the cookware easier. The non-stick layer prevents food from burning and sticking to the cookware sides. This further enhances the safety of cooking in this cookware.
Acid Resistant Cookware
Any type of food, acidic and alkaline food alike, can be cooked in the enamel coated cast iron cookware. According to the Minnesota Pollution Agency, Enamel cookware are non reactive, and hence a great option for using it with acidic foods. So you can use vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, tomatoes and wine in this cookware without fear of the acid reacting with the cookware.
Corrosion Free Cookware
Another important characteristic of enamel coated cast iron cookware is that it does not corrode like other metal cookware. This means excessive use of this type of cookware will not result in its cooking surface corroding and contaminating the food.
Rust Free Cookware
Unlike plain cast iron cookware, enameled cast iron cookware does not rust. Plain cast iron cookware rusts easily if not seasoned. Cast iron cookware can also rust when kept under water for extensive periods and if put away and stacked but not dried. Enameled cast iron has a layer of coating that protects it from rusting. The only exception is if you chip the enamel, exposing the metals inside.
Easy to Clean
Because of its non-stick surface, this particular cookware is easy to clean. Stains and food particles glide of the slippery surface much easier, without debris getting stuck in micro pockets.
Good Heat Conductor and Distributor
Enamel coated cast iron cookware is a good heat conductor and heat distributor. This makes it a good cookware option for cooking soups, stews, sauces and meat and fish dishes.
Withstands Very High Temperatures
This particular cookware is excellent in tolerating high temperatures. It makes coated cast iron cookware perfect for searing, braising, roasting and stir-frying in without burning or overcooking food or coating the pan with difficult to remove food stains.
Can be Used on All Types of Stoves
Another safety feature of enamel coated cast iron cookware is that it can be used on all types of heat sources such as the stove, oven and grill. This cookware can be used on gas, electric and induction stoves. This cookware can also be used to store food at different temperatures: in a fridge, freezer and at the dining table as a serving dish.
Points to Consider When Buying Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware
We now look at some points you should consider when buying enamel coated cast iron cookware.
Expensive Cookware Option
One of the main drawbacks of this type of cookware is that it is expensive. Enamel coated cast iron cookware will at times cost three to four times more than plain cast iron cookware. However, keep in mind the many benefits it offers over non coated. A Staub Cocotte 13 quarts is around 50% more expensive than the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven at time of writing.
Enamel Glaze Can be Toxic
In the early 1970s, toxic cadmium and lead were found in pigments used to color the enamel of the cookware. Always purchase from reputable brands when it comes to coated cookware that meet or exceed California Proposition 65 standards for lead and cadmium content.
This cookware is iron, and let’s face it iron cookware is one of the heaviest cookware available. Enameled coated cast iron pots, pans and vessels are quite heavy when it comes to daily use and cooking. While professionals cooks and chefs may prefer these classic cookware items to be a part of their kitchen, most of us would prefer lighter options. A Staub Cocotte of 13 quarts weighs a whopping 25 pounds!
Enamel Coating Prone to Chip
Enamel coating, particularly porcelain enamel coating is relatively fragile and requires some care. This enamel coating can chip away, crack, break or shatter if beaten, banged, thrown on the floor or exposed to cold water suddenly. Once the Enamel chips, the iron inside is susceptible to rusting, which is hazardous for health.
Wooden, Rubber and Nylon Utensils Preferred
As enamel coating is fragile and susceptible to cracking, chipping, or breaking it is better to avoid the use of metal cooking utensils while cooking. More appropriate cooking utensils can be found in the wooden, silicon or nylon range. The key to the longevity and durability of your enamel coated cast iron cookware set is taking care of it.
Should be Hand Washed
While manufacturers of this cookware are adamant that this cookware can be washed in a dishwasher, to prolong its life it is better to hand wash it. It is also important to remember that when hand-washing enamel coated cast iron cookware, it is advisable not to use abrasive brushes or sponges.
Lower Thermal Conductivity
Enamel coated cast iron cookware has lower thermal conductivity compared to plain iron coated cookware. It takes some time to heat this cookware up to the desired level However, once the cookware is heated up it has great heat distribution and the food will be cooked uniformly well as the heat is distributed across the pan, pot or vessel.
Maintaining Your Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware
There are several ways in which you can provide your enamel coated cast iron cookware some tender loving care and prolong its life for years to come.
Allow Cookware to Cool Before Washing
Always let a hot-pot or pan cool before putting it into water for washing. This precaution is taken as otherwise, the thermal shock may cause cracking in the enamel and ruin the cookware. If you have stubborn stains after washing your cookware, soak the pot in warm water once cooled for 15 to 20 minutes before washing. Once the pot has been soaked you can wash with soft washing up liquid or powder and warm water.
If after washing your pot and you still find food residue stuck on it, pour water into the pot and place the pot on the stove. Turn the heat to first low and then medium heat and let it boil for ten minutes. The boiling water will break down food pieces stuck on the pot or pan. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. Then pour the water out and wipe with a soft sponge.
Avoid Abrasive Material For Cleaning
Avoid using steel wool or abrasive sponges that could end up scratching the enamel. Use soft detergent liquid or powder soap and warm water to wash your cookware. To give your cookware an extra polish and shine, try Bar Keepers Friend or Le Creuset enameled cast-iron cookware cleaner.
Use Gentler Cleaning Solutions
In order to keep enamel coated cast iron cookware in good condition for a longer period of time, try to use gentle cleaning solutions that are natural to boot. Here are 3 of my favorite cleaning methods to use with Enamel Coated cookware:
- Baking Soda Cleaning Method: Now this cleaning method uses an Ingredient which is probably lying in your kitchen cabinet – baking soda. You can add a few spoonfuls of the powder to boiling water to help break down burnt-on food.
If you have stubborn stains, make a paste from baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stubborn spots, cover the pot or pan, and let it sit overnight. The next morning wash the pot with a mild soap and water.
- Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaning Method: This next cleaning method also makes use of another common household chemical – hydrogen peroxide. Add 1/2 inch of hydrogen peroxide to the pot. Then add 1 to 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Heat this mixture until it starts to bubble up. It needs the heat to start the reaction. Simmer for about ten minutes and clean with a soft sponge or cloth.
- Vinegar Cleaning Method The third cleaning method uses your plain old everyday vinegar to make your cookware shine. Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with 3 quarts of water in the pot and boil this mixture. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Wait for the pot to cool, rinse, and wash with soap and water.
Here’s a hands on video on how to clean enamel coated cookware properly:
Dry Your Pans Properly
Last, but not least, to look after your enamel coated cast iron cookware dry your pans properly. Always remember to wipe your cookware with a dry dish cloth or a paper or kitchen towel before putting it away.
Top 5 Enamel Coated Cast Iron Cookware Brands
We now look at the top brands for the best quality enamel coated cast iron cookware: