If you're trying to decide which skillets, pans, griddles, or woks are best for your kitchen, you have probably already understood that there are a lot of options on the table!
As well as deciding which specific type of cookware you need, you'll also need to determine what material that piece of cookware should be produced from. And just to complicate your kitchen even further, two of the most popular materials to pick from are enameled cast iron and cast iron.
Yes, they sound almost exactly the same, but there are a few key differences between enameled cast iron and regular cast iron.
We'll take a deep dive into the world of cast iron, in this article. We'll explain the advantages (and the disadvantages) of both types of cookware.
So, cast iron vs enameled cast iron? Which is best for your kitchen?
Let's kick this article off by looking at what cast iron actually is. You've probably seen it before. It's a dense, thick, and VERY traditional piece of kitchenware. In fact, cast iron has been used in kitchens across the world for hundreds of years, since it works well on open fires and in hearths.
Today, cast iron is still beloved by chefs for its excellent qualities, and for many, a cast iron skillet or cast iron griddle are essential pieces of cookware.
They are basically indestructible, you can cook with them in the oven, on the stovetop, and you can even take them camping!
You're probably wondering then, what is enameled cast iron? It's essentially a modernized version of the heavy-duty cast iron that's been around for centuries. An enameled cast iron pan is basically just a regular cast iron pan with enamel coating.
Cast iron is coated with enamel, which forms a useful protective coating on the surface of your cookware. The enamel helps to protect your kitchen equipment from all sorts of unwanted things, including rust, while also adding a new element to your cooking process, as enamel cast iron is wonderful for slow cooking.
In the great debate of enameled cast iron vs cast iron, there are a lot more points to consider, and we'll get into more depth shortly!
You're probably reading this article to try and discover which is better; enameled cast iron or regular cast iron? When it comes down to it, though, one isn't necessarily better than the other.
Both types of cookware have some significant benefits and advantages over the other, so you really need to weigh up what, how, and where you're planning to cook.
Let's take a look at the different qualities you need to consider when it comes to enameled cast iron vs cast iron.
Traditional cast iron is known for being incredibly durable, and for that reason, it's always been popular with cooks looking to invest in a hardwearing piece of equipment. If it's properly cared for, cast iron can last a lifetime.
Enameled cast iron is almost as strong as its cast iron ancestors, but there's one big difference. While the outer cast iron shell and the handles on an enamel cast iron skillet, for instance, are just as durable and sturdy as any cast iron equivalent, the inner coating of enamel is not so durable.
The enamel coating is weak in comparison to raw cast iron. The enamel can be chipped or scratched, and if you drop an enamel pan, it can be disastrous. With cast iron, dropping it won't be a problem for anything other than what you drop it on.
The most significant advantage that enamel products hold over non-enameled products is that they don't need to be seasoned. Cast iron has to be seasoned to stop it from rusting; enamel does not.
Seasoning involves creating a protective layer over the cast iron, which is done by heating up oil and allowing it to react with the iron. If this seasoning starts to disintegrate, then the pan can start to rust, especially when you clean it in water.
Enamel cookware doesn't need seasoning, and it won't rust. The enamel forms a protective layer, and you don't need to worry about it disintegrating.
The real question, though, is how well do cast iron and enameled cast iron actually cook food when you're in the kitchen? Both offer a different experience.
As we already mentioned, cast iron needs to be seasoned. Without this layer of seasoning, a cast iron pan isn't non-stick. If it's well seasoned, you don't need to worry, but as soon as that seasoning starts to break down, you'll find that food starts to stick and burn onto the bottom of the pan.
Enameled cast iron cookware is non-stick and makes for a much smoother cooking experience, but only at lower temperatures. Enamel works best at medium temperatures, whereas cast iron works best at much higher temperatures.
If you love slow cooking, then an enameled cast iron cookware will be a great addition to your kitchen. They are perfect for slow-cooked stews and oven-baked casseroles. If you're looking for a way to sear meats at high temperatures or stir fry vegetables with lots of heat, then a traditional cast iron pan will be the best choice.
Enameled cast iron has a much sleeker, smoother, and at the end of the day, modern look to it. Cast iron isn't quite as stylish, and it's definitely not modern, but it does have a traditional, rustic, and somewhat dependable feel when you're cooking with it.
Enamel cast iron products tend to come in a broader range of colors and shapes. That's great if you're looking for variety and to add a new dynamic to your kitchen. Cast iron cookware only comes in that traditional dark design.
That's the easiest question to answer! Enameled cast iron care is much less complicated than caring for regular cast iron cookware.
This gives enameled cast iron cookware a huge advantage over cast iron because you don't need any experience when it comes to caring for it. You really can't go wrong, just don't drop it! Traditional cast iron needs to be regularly seasoned, and you can't use soap or detergent to clean it.
Enameled cast iron, on the other hand, cleans easily, and it doesn't need seasoning. You can use as much soap and detergent as you like on enamel, and you don't need to worry about causing any rusting. If you're worried about hygiene, you can clean an enamel cast iron pan as much as you want!
One important question that usually comes up quite quickly when discussing cast iron vs enamel is the question of health and safety. Is enameled cast iron safe?
The answer is a resounding yes. When it comes to enameled cast iron vs cast iron, an enamel coating on your kitchenware is no less safe than raw cast iron. In fact, it's positively safe to cook with and is in no way dangerous, at all.
Enamel forms a stable coating, and even at high temperatures, the protective layer won't break down and cause any harm. Enamel also won't react with the food you're cooking in any hazardous ways, making it a safe choice for your family kitchen.
If you're still worried, then the fact that the FDA considers enamel to be safe to cook with should hopefully put your mind at rest!
One thing to consider, though, is that an enamel coating means that your food never directly touches the pan's cast iron surface. Cooking directly on cast iron will give your food a higher iron content than it would otherwise have, which some people love to take advantage of. This can be an important sticking point for some cooks when they are deciding between an enameled vs non-enameled cast iron skillet!
If you've decided that cast iron is for you, you might be wondering what sort of cast iron cookware you can add to your kitchen, and what the best cast iron cookware is!
Luckily, there's a fantastic range of excellent cast iron cookware to choose from, and there's guaranteed to be a cast iron cooking implement that will meet your needs.
Traditionally, cast iron was used to make versatile cooking pots that could be left in the fire for long periods of time. In many ways, this tradition continues, because one of the best pieces of cast iron cookware you can have is a Dutch Oven. They are designed in a vast range of sizes, and you can use them in the oven, on the stovetop, or on the campfire (which is just the way they were originally intended to be used!).
Dutch ovens are perfect for slow cooking stews or casseroles in the oven, or for heating up a one-pot meal while you're camping in the woods. Cast iron is also used for skillets, griddles, and woks too, which all allow you to cook at high temperatures on the stovetop.
With your trusty cast iron wok, you can stir fry that spicy pad Thai, or with a cast iron skillet, you can sear the perfect steak.
Equally, there's a fantastic range of enameled cast iron cookware to choose from as well. All those trusty, traditional cast iron skillets and pans beloved by cooks for generations, well, they all have sleek, modernized, enameled versions these days too!
It's not exactly a question of choice anymore when you're deciding on cast iron vs enameled cast iron because you can find excellent enameled cast iron skillets, griddles, and woks. You can even get an enameled Dutch Oven, although you might not want to take it out camping with you.
It can be tough deciding which cookware is best for you, with enameled cast iron and traditional cast iron having a great range of benefits. If you're still undecided, check out this blog post comparing enameled cast iron and cast iron dutch ovens, for more inspiration!