A good cast iron skillet is an essential piece of cookware for every kitchen. If you’ve decided to purchase cast iron cookware, you have probably realized that you can choose both uncoated or bare cast iron and enameled options. So, which one to choose? To find the best cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven you’ll need to know the pros and cons of each. Keep reading for an in-depth comparison of cast iron vs enameled cast iron.
You can’t go wrong with standard cast iron. However, there’s one major drawback
Uncoated cast iron is cookware has been around for thousands of years. Your grandmother may still be using a cast iron skillet from fifty years ago to this day. Traditional cast iron cookware will last forever — with the right care. You can cook almost anything in regular cast iron. However, for overly acidic foods like tomato sauce, the enameled version could be the better option. If you go on camping trips leave your expensive enameled pans behind. Cast iron great for cooking fajitas, cooking breakfast and searing that perfect steak.
Advantages of regular cast iron
Cast iron has several advantages compared to enameled cast iron. Regular cast iron can add iron into your food, which is a great way to get more of this essential nutrient in your diet. If you want to learn about iron added to your food then you check my article “is cast iron safe”. Cast iron is also:
- Naturally non-stick – The “seasoning” or coating provides a natural semi non-stick surface
- More affordable – Regular cast iron is generally more affordable than enameled options
- More durable – Cast iron is extremely durable. With the right care, your cast iron skillet can last for hundreds of years
- Can be used on the grill – You can use regular cast iron on the stovetop, oven or on the grill
Here are some things to keep in mind about regular cast iron cookware:
You should clean it after every use. To keep your cast iron cookware in great shape, try to avoid letting it soak in water to prevent rust.
Fortunately, it is easy to clean cast iron. Simply scrape any debris off the pan then wash using a cast iron brush or a soft brush such as a Tawashi. Then dry with a tea towel. I usually put my cookware back on the heat to make sure my cast iron is completely dry.
Cast iron needs seasoning. Cast iron cookware develops a “seasoning” or coating that makes it naturally non-stick. Seasoning prevents rust and provides an easy-release finish. Cast iron cookware gets better with age. It’s simple to maintain cast iron’s seasoning. Simply apply a very thin layer of vegetable oil after cleaning and heat your cookware.
Make sure to completely dry your cast iron cookware before storing. If your cast iron cookware stays wet, it will eventually rust. However, you can restore cast iron if it does develop rust.
You should not use it to cook overly acidic foods. Foods like lemon juice, tomatoes sauce and vinegar can strip seasoning on your cast iron. Also cooking these foods in cast iron can cause food to taste metallic.
Best Cast Iron Cookware
I’ve done a bit of research and handpicked a few good options if you want a pre-seasoned skillet. I don’t own all of these options however I’m a huge fan of cast iron. If you are in any doubt check out the site you’ll see plenty of modern and vintage cast iron used.
Victoria Cookware Large Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
This skillet is one of my favourite pieces of budget cookware. It is an extremely great value like a lot of cast iron. Check out the link to Amazon to see the latest prices (affiliate link). It has a large 12-inch frying surface which is perfect to handle most of your needs. This skillet is pre-seasoned with 100 per cent non-GMO flaxseed oil. The long, curved handle adds a bit of extra leverage and more comfortable handling. Since 1939 Victoria has made cast iron. Needless, to say their cookware is well respected.
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
Lodge is a leader when it comes to manufacturing cast iron. They have been making cast iron skillets for more than 100 years. I have the smaller 10.25 and love it. It is big enough for my needs although if you’re cooking for a couple of people then I would go for the 12-inch skillet. Again here’s a link to Amazon for the latest prices (affiliate link).
The Lodge 12 inch skillet is comparable in price to the Victoria skillet. However, Lodge is one of the most trusted names in cast iron and still proudly made their bare cast iron in America. Lodge’s cast iron skillets come pre-seasoned ready to use so you don’t need to worry about seasoning your skillet. Lodge uses only 100 per cent vegetable oil to season its skillets.
Utopia Kitchen skillet
If you’re for a new skillet then Utopia offers another great option. Utopia offers a 12.5-inch skillet which is slightly larger than the Lodge and Victoria skillets. Although I prefer companies that manufacture their own product. The Utopia skillet is a strong contender as some of the most reasonably priced cast iron cookware. See the 12.5 prices on Amazon (affiliate link). It is ready to use thanks to factory seasoning. The seasoning is made of 100 per cent soy-based oil.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron cookware has an enamel coating over the metal. This coating prevents your cookware rusting. However, enamelware has other benefits over standard cast iron in our cast iron showdown between cast iron vs enameled cast iron.
Advantages of enameled cast iron
- Does not require seasoning – Enameled cast iron does not require seasoning
- You can cook anything in it – Unlike traditional cast iron skillets, acidic foods cook perfectly in the enameled version
- Will, not rust. Regular cast iron will rust if it is exposed to water for a period of time. You can soak enameled cast iron without worrying about it becoming rusty.
- Comes in a variety of colors – Classic cast iron skillets typically look the same. However, enamel comes in a variety of beautiful colors, including white, blue and red. The pricey French brands offer a lot of different colors and they sure look good
- Enameled cast iron is versatile and can be used to cook, marinate and refrigerate foods. It is resistant to alkaline and acidic foods
Things to keep in mind
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering buying enameled cast iron cookware.
- Unlike pre-seasoned cast iron, the porcelain glass coating (frit) can be damaged. Be careful not to drop or bang your cookware.
- The inside of the pan can chip if you use metal tongs or turners. Therefore, use wooden, nylon or silicone utensils.
- Enameled cast iron pans are costlier than the old-fashioned version.
- Food may stick to the pan if you cook it on high heat. It is better to use low or medium heat with enameled cast iron. When searing meat, start off on low heat and gradually raise the heat.
- It is very important to never heat an empty enameled cast iron skillet too hot. Unlike a regular cast iron skillet, which can be pre-heated to a searing heat, an empty enameled skillet could get damaged if pre-heated too hot. So, avoid using enameled cast skillets for recipes that call for preheating the skillet to a high temperature before adding ingredients.
Best Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
We’ve gathered a few of our favorite enameled cast iron skillets and pans. Although I’m a huge fan of Le Creuset and Staub they are some pricey pots. Here are some good options without the lofty prices of the premium brands.
Lodge 3.6 Quart Cast Iron Casserole Pan
You can bake, broil, sauté or grill at up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit in this large casserole pan. It features dual handles making it easy to transport this dish from the stovetop to the table. The lid ensures that food won’t splatter. You can choose from either a striking Caribbean blue or Oyster white colour. It’s similar to a skillet however the casserole pan comes with a useful lid. Check out what the pan looks like on Amazon (affiliate link).
Lodge 6 quart Dutch oven
While Lodge is famous for their seasoned cast iron they also make enameled cast iron. A 6 quart is an ideal size for most people. Any bigger can really be too weighty to lift out of the oven. However, the pot is equally at home on the stove top. Unlike standard cast iron, enameled cast iron is great for boiling water and making tomato-based dishes. I have to say at the time of writing Lodge outsource manufacturing overseas however the pans and extremely popular. See the wide range of colors available on Amazon (affiliate link).
Cast iron vs enameled cast iron our final thoughts
Cast iron and enameled cast iron cookware is both durable and long-lasting. You can use either on most surfaces. They cook evenly and maintain a stable temperature. Because they can be used on high heat, either type of pan is great for searing meat.
Most cooks prefer to use both types of cast iron cookware. We recommend purchasing one of each — classic and enameled cast iron. Use the enameled version for cooking chili and other acid foods or for when you want an easy cleanup. Take along your classic cast iron pot when you go camping.