Cast iron skillets are a staple in many kitchens, loved for their heat retention and natural nonstick properties. However, traditional cast iron requires seasoning and can be tricky to clean. This is where enamel-coated cast iron comes in – offering all the benefits of classic cast iron with an incredibly smooth, nonstick coating that prevents rust and eliminates the need for seasoning.
In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about these modern marvels, from pros and cons to cleaning and care. We’ll also showcase the top 5 enamel-coated skillets on the market. Let’s dive in!
An Introduction to Enamel Coated Cast Iron
Enamel-coated cast iron utilizes traditional cast iron coated with a strong, non-reactive glass coating. This gives it the heat distribution of cast iron alongside an ultra-smooth cooking surface that food simply doesn’t stick to.
Cast iron is coated in fine porcelain enamel that is kiln-fired at over 1450°F to bond securely to the iron. This creates an incredibly durable, chip-resistant finish safe for cooking and oven use up to 500°F. The enameling prevents rust and reacts with food far less than bare iron, meaning no seasoning is required.
Compared to stainless steel, enamel-coated cast iron offers superior searing and browning thanks to its excellent heat retention. Food also tends to stick less compared to stainless steel. And unlike other nonstick pots and pans, enamel won’t degrade over time. With proper care, your skillet should last decades.
Beyond performance, enamel-coated cast iron is just gorgeous. From rich shades of fire engine red to glossy finishes in mint green, navy blue and sunshine yellow, they transitional and modern kitchens.
Let’s look at why you may want to invest in this versatile, eye-catching cookware.
Benefits of Enamel-Coated Cast Iron
Here are some of the standout benefits that make enamel-coated cast iron a kitchen staple:
- Nonstick cooking: The glassy enamel creates an absurdly slick cooking surface that food simply doesn’t adhere to. No need for loads of oil or butter.
- Easy cleanup: Food residue and stuck-on bits wipe away easily after cooking with just some warm water and mild soap.
- No seasoning required: The nonstick enamel means you don’t have to slowly build up a patina over time like with bare cast iron. Simply hand wash and dry thoroughly.
- Rust-resistant: Bare cast iron can rust if not properly maintained. The impermeable enamel coating prevents rust, even with acidic ingredients like tomatoes or wine.
- Oven and broiler safe: Go from stovetop to oven with ease. Enamel cast iron is safe for oven roasting, baking, broiling up to 500°F.
- Searing and browning: Excellent heat retention allows enamel-coated pans to sear meats beautifully and cook with gorgeous caramelization.
- Versatile: Choose a larger, deep skillet for one-pan meals or a petite pan perfect for cooking eggs, pancakes and more. Use on all cooktops.
- Durable: With proper use and care, enamel-coated cast iron lasts for decades, unlike other nonstick pans. The coating resists scratches and chips.
- Beautiful colors: From bright pops of color to soft pastels and gorgeous gradients, enamel cast iron is as stylish as it is functional.
With all these advantages, it’s easy to see why enamel-coated cast iron is perfect for everyday cooking. Next let’s look at the top options available.
Top 5 Enamel-Coated Cast Iron Skillets
1. Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
Overview: Le Creuset is the gold standard when it comes to enamel-coated cast iron. Their Signature skillets feature heavy-duty cast iron construction with a durable, chip-resistant enamel that’s sand-colored on the outside and vivid French ombré finishes on the interior. Available in a range of vivid shades like cherry and Caribbean blue.
- Colorful, gradient enameled cooking surface
- Superior heat distribution and retention
- Helper handle for balance and control
- Pour spouts on either side
- Safe for broiler, oven, stovetop, induction
- Dishwasher safe but hand washing recommended
Sizes: 8″, 10″, 11″, 12″
- Heats evenly for consistent browning
- Easy to move from stove to oven
- Super durable porcelain enamel won’t fade
- Withstands thermal shock
- Lifetime warranty provides peace of mind
- Heavy, especially larger sizes
- Very expensive but worth the investment
- Prone to scratching from metal utensils
Best for: Searing steaks, frying eggs, simmering sauces, roasting vegetables – just about any cooking task. An heirloom-quality skillet.
2. Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
Overview: For a budget-friendly enameled cast iron skillet, you can’t go wrong with Lodge. Their skillets boast porcelain enamel exteriors with a black satin enameled interior for excellent food release. Made in the USA by a trusted brand.
- Pre-seasoned for a natural nonstick surface
- Oven safe up to 500°F
- Dual pour spouts
- Red silicone grips on the handles
- Matching red tempered glass lid available
Sizes: 10.25″, 12″
- Much more affordable than premium brands
- Chip-resistant enamel holds up well
- Easy to move from stove to oven
- Lightweight compared to many cast iron skillets
- Enamel may discolor or stain over time
- Pour spouts can drip oil on the stove
- Prone to scratching from metal utensils
Best for: An inexpensive starter enamel-coated skillet. Great for frying, simmering sauces, roasting vegetables and more.
3. Staub Enameled Cast Iron Fry Pan
Overview: From France, Staub’s cast iron fry pans feature a matte black enamel interior and vibrantly colored exteriors. Quality enameling resists chipping and won’t fade over time. Unique self-basting lid infuses food with flavor.
- Smooth, chip-resistant porcelain enamel
- Vibrant gradient enameled exterior
- Matte black interior requires no seasoning
- Self-basting lid with moisture spikes
- Oven and broiler safe up to 500°F
Sizes: 10″, 12″
- Machined smooth enamel is easy to clean
- Self-basting lid locks in flavorful juices
- Takes dishes from stove to oven beautifully
- Stunning enameled exterior colors
- Made in France
- Very heavy, especially with lid
- Expensive but worth it for serious cooks
- Prone to staining over time
Best for: Braising, pan roasting, high heat searing. The self-basting lid makes it perfect for enhancing flavors.
4. Cuisinart Enameled Cast Iron
Overview: For affordable quality, Cuisinart’s enameled cast iron line offers skillets and pans made of heavy-duty cast iron with durable porcelain enamel exteriors and cooking surfaces. Models come in a rainbow of colors.
- Porcelain enamel won’t discolor
- Stainless steel riveted handles
- Oven safe to 400°F, broiler safe
- Matching vented tempered glass lids
- Variety of vivid color options
Sizes: 8″, 10″, 12″ skillets
- Affordable prices for enameled cast iron
- Excellent nonstick release
- Resistant to staining and chipping
- Allows great fond development
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Prone to staining over time
- Made in China, not France/USA
- Enamel quality not as high-end
Best for: Budget enameled cast iron. Great for eggs, pancakes, and basic pan-frying or skillet meals.
5. Victoria Cast Iron Tortilla Pan
Overview: Sized perfectly for tortillas with sloped sides, this pre-seasoned skillet from Victoria has a durable black enamel exterior and satiny interior. Ideal for Mexican cooking.
- 10.5″ diameter cooking surface
- Pre-seasoned for natural nonstick
- Flat bottom with sloped sides
- Durable enamel coating on exterior
- Handsome matte black finish
- Nonstick makes perfect tortillas and pancakes
- Easy cleanup
- Pre-seasoned so ready to use out of box
- Sloped sides make flipping and turning easy
- High quality construction
- Smaller single-use design
- Very heavy for its size
Best for: Making tortillas, pancakes, quesadillas, and other flatbread items. The right pan for Mexican cooking.
How to Choose an Enamel-Coated Cast Iron Skillet
With so many options, it can be tricky deciding on the right enamel-coated cast iron skillet. Here are tips for choosing one tailored to your cooking needs:
- Consider size based on what you typically cook and your storage space. Smaller skillets like 8” work well for eggs and single servings. Larger 12” sizes are ideal for family meals.
- Evaluate weight if you have issues managing heavier pots and pans. Some enamel-coated skillets weigh up to 15 pounds! Go for lighter models like Lodge if needed.
- Look for an ultra-smooth cooking surface for the best nonstick release and easy cleanup. Rough surfaces can allow food to stick.
- Seek out durable, chip-resistant enamel that can withstand decades of cooking abuse. Avoid thin, questionable enameling.
- Determine what colors or designs fit your kitchen’s style. From vivid orange to gradient blue to glossy black, there are so many gorgeous hues.
- Assess features like helper handles, pour spouts and lids to find the right skillet for your cooking techniques.
- Read reviews to identify any quality control or durability concerns with a particular brand. Pay for quality with enameled cast iron.
- Buy from a reputable manufacturer like Le Creuset or Lodge who specialize in enameling. Cheap enamel can chip or degrade.
Consider how often you cook, what types of meals you make regularly and your budget. This will help narrow down the ideal enamel-coated cast iron skillet for your needs.
Enamel-Coated Cast Iron Skillet FAQs
Still have some questions about cooking with enamel-coated cast iron? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Why choose enamel-coated cast iron over regular cast iron?
The porcelain enamel coating provides an ultra-smooth nonstick cooking surface that doesn’t require seasoning like bare cast iron. Food also tends to stick less compared to traditional cast iron. Enamel also prevents acidic ingredients like tomatoes from interacting with the iron. Cleanup is exponentially easier.
How should you clean an enamel-coated cast iron skillet?
Hand wash only using warm water, mild dish soap and a soft sponge or cloth. The enamel is porous, so excess water and harsh dish soaps can damage surfaces over time. Avoid abrasive cleaners or metal pads as they can scratch the finish. Always dry thoroughly after washing.
Can you use metal utensils on enamel-coated cast iron?
Yes, but use caution as continual scraping with sharp metal utensils can eventually chip the enamel coating. Wood, silicone or plastic utensils are still recommended whenever possible to protect the enameled surface. Always be gentle while cooking.
Why is my enamel-coated skillet stained?
Food residue, oil, spices and other ingredients essentially bake onto the porous enamel over high cooking heat, leaving stains and discoloration. This is purely cosmetic and won’t impact cooking performance. Try baking soda, an enamel-safe cleaner or the Le Creuset enamel cleaner to remove stubborn stains. Avoid abrasives.
Is enamel-coated cast iron oven safe?
Absolutely! Enamel-coated cast iron skillets are generally safe at oven temperatures up to 500°F. Some are even broiler safe. Always verify with the manufacturer, but the enameling allows the pan to withstand very high heat. Great for roasting, baking etc.
Should you ever put an empty enamel-coated skillet in a hot oven?
It’s best to avoid putting any empty pan in a hot oven to prevent thermal shock, which can damage the enamel coating. If preheating an enamel skillet, leave a small amount of water or oil in the bottom as a buffer before adding your ingredients.
Does enamel-coated cast iron need to be seasoned?
No. The nonstick enamel finish means you don’t need to slowly build up a protective patina like with traditional cast iron. Simply cook away without having to season. Do ensure oils and fats you cook with sufficiently coat the surface to prevent food from sticking.
Why is food sticking to my enamel-coated skillet?
Ensure you adequately preheat your pan and use enough cooking fat or oil for a complete nonstick surface. Overheating or cooking on too high a flame can cause sticking and burning. An older, heavily stained enamel interior can become less nonstick over time. Gently scrub any tough residue after cooking.
Can you use enamel-coated cast iron on induction cooktops?
Absolutely! Because the cooking surface is cast iron under the enamel coating, enamel-coated pans work beautifully on induction ranges. The exterior enameling doesn’t impact induction compatibility at all. Just ensure your skillet is large enough for your burner.
Is enamel cast iron made in China safe to cook with?
Enamel cast iron produced in China by reputable brands like Cuisinart is generally just as safe as pans made elsewhere, provided you follow all safety and care instructions. The enamel quality may not be up to the high standard of top French and American brands, however.
Does enamel-coated cast iron come pre-seasoned?
Most enamel cast iron does not come pre-seasoned from manufacturers since the nonstick enameled cooking surface doesn’t require it. However, some skillets may have an initial protective layer of seasoning that enhances the cooking surface but doesn’t replace the enameling.
Can enamel chip off into food?
Quality enamel is formulated to withstand thermal shock and use without chipping or cracking. Enamel shouldn’t chip off into food under normal cooking conditions. Always inspect your pan for excessive cracking or compromise and discontinue use if damage is detected. Avoid metal utensils.
Give Enamel-Coated Cast Iron a Try
With its impressive performance, ease of use, and eye-catching colors, it’s easy to understand the appeal of enamel-coated cast iron for everyday cooking. An enameled skillet can swiftly transition from searing meats on the stovetop to gently roasting chicken in the oven or under the broiler. Frying eggs and whipping up no-fail pancakes is a breeze thanks to the natural nonstick of a well-seasoned enamel surface.
Unlike flimsy nonstick pans, enamel-coated cast iron distributes heat evenly and will last for decades when cared for properly. The array of gorgeous colors enables you to add style to your kitchen. Just be prepared for the heft!
When shopping, stick to trusted, reputable brands known for quality cast iron enameling and construction. With the right enameled skillet suited to your cooking needs, you’ll find it’s easy to see why this kitchen workhorse has stood the test of time. Give it a try today!