Yes, there’s a certain homey satisfaction to putting your sturdy seasoned cast-iron skillet on its hook after using it to simmer some chili or sear some steaks. A parallel pleasure, however, is taking a pot of coq au vin from stovetop to oven, then placing it on a charming trivet for supper. That’s one of the great pleasures of enameled cast iron. It’s durable and beautiful and is the sort of thing you’ll want to take from the oven or stove-top right to the table. Although it tends to be more expensive than traditional cast iron, it doesn’t require seasoning, and its surface won’t react to acidic foods like tomato or citrus sauces.
Here’s how to keep yours looking glorious.
How to Use Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Though your enameled cast iron will do just as well with slow cooking as it will with cast-iron, it’s best to bring it to heat gradually. Use medium or low heat whenever possible, keeping in mind that cast iron absorbs the heat evenly, then distributes and maintains it exceptionally. (Once the pan is hot, generally speaking, you can turn down the flame and keep cooking over a lower setting.) Only use high heat for boiling water for pasta or reducing sauces, and be sure the base of the pan is coated with fat before you start heating it. (Boiling the pan dry can damage the enamel!) The good news: You can use these babies on any cook top, including induction, and they tend to be oven- and broiler-safe to 500°F. (Just keep an eye on those knobs; phenolic-resin knobs are oven-safe to 375°F.)
Avoid using metal utensils, which may scratch the enamel, and use silicone, wood, nylon or heat-resistant plastic utensils instead. The thing most dangerous to enamel? A fall or a bang against a hard surface.
How to Store Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
We’d be lying if we didn’t say we showboat, keeping our Le Creuset Agave, embossed Staub gratin and the like right on the stovetop or in our open shelves, all the better for guests to know we’re great cooks! Perhaps you have open storage, or hooks, or designated rack where you can keep your clean, dry enameled cast iron pots and pans. (It’s a thing; even Ina does it!)
Pro tip: Keep the little pot lid spacers that come with many enameled cast iron cookware brands. They are great for preventing chips and scratches on the lid and pot edge when storing. You can also try cushioned pot protectors.
How to Care for Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
OK, it might be tempting to toss that glorious (and gloriously dirty) Dutch oven straight into a sink or dishwasher. And don’t worry about the latter; they’re dishwasher-safe! But plunging a hot pan into cold water is the only other way to easily crack the enamel—it’s thermal shock, and it’s as bad for enameled cast iron as it is for you. So always wait for the pan to cool down a bit before introducing it to cold water.
To get off stubborn bits, fill the pan with warm water and let soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Then use a soft cleaning tool like a nylon scrubbing pad or sponge, or Le Creuset’s nylon bristle cleaning brush specially designed for enameled cast iron pans; avoid steel wool or scouring pads, harsh detergents or abrasive cleansers. Keep your enameled cast-iron dry. If it’s terribly discolored, a Le Creuset rep suggests applying a 3-to-1 paste of baking soda and water, then covering the pan for a few hours or overnight. The next day, add hot water, which should allow you to easily remove stains and help the pan sparkle like new.
Of course, some would quibble, as she would, that the most cherished pan is “the one that you use the most and shows it!”