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Enameled cast iron cookware are cooking utensils made using cast iron, which is then coated in enamel on the inside or outside or both. This can be done for a variety of reasons, though typically these reasons are either aesthetic in nature or more functional by design. Enameled cast iron cookware can come in a variety of sizes and types, though large cooking skillets and Dutch ovens are among the most popular pieces of cookware made in this style.
The process used to create enameled cast iron cookware is relatively simple. A pan or pot is first made using cast iron processes that involve creating a mold for the cookware and then pouring molten iron into the mold to cast a piece of iron cookware. While this cast iron cookware can be used without enameling, it typically requires a good deal of work to ensure it remains usable. This usually involves “seasoning” the surface of the pan or pot by applying cooking oil to the metal and heating it to effectively “cook” the oil into the surface of the cast iron. By coating the cast iron in enamel, enameled cast iron provides the sturdiness and heating of cast iron, but eliminates the need for seasoning the cookware.
Enameled cast iron typically refers to cookware that has had enamel applied to the inside of the cookware or both the inside and outside. If enamel is applied only to the outside of the cookware, then this is usually done to make the piece of cookware more visually appealing. Dyes can be added to the enamel, so cast iron cookware that would otherwise look like black metal can have a more attractive coloration on the outside. These pans and pots will usually still require the seasoning that plain cast iron cookware requires.
Other types of enameled cast iron cookware have enamel applied to both the outside of the pot or pan and the inside as well. When the inside is coated with enamel, then it no longer requires the effort of seasoning the pan or pot and can be treated much like any other piece of cookware. The enamel works as an excellent conductor of heat, however, so the thorough and even heating associated with cast iron is still retained in enameled cast iron pots and pans. This material is commonly used in making large cooking pots called Dutch ovens that can cook both on a stovetop range and inside an oven.
@Locigfest -- true, but is seasoning a cast iron skillet (or anything else) really that hard? You coat the surface with cooking oil, slap it in the over at 350 degrees for a couple of hours and then repeat that process a couple of times. If you season your cookware again when it looks like it "needs" it (you'll be able to tell), you have something that will outlast you with proper care.
Of course, enamel-coated cookware does have an advantage -- you can throw it in the dishwasher and that is a terrible idea with seasoned cast iron.
Still, you will find cooks who use cast iron who are adamant about enamel coatings or dislike them strongly. Thank goodness both types of cookware are abundant and affordable, huh?
One problem with using enamel on cast iron is that it will eventually wear out. It does last a long time, but an irony is that the cast iron it is coating can outlive the enamel.
Some people don't care about that because they expect to purchase new cookware every decade or so. The non-stick properties of enamel, then, are very appealing.
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