Bare Cast Iron vs. Enamel
There comes a time
when every cook is tempted by a heavy piece of
will last for years and may even become a family heirloom. Both
bare cast iron and enameled cast iron fit this description –
but how do you choose between them?
Black cast iron has an unbeatable ‘rustic’, country look but it
requires seasoning which some cooks love to do and others find a
chore. With enameled cast iron ware, the bare metal is
enclosed in a coating of powdered glass which is melted and then
baked onto the iron surface. This gets rid of the danger of
rusting and dispenses with the need for seasoning. So, the
appearance of both types of cookware has its’ pros and cons
(which are explored further, below) and is really down to
You also need to examine if one type will be more suited to the
type of cooking that you do.
If you can’t make your mind up, it may help to look at the
essential differences between them.
Main differences between bare cast iron and enamelled cast iron:
• Bare cast iron is cheaper
• Bare cast iron is usually thicker, which helps to reduce
uneven heating and hot-spots
• Bare cast iron is dark metal which makes it extra efficient at
heating evenly and efficiently.
• Bare cast iron introduces tiny amounts of iron into the food.
This won’t affect the flavor but can be helpful if you’re prone
• Bare cast iron will last longer – but if you look after them,
both types will wear well for decades.
• Bare cast iron is better if you do a lot of cooking which
requires searing food over a high heat. Enamel isn’t so good
for this as the heat can craze and damage it.
• Cast iron holds a lot of heat, but is slow to heat up. Adding
two layers of enamel makes it even slower.
• Plain cast iron is not so good for caramelization, and when
you deglaze the pan, you inevitably get some tiny grains of
carbon (from the seasoning layer) that can turn a sauce grey.
• When it comes to utensils, some people say that you can use
metal utensils. You can – but be aware that they may damage the
seasoned layers that you have so carefully built up, leading to
hot spots and uneven cooking. For enameled ware, Le Creuset
(one of the best known manufacturers of enamel ware) recommend
wood or silicone tools.
• Enameled cast iron isn’t affected by acidic foods such as
tomatoes or citrus based sauces. Acidic foods can spoil the
seasoned surface of a cast iron pan.
• Enameled cast iron doesn’t need seasoning which makes it much
easier to clean and maintain.
• Enameled cast iron will not hold flavors, for example, fish
or onions, as easily as bare cast iron does. However, the more
highly seasoned the cast iron is, the less it will retain
flavors of other foods.
• Enameled cookware is great for using from oven or stovetop to
table. So is bare cast iron. It just depends which ‘look’ you
There really is no clear ‘winner’ in this competition. It all
comes down to how you cook, what you cook and what you
The ideal compromise is to have pieces in both bare cast iron
and enamelled. They will work well together as you cook and
compliment each other in the good-looks department!
- The Best Enameled
How to Season Cast Iron Cookware
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