Enameled cast iron is no joke! Every cook has an opinion on these wonderful instruments, with strong views on which are best, which last the longest, whose look the best, which they got for their wedding and have been using for 30 years, and so on.
Here are my thoughts on the best enameled cast iron pots, pans, and everything else.
Please note, each of the companies mentioned here makes a wide range of products, so while we’ll be talking at the company level, the discussion will focus on their main line of enameled cast iron products.
Dutch Oven? Casserole? What Do We Call Them?
Enamel-coated cast iron cookware is known by a number of different names. Of course, the name is going to vary based on the product, but when speaking of enameled cast iron, the product everyone is thinking about is almost exclusively the Dutch oven.
A common, non-country specific name for these would be a sauce pot, but that’s not as common a name, despite it seeming to cover much more ground.
A cocotte would be a correct way to refer to these pots as well. In fact a cocotte and Dutch oven are the same thing, but historically Dutch ovens were often used for camping. You will sometimes see the called “casseroles” as well, but in the United States that generally refers to a low, ceramic piece of bakeware with no lid, so this usage isn’t as common.
What Is A Dutch Oven?
A Dutch oven is a pot, almost always with two handled, that has a tight lid with its own handle. It doesn’t need to be made of any specific material and is certainly doesn’t need to be enameled, but many are made of cast iron.
A Dutch oven is the original Instant Pot. It’s a multi-use cooker that can be used for anything from baking bread to browning stew meat to cooking tomato sauce.
A Dutch oven doesn’t need to be enameled and cast iron is perfectly fine to use without enamel… so why does everyone love enameled cast iron so much?
Enamel, in this scenario, is essentially a thin layer of glass that goes on the outside of cast iron. It’s baked on at incredibly high temperatures (about 1500 degrees F) during which time it fuses with the metal and forms a smooth coating.
Enamel, like glass, is resistant to acids, so cooking tomato sauce or berry jam in it is fine. Enamel is perfectly neutral so it won’t impart any colors of flavors to your food. It’s also very safe to use as there are no weird chemical used in its production or possible reactions with foods.
On the downside, enamel is like glass in other way. Enamel is highly sensitive to temperature shock (pouring cold water in a hot pan), it can scratch (so avoid metal utensils), and enamel can chip.
The Best Cast Iron Enamel Dutch Ovens
- Le Creuset
- Great Jones
- Marquette Castings
Why Is Le Creuset Best?
Any time someone says “best” the are making a value judgement so let’s keep in mind that best means “the best in my experience.”
I, and my extended family, have used Le Creuset for many years. It’s a common wedding gift so pieces exist in numerous households. Based on this experience I can say we have, without fail, found Le Creuset products to have impeccable quality. Furthermore, when there have been problems Le Creuset has been unwavering in their lifetime guarantee.
What About Staub?
Staub definitely has its fans and its advantages. These include an easier to hold handles, a “self-basting system,” and a matte black interior that doesn’t ever look dirty or stained. The self-basting is the reason for those little spikes on the underside of the lid — they cause uniform drips on whatever you are cooking which means retaining more moisture. They also tend to have heavier lids, which means less moisture loss.
Staub has a 30-year warranty on enameled cast iron, not lifetime, but that’s pretty reasonable. They also have a squared-off, more bulky appearance than Le Creuset, which some people like but other don’t.
Staub prices are generally on par with Le Creuset so, generally speaking, I haven’t found a reason to switch. Additionally, I have used Staubs, I haven’t found that that the special features, like the self-basting spikes on the lid, make any noticeable difference.