difference betw enameled and regular cast-iron cookware?

andreagbJanuary 26, 2007

Newbie delurking (on this forum, anyway) to ask what I hope is not too basic of a question.

I am dying to try that Mark Bittman miracle bread recipe, and am interested in some of the enamelware (enameled cast iron) people here have raved about. But I'm cheap. And I'm also blessed with bad timing, as KMart doesn't seem to carry the Martha Stewart stuff anymore, and my local Tuesday Morning doesn't have any LC (in November, I passed up a 5-qt for $50 and am now kicking myself!). Nothing in Marshalls, though I should probably just keep going back there.

Anyway, I'm thinking of buying the regular cast-iron instead. Amazon has the Lodge preseasoned 5-qt dutch oven for $30 and free shipping. But we have a 12" cast-iron skillet that's losing its seasoning, and it's kind of a pain. I'm not sure I feel like dealing with a dutch oven if that should happen.

I'm wondering if there's some special difference between regular and enameled cast iron that might either cause me to go for the Lodge or bite the bullet and buy the enamelware. What do you think? TIA, everyone.

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I can't answer your question, except to ask if you tried Target -- there were some posts around Christmastime about a much cheaper Target version of enameled cast iron that was pretty highly thought of.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 4:12PM
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Plain cast iron is great, but needs a little extra care compared with enameled cast iron. The surface of plain cast iron has to be seasoned, and it can react with acidic sauces such as tomato sauce; so enameled cast iron would be better in some cases.

I use both, for different applications. Searing a steak, I use a heavy plain cast iron skillet. Browning something then cooking slowly in liquid (braising), I use enameled cast iron.

Maintaining seasoning on a piece of cast iron isn't that difficult. Just make sure to avoid detergent and to keep it oiled.

The link is to a great discussion on the qualities of different types of cookware. It'll cover the distinctions between cast iron, enameled cast iron and all sorts of other options.

Here is a link that might be useful: understanding stovetop cookware

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 4:57PM
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I have the Target pot and use it for the no-knead bread (I think it was 35 or so dollars). It's a great pot, but hard to find, at least in my local Targets.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 9:49PM
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andreagb, do you have access to TJMaxx or Costco? I've had good luck with off-brands from TJMaxx & I've noticed Rachel Ray stuff at Costco that seems reasonable, Amazon keeps producing new choices even after it seems you missed the last bargain. Timing has something to do with persistence and luck. Keep trying!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 2:14AM
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arley nailed it. Since a dutch oven is usually used for braising or stewing, the enameled variety obviates any worry about chemical reactions with acidic foods like tomatoes, it does not need to be seasoned, and I find that it is generally fairly easy to clean.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 11:10AM
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Thanks for the helpful responses. Just after I posted this, I found that Target pot listed on their website, and was initially over the moon. But of the five Targets within an hour of driving, nary a one has it. And shipping is $14, if I order it from the website... I think I'm going to keep calling and keep looking for it, and maybe ask my local Target store manager if she'd try to get a few in for me. (Some of my friends also want to try that recipe!)

athomein1914 (love your screen name -- I'm a historian and study that period!) -- no TJMaxx around, alas, though we do have Marshalls, which I think is the same chain. I'll keep looking there, too.

Thanks for the info about cast iron vs. enameled, too. I have heard people complain about the newer Lodge cast iron -- that the inner surface is really rough, so even if you supergrease it, it's difficult to get food to disLodge, so to speak. I am going to order an antique cast-iron skillet on Ebay for scrambled eggs... not so sure about the antique dutch ovens, though.

I'll sit tight and keep looking. Thanks, all!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2007 at 5:12PM
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I got mine at Target for $39 back last spring. According to the Cooks Illustrated chat boards, it is now available again but I was in Target on Sunday & it's not at the one in my town. Evidently, you have to go in on occasion to catch them when they have them. When I got mine, they only had a few.

I love it for items with acid (a lot of soups, etc.). I'd love to have the LC but don't even want to pay the Tuesday Morning price ($125 for 5 qt.).

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 3:43PM
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Target had initially promised to have them around only till Jan 2007 -- i.e., right now! But the website now says they'll be on sale till Feb. 3.

I had found one at a Target 70 min from here and was honestly (momentarily, thank goodness) going to give in to my obsession and drive to go get it. I then thought, $14 for shipping vs. 3 hours of my time, gas, wear on the car... OK, time to order from the website! Thanks, everyone.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 4:02PM
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Cast iron is what many recipes refer to when they say NOT to use reactive cookware. It reacts to the acids in food. I used to make marinara sauce in my cast iron dutch oven just to get the extra iron intake. It tasted great, too! But some things are too delicate and you get a darker color in the food from the bare iron. The enameled iron provides a little iron as it ages and there is some micorscopic cracking. But it is mainly the even and slow heating that is provided that is great for some kinds of cooking. Slow sauces in the smaller pans, roasts in the larger.
By the way, I have been making that no-knead bread in different kinds of pans. I think the main thing is to put the dough into a HOT pan and then cover and seal it for the first part of the baking. I have used my target enameled dutch oven and also metal loaf pans that I covered with aluminum foil. Wish I had sprayed cooking spray on the foil, though! I didn't notice alot of difference in the breads. My family really likes the bread! Great crust!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 12:43AM
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Thebearsfamily, thanks for your post. Can I ask -- not to hijack my own thread here -- did you make a single batch and divide it between two loaf pans? I'd love to make a loaf rather than a boule, but am wondering how to handle "oven spring" -- that is, won't the bread rise higher than the level of the loaf pan, banging into or pushing up the cover and ruining the steam effect?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 1:05PM
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Andrea- my sister used the no knead bread recipe, divided the dough into 4 after first rise, and did second rise in french bread pans (the kind with small holes). She did not cover in the oven, just spritzed a few times with water.
Great results.


    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 12:17PM
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