What about enameled cast iron cookware? Is it any good?

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So, what about enameled cast iron cookware? Is it any good? And how does it compare with the original iron cookware that it is replacing?

At one time, all cooking and baking was done using iron or copper pans. That is, until alloys and other materials were found to be cheaper to make. As well, non-stick surfaces became popular because they saved on cleaning time. Thus, aluminum, Teflon, and other nonstick materials became popular. However, debate also arose over certain health issues regarding these materials, and now people are returning to the original iron, copper surfaces of the past. Costs are high, and a single fully copper pot can run hundreds of dollars. Cast iron is much cheaper, although it has raised concerns regarding its surface preparation for cleaning, leaching of iron into foods and other issues.

A relatively new type of cookware is enameled cast iron, which is, as the name describes, cast iron covered by enamel. There are a number of advantages to this cookware over any other types.

• It does not emit or leach anything in to your food.

• It does not rust.

• The pans do not need to be seasoned.

• Enamel ware is durable and long lasting. Cared for properly, every pot can last for a life time, and longer.

• They are pieces you could pass on to your children because they are so well-designed, durable and beautiful.

Of course, there are disadvantages. One of the best reasons to use cast iron is for the way it absorbs heat and then disperses it through the pan. That means this pan is fantastic for searing meats and other dishes where high heat is required. Once heated, cast iron holds its heat, so there is no unevenness in heating.

• Enamel ware does not heat as well as cast iron.

• Enamel ware is more expensive than plain cast iron.

• All enamel ware is not the same. Some can move from stove top to oven. Most cannot be used in the microwave.

• Do not use stainless steel utensils on enamel ware or you could destroy the surface. Only plastic or wooden spoons should be used.

• Enamel pots can crack and break and must be handled with extreme care, and washed by hand. Even with a chip most enamel ware can still be used.

Enamel ware is beautiful, but costly. Of course, the more you pay, the better the quality. There is a wide range of manufacturers including the French, Le Creuset. Other manufacturers can be found in Europe, Asia and China, but none yet exist in the USA. Various chefs endorse and produce their own brands, Emeril, Puck and Fieri, among others.

Like any high end cookware including cast iron and copper, enamel ware has its advocates and detractors. For use in making stews, roasts or pies, enamel ware cannot be beat. For sauces and puddings, little works as well as copper. For frying eggs, searing meat, stir fries and other high heat cooking, cast iron remains king.

In the end, the kind of pots and pans that work for you may depend on the type of cooking and baking that you do. Buying one pot or pan at a time can help you decide which style and type will serve your family needs.

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