|A selection of enameled (blue, top left) and bare cast iron|
When most people think of cast iron cookware, they envision black, heavy metal skillets or dutch ovens. Bare cast iron cookware requires seasoning to retain its non-stick capabilities, and needs more care to keep the rust off.
|An enameled cast iron dutch oven being used for popcorn|
Enameled cast iron is typically easier to care for, and comes in a variety of bright colors. But enameled cast iron is not non-stick like properly-seasoned bare cast iron is.
Both bare and enameled cast iron have their advantages and disadvantages, and here they are:
Key differences between enameled cast iron and non-enameled (bare) cast iron
- Bare cast iron is non-stick, making it ideal for scrambled eggs, omelets, etc.
- Enameled cast iron is non-reactive, which can make it better for heavily acidic dishes (e.g. tomato soups or sauces)
- Enameled cast iron requires almost no seasoning, and is therefore somewhat easier to clean and maintain (you should periodically oil the bare cast iron rim if your cookware has one)
- Enameled cast iron will not hold flavors (e.g. fish) as readily as bare cast iron
- Bare cast iron is typically thicker, which produces a more even heating surface and reduces hot-spots
- Bare cast iron delivers heat more evenly and efficiently due to the unique radiative properties of dark metal
- Bare cast iron introduces extra iron into the food—a bonus if you're anemic
- Bare cast iron is cheaper
- Bare cast iron will probably last longer, although you can expect both types to last for decades if properly cared for
- Bare cast iron is generally better for high-heat searing applications, which can damage enameled cast iron
|A bare cast iron skillet being used for |
frying bacon over an open fire
Typical brands of bare cast iron are Lodge, Wagner, and Camp Chef.
For enameled cast iron, typical brands are Le Creuset, Le Chasseur, and Staub.
My recommendation is to buy cookware that is manufactured in the United States or Europe (rather than China) to hedge your bet against the presence of lead or other toxic chemicals in the pan or coating.
If you live in the European Union, there are much more stringent regulations about what chemicals can be present in the cookware that is sold, so it may well be safe to buy cookware made in China in the EU.