How Do You Cook in Enameled Cast Iron Like a Pro Chef

Ellyn Eddy
Ellyn Eddy

Ellyn Eddy

Ellyn is a seasoned writer and editor with profound experience in covering culinary topics. She covers cookware guides and hands-on product reviews for The Skillful Cook.

Last updated:

Some of our posts contain affiliate links. If you buy through our links, we may receive compensation - at no cost to you.

How To Cook With Enameled Cast Iron

When I got a Le Creuset Signature Dutch oven for my birthday, it took me a full month to take it out of the box. There I was, holding one of the nicest pieces of enameled cast iron that money can buy, and I was afraid to use it. Worse, I didn’t think I needed it. I had my stainless steel roaster and my cast iron skillets, so I wasn’t sure this pot would earn the space it took up in my cabinet.

Well, I was wrong.

It was love at first stew. After learning how to cook in enameled cast iron, I tried making everything from roasts to baked goods in my Le Creuset. I was shocked at how having a lid that retained heat made such a difference in the evenness and moisture content in the food. 

In short, cooking in enameled cast iron is a lot like cooking in regular cast iron – except you can do even more with it. You can’t sear food on high heat in most enamel cast iron pans – but they transfer wonderfully from stove to oven and back again, they are semi-nonstick without seasoning, and they can handle acidic foods without a problem.

Do’s & Don’ts of Cooking with Enameled Cast Iron

1. Do Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Enameled cast iron hangs on to heat, even after you’re finished cooking!  Putting a hot pot directly into cold water, or taking a cold pot straight from the fridge to the hot oven can cause thermal shock. Thermal shock means that either the enamel will crack, or – in very extreme cases – the iron itself.

To avoid thermal shock, allow hot pans to cool before washing. Likewise, if your cookware is very cold, allow it to slowly come to room temperature. Avoid putting frozen food directly in your enameled cast iron pans on the stovetop. (That said, I do like to speed up the process of defrosting leftovers by cooking partially defrosted food in my enameled cast iron pot, and putting that in the oven on low.)

2. Do Use Wooden or Silicone Utensils

Try not to use metal utensils on enameled cast iron. If you have to, be very gentle and don’t scrape or knock them on the bottom or sides. But why would you risk scratching or chipping your cookware when wooden and silicone utensils work so well? 

Do Use Wooden or Silicone Utensils

Companies Le Creuset and Staub recommend avoiding metal utensils altogether on their enameled cast iron pans. Other brands suggest using them with caution – but I’ve discovered that sometimes “metal utensil safe” is a marketing statement that brands don’t really, really mean. 

3. Do Pat Your Food Dry

Before you place meat in your cookware, pat it dry with a paper towel. This will help you achieve a beautiful, even sear. Wet food draws a lot of energy out of the cookware to turn the water into steam; dry food makes more direct contact with the pan surface and promotes the Maillard reaction.

Do Pat Your Food Dry Before you place meat in your Enameled Cast iron

4. Do Use Oil

Enameled cast iron can release food well – but it’s not truly nonstick, especially without oil. Lightly oil your pan with a high smoke point oil, like avocado or canola oil. Allow it to heat until it is shimmering, but not smoking. 

5. Do Try Deep Frying

Did you know you can deep fry in enameled cast iron? Since it holds on to heat so well, it’s a great vessel for keeping frying oil at a consistent temperature. The oil should fill no more than ⅓ of your pot before adding food. Keep your lid handy in case of overheating or flaring. As always when deep frying, make sure your fire extinguisher and fire blanket are nearby, too.

6. Do Bake In It

Enameled cast iron is great for baking, and there’s a ton of beautiful enameled cast iron bakeware out there. Its even distribution of heat makes gorgeous dishes, no matter if they are savory or sweet. I love baking artisan bread in my Dutch Oven. It comes out with a crispy, golden crust every time! 

Enameled cast iron is great for baking

You can bake cobblers, crumbles, even cakes! You don’t have to worry that they’ll take on the flavor of the fish you cooked the night before; enameled cast iron does not retain flavors like traditional cast iron.

7. Do Store Your Enameled Cast Iron Properly

Make sure your enameled cast iron is completely dry before you store it. Even a drop of water can cause any exposed natural iron parts on your cookware to rust. (This is most common on cheaper brands that have bare cast iron rims.) You should also season any parts of the cookware that are made of bare, not enameled, iron. 

Store your cookware in a dry cabinet, or a place with good air circulation. If you plan to stack pieces, use cookware protectors to avoid scratches and dings. (Or try Staub’s stackable cookware set!) Keep and use the small plastic lid spacers that come with your pot and lid to protect the edge of your Dutch oven and allow air to circulate inside the pot.

Le Creuset Felt Cookware Protectors

Provide gentle cushioning

✅ Machine Washable


Check Today's Price

Things to Avoid with Enameled Cast Iron Cookware

1. Don’t Preheat It Empty – At Least for Long

Preheating your enameled fry pans can help reduce food sticking to them. But attempt it with caution. Preheat your enameled cast iron on low heat for no more than 3-5 minutes. High heat or prolonged preheating while empty can crack the enamel.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Acidic Foods

If you’ve used regular cast iron, you know not to cook acidic foods with it, because acids will break down the seasoning or take on a metallic taste. That’s not a concern with enameled cast iron! One of my favorite things to make in my Le Creuset Dutch oven is actually tomato soup.

Don’t Be Afraid of Acidic Foods in your Enameled Cast iron

The enamel creates a protective layer between the cast iron of the pot and the acidic foods, so it can simmer away without a problem. 

3. Don’t Touch the Handles Without a Pot Holder

This is simply a cautionary tale. Enameled cast iron retains heat and cold very well.  That’s why we love it!  However, that also means those handles stay hot, even after other types of cookware have cooled off enough to easily be handled.

Be cautious when moving your enameled cast iron from one place to another, as the handles are likely to still be too warm to comfortably touch with your bare hands. I speak from experience. 

4. Don’t Overheat It

The only time that it might be safe to use high heat with enameled cast iron is when you’re boiling water – and that’s a maybe. Even if you’re impatient to bring your pot up to temperature, resist cranking up the heat. Heating too quickly will compromise the enamel. 

Don’t Overheat your Enameled Cast iron

And, if you do get the pan super hot, cast iron’s heat retention may work against you, overcooking or burning your food even after you turn down the flame. 

5. Don’t Crowd The Pan

Leave at least an inch of space between pieces of food to get an excellent sear.  Overcrowding the cookware will trap moisture. In this case, you get steam, not that lovely sear you hoped to achieve! Sear in batches if you have more food than will conveniently fit in the pan. 

6. Don’t Flip Too Soon!

It’s tempting. I know it is. That food is sizzling along so nicely, maybe I’ll just use my silicone turner to peek at that gorgeous color I’m sure is forming on the other side. Stop!  Don’t do it. Flipping your food before it’s ready may cause it to stick to your cookware. If you’re cooking a delicate protein like fish, it may even fall apart and leave a flaky mess. 

Don’t Flip the food Too Soon

Using enameled cast iron means you have to trust the process. Even if it looks like it is sticking, leave your food alone until it browns. Ingredients will release from the cookware when they are ready to be flipped.

7. Don’t Use Abrasive Cleaning Agents

So, maybe you flipped too soon, or it was just an off day and now you have some stuck-on food to clean off. Avoid using metallic pads and abrasive cleaning agents that can damage the enamel. My number one suggestion if you have food stuck on your enameled cast iron pot is to deglaze it to create a sauce. 

But if that’s not your style, simply fill up your cookware with warm water and several tablespoons of baking soda and let it soak for 15-20 minutes. Use a nylon brush or soft cloth to wipe the food away. If it’s still stuck, you can boil the water and baking soda for ten minutes. Or you can try the dryer sheet method. If my pot has stubborn, stuck-on food, I add a bit of dish soap and a dryer sheet to the water while the cookware soaks. It works every time to release the stuck pieces of food.

Don’t Use Abrasive Cleaning Agents on your enameled cast iron

8. Don’t Season Your Cookware

You don’t need to season enameled cast iron! The enamel coating serves as your seasoning. Over time, oils from food you cook may form a patina may on the surface of some enameled cast iron pans – especially Staub’s, which have a unique quartz-infused coating. This patina enhances the easy-release features of your pan. But trying to rub oil on an enameled cast iron pan and season it the traditional way will lead to a sticky mess.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Keep Food From Sticking To Enameled Cast Iron?

To keep food from sticking, preheat your enameled cast iron over low to medium heat for 2-3 minutes, and not more. Make sure your food is room temperature, or at least not frozen. Lightly brush your pan with a high smoke point oil (like avocado). Don’t flip your food too soon! If food does stick, deglaze your pan with wine or broth and make a delicious sauce. 

Is It Hard To Cook In Enameled Cast Iron?

No, cooking with enameled cast iron is not difficult! It’s super versatile and quite forgiving, since it won’t react with acidic foods and it helps food retain moisture. Experiment with it; it may cook food faster than you expect. And don’t give up if your first meal isn’t Michelin-star perfect! 

Can You Use Metal Utensils With Enameled Cast Iron?

To be on the safe side, you should avoid using metal utensils with enameled cast iron. Careless use of metal utensils can cause a chip or crack in the enamel. And once a crack forms, it only gets worse with time. Enameled cast iron can last decades, but only if you’re gentle with it.

What’s the Point of Enameled Cast Iron?

Enameled cast iron is safe, durable, and easier to care for than regular cast iron! It washes easily, will not rust, and you can cook acidic foods in it without it transferring a metallic taste.  Enameled cast iron also won’t hold on to strong flavors and impart them to your next dishes!

Do You Have To Use Oil with Enameled Cast Iron?

Enameled cast iron is not a true non-stick surface. It’s not ideal for dry cooking unless it is an enameled cast iron grill pan. For the best results, use a thin coating of high smoking point oil, like canola or avocado oil.  

Conclusion

Enameled cast iron is not hard to cook with at all – so don’t be like me and hesitate to use your new pot or pan! Enameled cast iron is one of the most foolproof kinds of cookware. And the more you use your enameled cast iron, the better you’ll learn to make minute adjustments that take your cooking to a new level of excellence.

Did you find this post useful?

Give it a star rating and let us know!

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Recommended Posts
Ellyn Eddy
About The Author
Ellyn is a professional writer and a short-order cook for her family of four. As a mother, her spare time is filled with investigating all things food and wellness. Equipped with a pantry of exotic ingredients, a shelf full of nutrition books, and a bit of international travel experience, she loves creating healthy and beautiful meals.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.