What’s The Difference: Traditional Cast Iron Vs. Enamel Coated Cast Iron

Both may be made of heavy-duty cast iron but they're not the same.

The debate between cast iron pans and other cookware in your kitchen is one about preference. Anyone who does not mind taking care of their cookware, no matter how tedious it may be, will benefit from having cast iron pans. When it’s maintained well, these are virtually your all-around pan! You can cook almost anything in it, including putting it in the oven to bake a simple cake or a giant cookie

It’s not hard to figure out which cast iron pan to buy since what really matters is the shape and size you need. Any cast-iron pan that’s bigger than 10 inches or 25 centimeters should have double handles so you can grasp the pan with both hands. This prevents you from losing your one-handed grip when it’s full of food. These are literally heavy cookware. 

Love cooking stews and soups? You can’t go wrong with a pot version of the cast iron. Also, known as Dutch ovens, these are a great complement to your frying pan versions. However, you should know that if this is the case, you might be better off getting a cast iron that’s been enamel-coated. 

What makes a traditional cast iron different from an enamel-coated cast iron pan? Here’s what we know: 

This is a classic cast iron pan.
Photo by Shutterstock

1 A traditional cast iron pan is black. Enamel-coated cast iron pans can vary in color. 

Cast iron pans are made from melted iron poured into a mold. That’s how these are made traditionally although new technology makes this easier to do and other materials can be added to make the iron more durable than before. This is why cast iron pans and other cookware rust. There is no protective coating that is added to it or coating it to protect it from rusting. This is why maintenance and care are needed to make these last. 

Enamel-coated cast iron however solves this little problem of rusting. This enamel coating protects the naked cast iron from rusting and it also provides a slick layer on top of it. Enamel can be colored to be of any hue which is what makes it attractive to those who love to color coordinate their kitchen. However, this coating comes with a few advantages and disadvantages, too. 

Photo by Unsplash/Cooker King

2 You can scrub cast iron pans. You can soak enamel-coated pans. 

Should any food stick to the pan despite care and maintenance, the best way to remove those stuck on pieces is to use steel wool. While you should use it gently just to remove the food from the pan and not anything else, you can do this with some confidence when using a cast iron pan. Removing the seasoning of the pan won’t easily be removed if you scrub the surface. However, it’s best if soap isn’t used when cleaning cast iron pans so you can maintain the seasoning of your pans better. 


On the other hand, when it comes to your enamel-coated pans and other cookware, you need to be careful if using steel wool since you can damage the enamel coating. Instead of using steel wool, you can soak the pans in soapy water without any worry that the water will start to rust your pan. You can even use soap as needed to keep your pan’s squeaky clean finish. 

Photo by Shutterstock

3 You can use any cooking utensils on cast iron pans but metal utensils are best not used on enamel-coated pans. 

The great thing about cooking with cast iron is that you do not have to baby your cookware. Even throwing these in water so it rusts thoroughly won’t make these pans useless. You just need to remove the rust and season the pan again. That’s how durable these pans are and why these can last as long as they have. Metal utensils therefore won’t harm these pans. 


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An enamel-coated pan however needs some care. While metal utensils won’t do much to cast iron, they can scratch your enamel. Enamel can also chip so a particularly hard knock on the table or even the edges of your steel stove can chip the coating. The pan itself won’t be damaged but that surface will expose the cast iron underneath and can rust if not protected properly henceforth.  

Photo by Shutterstock

4 Acidic dishes can taste metallic when made in cast iron pans. Enamel-coated cast iron can be used for any dish. 

Should you ever cook a stew or any tomato-based dish in a cast iron pan, you might detect a metallic taste to the dish. This means two things: the iron in the cast iron leached into your food, which is why it tastes a little like iron, and you need to reseason your cast iron pan. 

The good news is that the leaching of the iron from the pan into your food is not a cause of concern and even if just a little leached out, it can make your food taste different. A good seasoning on your cast iron pans will protect your food from reacting to the iron, so if you detect an iron taste in dishes, consider reseasoning your pan. 

That’s why it’s suggested that you use enamel-coated cast iron pots for dishes like stews and soups which are likely to contain acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar, citrus juices, and other tangy ingredients. The enamel coating prevents the acidic ingredients from reacting to the pan and potentially ruining your delicious meal.


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