Favorite Things: Enameled Cast Iron cookware

They’re big. They’re heavy. And they’re beautiful. But above all, enameled cast iron pots are a pleasure to cook with. That’s because of the heat-retaining properties of the cast iron, and the enamel that forms a non-stick style coating. Cast iron has been used since Pa and Ma cooked over the fire on Little House on the Prairie, but the advent of the enamel made the seasoning of the cast iron, which develops a non-stick surface, unnecessary.

My sister had an enormous yellow dutch oven that I enjoyed using now and then in Chicago, but I became hooked on enameled cast iron cookware in culinary school. Tante Marie’s was well stocked with perfectly sized oval dutch ovens, and it seemed that we all darted for the blue one when we set out to make our dishes for the day.

Enameled cast iron is my cookware of choice for soups, stews, and braises. For deep frying your chicken, seasoned old-fashioned cast iron skillets are still considered preferable. I am always astonished when the inside of my Le Creuset dutch oven wipes clean with ease after I’ve abused it with baked-on, cooked-on of whatever I’ve made. Yes, it’s heavy like a mo-fo, and to that end I keep mine on a shelf that’s easy to pull from. Ideally you would have huge muscles that wouldn’t bat an eye at lifting the thing, or a man around with same. My sister keeps her beauty of a pot right on the stove at all times, a bright yellow spot of sunshine.

There are a few good brands of enameled cast iron to choose from, but I favor Le Creuset. I love how Le Creuset is still made in a village in France by hand, and the rainbow of colors makes it hard to choose just one. Availability of colors depends on where you buy—Williams-Sonoma seems to have the widest selection of colors. The damage to your wallet is about $300, but you really only need one or two pieces to get the job done—the key piece of all is the mid-sized oval dutch oven, a multi-purpose pot that surprises me by being the perfect size for pretty much any soup or chili. I don’t have one of the oval mid-sized pots, mainly because I selected my massive dutch oven before I knew that the smaller one would be a good size to have. Often to the Lebanese, bigger pots (a tunjura—that’s one of the Arabic words that gets used more often than the English even by my generation) are better, and I guess I thought I’d be cooking for an army.

Get your tunjura standing at attention for the deliciously bright but earthy, Lent-friendly (a.k.a., vegetarian) soup we’re making this week.

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15 Comments

  1. Casey@Good. Food. Stories. on February 27, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Amen! I like to think of my Dutch oven use as exercise, though frankly there’s more stirring than heavy lifting involved.

    • Maureen Abood on February 27, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      Yes, good exercise!! The stirring is good for the arms too!! Whipping egg whites in a copper bowl became my new work out when I was in culinary school….

  2. Lynda on February 27, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I share your love for Le Creuset. Just looking at my Dutch oven makes me happy.

    • Maureen Abood on February 27, 2012 at 5:21 PM

      Nice Lynda, and what simple pleasure!

  3. Jeanne Barr on February 27, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    off to williams-sonoma i go!
    xox/jeanne

    • Maureen Abood on February 27, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      Ooooh! Have fun Jeanne! Let me know which one you get!!

  4. Paula on February 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Le Creuset and copper cookware is so french…

    It´s always a great pleasure to read your blog.

    Warm embrace from a sunny Lisbon

    • Maureen Abood on February 27, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      Copper! I thought of it many times as I wrote about enameled cast iron, not wanting to slight my dear copper…but we will discuss that soon as well. Have a wonderful day there, hopefully much warmer than here!

  5. Yoshi Blue on February 28, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    It was interesting reading about how cast iron cookware can still be a pleasure to cook with despite it being bulky and heavy. Great post.

    • Maureen Abood on February 28, 2012 at 11:11 PM

      Thank you very much!

  6. Kathy Middleton on November 19, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Love the white enameled cast iron but can’t seem to find it, any ideas?

    • Maureen Abood on November 19, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      Hi Kathy–Le Creuset makes a shade of white that they call “Dune”–beautiful! Check Williams-Sonoma.

  7. Milo Dalton on December 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I am new to the cooking world, I have recently purchased a set of ceramic cast iron skillet s and pots, I was recently told only to use low heat with these, can you give me any onsite on this matter? Thank you for your time.

  8. Mark on January 13, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    What size to you recommend, if could only have one size? I was thinking this one (7 1/2 quart): http://cookware.lecreuset.com/cookware/product_7-1%2F4-qt.-Round-French-Oven_10151_-1_20002_10139___enamel%20pot_search

    • Maureen Abood on January 14, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      Hi Mark–that’s a great one. It’s quite large, and mine is like that too. I think large is great because you can always make smaller amounts of anything in it, but then have the capacity to do something more when needed.

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