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Dutch Ovens are a big investment, so when buying a cast iron vs enamel dutch oven, how do you know which is best? Here are some tips that might help you decide.
Cast Iron vs Enamel Dutch Ovens
Cast iron and enameled Dutch ovens are two different types of cookware. You need to know the difference between them and your cooking style to find the right type for you.
What are the differences between cast iron and enameled Dutch ovens?
There are many differences between cast iron and enameled Dutch oven, including their materials, finish, design, heat retention, performance, and maintenance.
Here’s a quick comparison between Cast Iron and Enamel Dutch Oven:
|Cast Iron||Enameled Dutch Oven|
|Finish||Dark gray or black (gets darker with time)||Shiny exterior (comes in different colors),
Dark or light interior
|Temperature||Can handle temperatures above 500 °F||The temperature will depend on cookware quality and design, with some reaching up to 500°F|
|Durability||Will last beyond your lifetime if taken care of properly||Not as durable, but can last many years if taken care of properly|
|Materials||Usually, about 98% iron, 2% carbon||Cast iron and durable enamel coating|
|Heat Source||Any heat source works (indoors and outdoors)||
|Iron Release||Yes, but it’s less with continual seasoning||None, if the enamel is in good condition|
|Maintenance||Should be seasoned regularly||Seasoning not required|
|Performance||Performs excellently and maintains non-stick properties if seasoned well||
|Price||More affordable||More expensive|
Understanding the differences between cast iron and enameled Dutch ovens will help you decide which cookware is right for you. Keep reading, and we will go through the decision-making process in detail!
Cast Iron vs Enamel Dutch Oven
What Is a Cast Iron Dutch Oven?
Cast iron cookware is made from iron that has been melted into blocks and then poured into molds. These blocks turn into pans or skillets. Once cooled, these pans are ready for use.
It has many uses in the kitchen, such as searing, browning, frying, and baking. This type of cookware can also be used on top of the stove as well as in the oven, making it very versatile.
The pans are made from heavy-duty materials that can withstand high temperatures without warping or burning and can hold their temperature well so food cooks quickly and evenly.
Because of these qualities make cast iron pans and skillets very popular among home cooks and professional chefs alike. They also can be very affordable an easy to find.
Seasoning cast iron cookware is vital because it preserves its original properties and makes it non-stick. You always want to season your pans before use and after each wash to keep them in good shape for years to come.
What Is an Enamel Dutch Oven?
An enamel Dutch oven is a type of heavy-duty cast iron pot that is coated with vitreous enamel. The enamel coating makes it extremely durable and resistant to rust.
Enamel Dutch ovens have gained popularity because of their versatility and durability compared to traditional cast iron cookware.
They come in various colors and often have a glazed coating, making them more attractive to the eye and more aesthetically pleasing. Aka, they look pretty in your kitchen and on your shelves!
They are best used for indoor cooking because they cannot withstand as much heat as cast irons. This type of cookware can also trap moisture, which can make your food taste better.
How Will You Use Your Dutch Oven?
The kind of Dutch Oven you buy might depend on how you plan to use it. If you are looking for a dutch oven over the campfire, you will need a different type of dutch oven than if you are cooking on a stovetop.
For more info on the different types of enamel and regular cast iron dutch ovens, see the end of this post for my recommendations.
Dutch Ovens are probably the most versatile tool in the kitchen. You can use them on the stovetop for slow cooking, cooking things like chicken, beef, soups, and stews. You can use them in a hot oven to cook roasts, to braise meats, or even to warm up leftovers. They really are one of the best things to have in the kitchen.
When to Choose Cast Iron:
A cast iron might be for you if you care more about the durability and longevity of your pan rather than its appearance. They are also more affordable than enameled Dutch ovens.
Not only that, but they are also great for outdoor cooking and are compatible with pretty much any heat source. So, if you are a fan of the outdoors and cooking over a campfire, a cast iron dutch oven is the right choice for you.
When to Choose Enamel Dutch Oven:
If you don’t like the idea of seasoning your pan regularly, consider choosing an enameled Dutch oven. They are much easier to clean than cast irons and require no seasoning.
They also usually come in various colors and are generally aesthetically pleasing, making them a great addition to your kitchen.
Another thing to consider is that they don’t react to acidic food such as tomatoes, lemon juice, and vinegar. If you often cook acidic food, I recommend an enameled Dutch oven.
Keep reading to figure out the best dutch oven for your household needs!
What Are the Differences Between Cast Iron Dutch Oven and Enamel Dutch Oven?
Durability of Dutch Ovens
Cast iron can last for generations, have lifetime durability, and still be as strong as when it was first made, particularly if it is well taken care of. This cookware can be used for hundreds of years without showing any signs of breaking.
They are also more resistant to high temperatures and open flames, making them a better option for outdoor use.
Enameled Dutch Oven
On the other hand, enameled Dutch ovens do not last as long. They are not as tough as cast irons, and the enamel layer is prone to chipping or cracking. You would have to be more careful taking care of an enameled Dutch oven.
The outer layer is also prone to chipping if it bumps into a hard surface or is scratched too hard while washing or cooking. They also don’t tolerate as much heat as quite as much as a solid cast iron.
Performance of Dutch Ovens
Well-seasoned cast irons are one of the most non-stick cookware when exposed to intense heat. They are great at absorbing heat and can distribute it effectively while locking in flavors and juices.
Enameled Dutch Oven
Enameled Dutch ovens are, unfortunately, not non-stick. You will need to use oil or water on the surface when cooking. They require some special care to keep them in good condition.
Over time, the color of your Dutch oven may fade due to prolonged exposure to high heat or harsh detergents. To prevent this from happening, you will need to learn how to take care of your pot correctly.
Design of Dutch Ovens
Cast irons are usually black or brown and look sturdy. They do not come in different colors and are often bought for durability rather than appearance.
Enameled Dutch Oven
Enameled Dutch ovens usually come in vibrant colors and have a glossy finish. They are aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, so if you care about having colorful kitchenware or dishes that make you happy, enameled Dutch ovens will be a perfect addition to your kitchen.
Seasoning Dutch Ovens
Cast iron Dutch ovens need regular seasoning. They must be seasoned before use and almost regularly re-seasoned to prevent sticking. Without proper care, cast irons can start to rust.
Enameled Dutch Oven
Enameled Dutch ovens do not need seasoning. Enamel is useful in creating a smooth surface on cast iron, preventing food from becoming trapped and sticking. However, it is not non-stick and does not create a protective seasoning.
Acidic Food in Dutch Ovens
Acidic food on cast irons can damage your pan. Foods like tomato sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, and even milk can react with the iron in the pan and rust it over time. It can also give your food a metallic taste. This is why it’s important to always wash your cast iron after using it and never put it in the dishwasher.
Enameled Dutch Oven
On the other hand, enameled Dutch ovens can withstand acidic food with no issues. The enamel layer does not react with the acidity in the food, so you don’t have to worry about tomatoes, lemons, or any other acidic food tasting differently while using an enameled Dutch oven.
Cleaning of Dutch Ovens
It is recommended not to use a lye soap when cleaning cast irons.If you’d soap is not made from lye, this does not apply. It’s a very common misconception when it comes to keeping cat iron clean. If you do use a lye soap for washing dishes you’ll need to wipe the surface of the dutch oven with a paper towel after every use or wash it with hot water and a clean towel.
You should dry the cast iron immediately after to avoid rust.
Enameled Dutch Oven
Enamel Dutch Ovens are great for easy cleanup. You can clean your enameled oven with soap and warm water without worrying about losing any non-stick properties.
Price of Dutch Ovens
Cast irons are one of the more affordable types of cookware. The price has gone up recently due to the price of metal increasing but overall, they are still affordable, especially when you compare the product’s longevity to other pots and pans.
Enameled Dutch Oven
On the contrary, enameled Dutch ovens can cost as much as three or four times as regular cast irons. That is because of their beautiful glazed construction and enamel layer.
Health Risks of Using Dutch Ovens
Studies have shown that cooking with cast iron can increase your bone density, help with osteoporosis and arthritis, increase your metabolism and keep you young by replacing lost nutrients in cooking oils.
This is because cast iron has better heat distribution and superior heat retention over than any other cookware on the market today. In fact, it is said that a well-seasoned cast iron skillet has zero percent moisture retention, which allows for maximum cooking efficiency.
Enameled Dutch Oven
Cooking with enameled Dutch ovens is safe because of the durable material they are made of. They do not leak iron or rust. This ensures that you won’t have any health problems when cooking with an enameled Dutch oven.
However, you should be careful when cracking occurs on your enameled Dutch oven. You can find some small chips in your food, especially if it is overused. I have had this happen multiple times with my enamel dutch ovens.
What Are the Similarities Between Cast Iron and Enamel Dutch Ovens?
When it comes to cooking, these two pots are very similar. They can both retain high heat and can be durable if taken care of well. But what else do these two pots have in common? Let’s take a look:
1. Cooking versatility: Both cast iron and enamel Dutch ovens are great for searing, frying, baking, and roasting. You can use them on the stovetop or in the oven.
2. Size: Both types of cookware are perfect for families, feeding at least 4-6 people at once. Cast iron (when properly seasoned) can also be used in the oven, so you don’t have to transfer your meal from pan to dish just because it’s time to cook something else.
3. Material: They are both made of cast iron; the only difference is that enamel Dutch ovens have a layer of enamel on top. That being said, an enameled Dutch oven can still retain heat just as well as cast iron because it’s made of cast iron at its core.
Cast Iron VS Enamel Dutch Oven: Pros and Cons
If you are still having trouble deciding which cookware is better, this pros and cons guide might help you make the right choice.
|Non-stick when seasoned||No color variety|
|Even heat distribution||Needs regular seasoning|
|Oven-safe||Not dishwasher safe|
|Highly durable||Acidic food breaks down the seasoning|
|Affordable||Seasoned iron is reactive|
|Outstanding heat retention|
|Adds iron to cooking (beneficial for anemia patients)|
|Versatile (can be used for roasting, baking, braising, searing, simmering, and more)|
|Often comes with a lifetime warranty|
|Compatible with all heat sources|
Enameled Dutch Oven
|Does not rust easily||Can be expensive|
|Vibrant colors, different shapes and sizes||Not as durable as cast iron pans|
|Does not allow the iron to leach into your food, thanks to the enamel coating||Not dishwasher safe|
|Versatile (can be used to saute, fry, bake, deep-dry, roast, braise, and more)||Can chip and scratch with metal utensils|
|Heavy lids and helper handles||Not non-stick (oil is required when cooking)|
|Does not react to acidic food||Not compatible with all heat sources (should not be used for outdoor cooking)|
|No seasoning required||Does not withstand as much heat as cast iron pans (high temperatures may change the enamel coating)|
|High-quality brands can be handed-down heirlooms with lifetime warranties|
|Excellent heat retention|
|Compatible with various heat sources (cooktops, grills, ovens, boilers, and more)|
|Easy to clean|
Our Recommendations for a Dutch Oven
If you are curious to try either cookware, I have two amazing recommendations for you to try, both made by Lodge. I have been very happy with my Lodge Dutch Ovens and cookware. Lodge has a wide variety of cast irons for you to choose from.
Best Enameled Dutch Oven
The Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven is simpler to use than many other Dutch ovens. And even though most Dutch ovens cook fairly well, this one is the best.
Compared to other dutch ovens, the broad handles on this Dutch oven are comfortable to hold even with mitts or towels, and the base is slightly curved to prevent food from getting stuck in the corners.
With its shorter sides and a wider base, the Lodge 6-Quart enameled Dutch oven also allows steam to escape more readily than pots with thicker walls, improving the sear on meat and helping the flavor concentrate when cooking.
I have both this Lodge Dutch Oven and a Tramotina Dutch Oven. (I’ve had the Lodge much longer) The Tramotina has often chipped and flaked (mostly from the outside glaze and around the handles). The Lodge has never done that. I also prefer the curved bottom of the Lodge versus the flat bottom of the Tramotina. It seems to cook food better.
Best Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
Lodge makes several different styles of cast iron dutch ovens so whichever one you choose will be based on how you plan to use it.
This Thick Handle Style Lodge Dutch Oven is made for hanging over a fire outdoors. It can be use indoors on your stove top but the handle might become an annoyance when cooking.
This Dual Handle Lodge Dutch Oven is made for your stovetop, just like the enamel coated dutch oven above. This one does have more of a flat bottom. But if you are looking for a traditional Cast Iron Dutch Oven to use at home for everyday cooking, this would be your best bet.
And finally, there is the Camp Style Dutch Oven, made for sitting in hot coals over a campfire. This style is perfect for camping if you don’t want to use the hanging dutch oven method of cooking. It’s not for stovetop use.
Tips for Caring for Cast Iron
Here are some tips on caring for your cast iron to make it last for as long as possible:
1) Clean Cast Iron
Before you clean your cast iron skillet or pot, be sure it’s cool enough to handle. If not, use oven mitts or gloves to hold the item while cleaning. You can use a Cast Iron Pan Scrubber to remove stuck on pieces of food.
Hot water and a little soap can also be used for cleaning. However, do not use a lye-based dishwashing liquid or soap as it will leave a film on your cookware, making it difficult to get an even coating of oil again.
2) Dry Thoroughly After Cleaning
After you have cleaned your cast iron, it is important to dry it thoroughly. If left wet, it may rust. I always dry my pans right away with my kitchen towels before hanging them up.
3) Oil Your Skillet Regularly
One of the most common tips on caring for cast iron cookware is to oil your dutch oven regularly. Doing so helps keep it shiny and prevents it from sticking.
To oil your skillet, pour a few drops of vegetable oil into it and spread it around with a paper towel or cloth. Be careful not to use too much oil, as this can cause the pan to rust. This is only necessary with the cast iron dutch oven, not the enamel coated dutch oven.
4) Season Your Skillet
You can season your cast iron (not the enamel coated dutch oven) by rubbing vegetable oil onto it to build up a sticky layer that prevents food from sticking and also gives it color and shine.
It’s really important to season a new skillet before using it for the first time. You will also have to re-season your skillet regularly. After oiling your cast iron, place it in the oven upside down (on a pan or over aluminum foil) at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.
Can I Soak Cast Iron in Water?
You should not soak cast iron in water. Soaking cast iron in water can lead to it rusting over time. It is best to dry your cast iron immediately after washing it, so it does not rust.
Following these steps and taking good care of your cast iron can make it last for many generations.
Tips for Caring for an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
1) Clean Your Dutch Oven After Every Use
The sooner you clean your Dutch oven, the easier it will be to remove any stuck-on food particles. Warm water is best for cleaning your Dutch oven because it helps to dissolve any food particles or oils stuck on the surface.
If you want a thorough cleaning, use your favorite dishwashing liquid with water and scrub away any residue left behind by food. I like using Ecos Dishsoap because it’s gray-water friendly.
2) Avoid Using a Dishwasher
This can cause damage to both the interior and exterior of your enameled Dutch oven. Dishwashers are very harsh on this type of cookware because of all the high temperatures and strong chemicals used during the cleaning process.
Your enameled Dutch oven will last longer when hand-washed and allowed to air dry completely before storing.
3) Avoid Using Harsh Abrasives
While cleaning your cookware, avoid using harsh abrasive materials to clean your enameled Dutch oven. This is because the enamel can get damaged or start chipping.
You should also avoid using metal utensils because they can crack and chip the enamel and cause iron to leak.
4) Do Not Stack Cookware
Stacking can also cause chipping and scratching to your enamel. Make sure you store your Dutch oven carefully without risking the enamel coating from chipping or scratching.
Do You Need to Season Enameled Cast Iron?
You do not need to season enameled cast irons. The enamel coating allows enough protection. Maintenance is easier for enameled cast irons compared to traditional cast irons.
I hope this post has given you a detailed insight on which type of dutch oven might be right for your home and your family!
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Merissa has been blogging about and living the simple life since 2009 and has internationally published 2 books on the topic. You can read about Merissa’s journey from penniless to the 100-acre farm and ministry on the About Page. You can send her a message any time from the Contact Page.
This blog post on Cast Iron vs Enamel Dutch Ovens was originally posted on Little House Living in February 2023.