By Jeff Rogers
Photography by Stephanie Steele
In a cupboard packed full of inky-black cast iron, bright enameled cast-iron pans stand out boldly, begging to be pulled out and used to prepare your favorite recipes. When choosing what pan I will cook in, there are always several pieces that will work, but often times there are ones that will work best. Choosing the right tool for the job is a crucial part of successful cooking. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
About 20 years ago, I was on a quest to create the ultimate chili recipe, and decided I needed to use a cast-iron Dutch oven. After hours of cooking, I took my first taste of what was supposed to be the best chili ever. The flavor was rock-solid, but something wasn’t right. After another bite, my taste buds reported back with more data—there was a subtle underlying metallic taste.
At the time I was perplexed, but I know now what I was tasting was a reaction between the acidic tomatoes and the cast iron. Who knew that you shouldn’t cook acidic foods in newly-seasoned cast iron? Not me, apparently. I had a great recipe, but with my Dutch oven being newly seasoned, I definitely had the wrong tool for the recipe at hand.
Enter enameled cast iron. More than 100 years ago, pioneering industrialists had the bright idea to remove many of the limitations of cooking in cast iron by coating it with a glassy, porcelain enameled finish. Along with being very colorful, this enameled coating makes cast iron more versatile in a few key ways, while introducing a few new limitations. Here’s a quick look at the good, the bad, and the tasty.