Monday, July 23, 2012

Choosing an Enamel Pot


Healthiest Cookware

Enamel kitchenware is the healthiest cookware on the market - the first choice when selecting any kind of pot is enamel.  By choosing an enamel pot, the potential toxicity associated with other nonstick cookware is avoided plus enamelware is easy to use.  Clean-up is simple.  All of the advantages of porcelain enamel were discussed in a previous post.  (Click here to learn more.) 
Enamel pots come in many styles and sizes, each with a particular functional advantage.  In this post, we discuss the attributes of each type of enamel pot, beginning with the traditional Dutch oven.

What is a Dutch Oven?

Lodge Enamel Dutch Oven
Lodge Enamel Dutch Oven

By definition, a Dutch oven is a large cast iron pot with a secure lid.  A Dutch oven is designed for both stove-top as well as oven use.  Occasionally, aluminum or other metal pots are referred to as Dutch ovens, but the traditional Dutch oven was cast iron and was often used as a campfire pot.  Obviously, these pots are heavy and that is an advantage – the heavy cast iron construction allows heat to be conducted from the bottom as well as the side and top of the pot.  Well-seasoned cast iron is healthy cookware.  There is actually a small amount of dietary iron that is provided by the pot.  However, an enamel Dutch oven is better from a nonstick standpoint.  Many kitchens have both types – a regular Dutch oven is not expensive and it can be complemented with an enameled Dutch oven.  Lodge is the preeminent brand – the best Dutch ovens are made by Lodge, whether enameled or not.  At the time of this post, 867 Amazon customers have written reviews for the Lodge enamel Dutch oven.  Check out this very popular enameled pot!

Lodge Color Dutch Oven

Lodge Logic Dutch Oven


Dutch Oven vs. French Oven  

Le Creuset Enamel French Oven
Le Creuset Enamel French Oven

What’s in a name?  Actually there is very little if any difference between a Dutch oven and a French oven.  Often a Dutch oven is of somewhat heavier construction; however, the specific brand is probably more important.  A heavy cast iron enamel French oven is a better pot than a cheap, light weight Dutch oven.  For some people, the origin is important and for them a French oven made in France is superior to a Dutch oven made in China.  But is it really?  In our opinion, the quality of an enamel cast iron pot is mostly due to having a heavy gauge of cast iron and, ideally, two coatings of enamel.  Le Creuset makes several popular models of a French oven.  See the flamboyant colors!

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron French Oven


What is a Cocotte?

Staub Coq Au Vin Enamel Cocotte
Staub Coq Au Vin Cocotte

If there is a single type of “enamel pot” that truly speaks of its origin, it is the cocotte.  What is a cocotte?  Simply put, a cocotte is a French oven or Dutch oven that is designed to provide self-basting.  That is, not only does a cocotte have a tight-fitting lid, but the underside of the lid has small round spikes or protuberances that allow moisture to condense and then fall back on the food below.  In reality, some models of Dutch or French ovens have the same feature.  Cocottes come in various sizes including the mini-cocottes that can be used for serving.  Staub cookware is made under the auspices of the most famous chef in France, Paul Bocuse.  You will love the rooster handle of the Staub Coq Au Vin Cocotte – check it out!

Staub Coq Au Vin Cocotte

Staub Mini Cocotte


Soup Pot

Le Creuset Enamel Soup Pot
Le Creuset Enamel Soup Pot

Still another distinctive feature of some enamel pots is the diameter of the bottom heating surface versus the top of the enamel pot.  For example, the Le Creuset soup pot has sloping sides with a bottom diameter that is about half that of the top.  Oven-safe, it can be used as a Dutch oven substitute.  When used on the stove-top, the difference in the bottom versus top diameter enhances the circulation of liquid.  With the top removed, the large surface area is really great for reduction.  A soup pot is typically smaller than a French or Dutch oven. 

Le Creuset Enameled Soup Pot

Bouillabaisse Pot  

Le Creuset Enamel Bouillabaisse Pot
Le Creuset Bouillabaisse Pot

A bouillabaisse pot must be much larger than a soup pot so that it will accommodate all of the various ingredients of a classic bouillabaisse.  The Le Creuset bouillabaisse pot has the same sloping-side design as the Le Creuset soup pot and therefore the same moisture recirculation advantage.  Reviewers claim that the recirculation characteristic actually makes the food taste better.  This pot is a fix-it-and-leave-it pot - you can actually use it as a stove-top slow cooker.  Or, it can go in the oven as a Dutch oven substitute.  Read the reviews and you will be impressed! 

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Bouillabaisse Pot

Enameled Cast Iron Wok 

Bodum Chambord Enameled Cast Iron Wok
Bodum Chambord Enameled Wok

Another type of enamel pot is the cast iron enamel wok.  In fact, any soup pot or bouillabaisse pot with a small heating surface relative to the top can be used as a wok.  When using a wok, meats and vegetables are rapidly cooked at a high temperature and the sloping side of the pot facilitates the process.  Enamel cookware is ideal for this operation and the Bodum Chambord enameled cast iron wok has won accolades from many satisfied users.  This just might be the best wok on the market!

Bodum Chambord Enameled Cast Iron Wok With Glass Lid

FINAL NOTE:  This post has focused exclusively on heavy-gauge cast iron enamel pots.  In another post, we addressed enamel stock pots.  By design, stock pots are made of lighter-gauge metal.  To learn more, please visit our enamel stockpot post.

Enamel Stock Pots

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