Cast iron cookware is durable and reliable, it’s some of the longest lasting and most versatile cookware available today. And, because it’s been in use for so long, you can be sure when you buy a quality cast iron cookware piece that you’re getting long-term quality!
Cast iron Dutch ovens are some of the most sought after types of cast iron cookware, and for good reason. They can be used for so many different types of cooking and types of dishes, and they’re also extraordinarily durable.
Differences Between a Cast Iron Dutch Oven and an Enamel Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens have a lot of diversity, even when it comes to the variety of dishes that you can cook in them! From main courses to desserts, almost anything you can think of can be cooked in a Dutch oven.
Obviously, these two Dutch oven types have some differences in terms of the materials that they’re made from. But in reality, underneath it all, they’re more or less the same! Even most enamel Dutch ovens have a cast iron core.
The traditional Dutch oven is made from uncoated cast iron. Cast iron is a special type of iron that contains 2-4% carbon, making it strong and durable. This type of material can hold heat for a long period of time, even after the pot has been removed from the heat.
Enamel Dutch ovens are made using a cast iron core with a durable enamel coating on top. They function similarly to regular cast iron Dutch ovens with the primary differences lying in appearance and maintenance. These pots are usually much more aesthetically pleasing.
Both enamel Dutch ovens and traditional cast iron Dutch ovens must be carefully maintained. Cast iron cookware is durable and long-lasting, but it requires some extra loving care. Nonetheless, there are some differences when it comes to the maintenance of these two pots.
Regular cast iron Dutch ovens must be seasoned properly before the first use by heating oil and coating the inside of the pot. Afterwards, it’s vital that the seasoning is kept well-maintained to prevent sticking, and it’s important to wash the pot carefully so as to preserve its lifespan.
Enamel Dutch ovens, on the other hand, are much easier to maintain. Though it’s generally considered a good practice to wash these pots by hand, some are still dishwasher safe. Plus, because of the enamel layer, there’s less risk of the pot rusting in the wrong conditions.
As an added bonus of the enamel Dutch oven, the pot can be used right away without concern for seasoning. There’s less time needed to clean up and also less overall maintenance needed, so if you’re interested in something fast, simple, and efficient, an enamel pot is best.
Both enamel Dutch ovens and traditional cast iron Dutch ovens are extraordinarily long lasting. If you buy a good model from a reputable brand, you’ll easily be able to get years and years of use out of one pot. It may even become a family heirloom!
But, it’s still important to keep in mind that the longevity of the enamel Dutch oven is less than that of a traditional one. This is due to the fact that the enamel may crack in certain cases, which will mean that you’ll have to get rid of it and buy a new one.
In contrast, a cast iron Dutch oven is extremely long lasting. Even if the pot rusts it’s often still possible to repair the oven to its original state! With tender love and care, your traditional cast iron Dutch oven will last for years to come.
One of the primary reasons why cooks and chefs buy Dutch ovens is because of their non stick quality. But even though these pots can be extremely nonstick, there are some differences in regard to the quality of the nonstick texture and the maintenance of said texture.
Traditional cast iron Dutch ovens are “stickier” than enamel coated Dutch ovens, especially at first as the seasoning builds up. You have to season your pot to reduce stickiness, and it may take some time for the pot to become truly nonstick.
Enamel coated Dutch ovens are nonstick from the first day you get them! It’s possible to use the oven right away without any seasoning or preparation whatsoever because the enamel coating is nonstick and protective.
Pros and Cons of a Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Although it’s difficult to fault the exquisite craftsmanship of a traditional cast iron Dutch oven, there are some very important points to consider both for and against this type of pot.
Here’s a closer look at some of the pros and cons of a cast iron Dutch oven:
- Durable construction
- Excellent heat retention
- Generally large size
- Heavy lid prevents steam and heat from escaping
- Can almost always be restored to original condition (for example, if the pot rusts)
- Adds some iron into the diet (may be a disadvantage in certain cases)
- Generally more affordable
- Not good for cooking acidic foods; acids hurt the metal and create metallic tasting foods
- Difficult to clean; cleaning requires a specific, careful process
- Requires seasoning before first use
- Not as beautiful
Pros and Cons of an Enamel Dutch Oven
Enamel Dutch ovens are amazing kitchen pots that make a great addition to any style-conscious cook’s kitchen. While they’re beautiful cookware pieces, enamel Dutch ovens have some drawbacks too.
Let’s take a look at the positive and negatives of these Dutch ovens:
- Attractive style; many colors and designs available
- Easy to clean
- Use it right away; no seasoning needed!
- Nonstick coating
- It’s possible to cook acidic foods (like tomato sauce or lemon dishes)
- No trace metals will make their way into food
- Lots of size options available
- Less durable than traditional Dutch ovens; enamel may chip over time
- Lid isn’t as tight-lipped, so moisture escapes
- Lower quality heat retention
- Tends to be more expensive
When to Use a Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Although cast iron Dutch ovens and enamel Dutch ovens are used mostly for the same dishes, there are still some differences. So, here we’ll outline the exact uses of each so that you can make the best decision on which type of Dutch oven to buy.
Cast iron Dutch ovens are best used for:
- Thick, hearty stews
- Richly flavored desserts like fruit crumbles, lava cakes, or skillet cookies
- Pot roasts and slow cooked meats
- Breads of all kinds
- Pasta dishes WITHOUT tomatoes or tomato sauce
- Roasted vegetables
- Casseroles and layered foods
When to Use an Enamel Dutch Oven
Enamel Dutch ovens may have a few disadvantages up against the traditional cast iron ovens, but they have a huge advantage when it comes to cooking acidic foods (which includes certain fruit desserts and dishes).
So, while most of the ways that you can use an enamel Dutch oven are similar to the ways that you can use a regular cast iron oven, there are a few differences to look at!
Here’s a list for comparison to see the differences in usage with these two types of pots:
- Acidic foods: tomato sauces, lemon or citrus based dishes, and other acidic foods should be cooked ONLY in an enamel Dutch oven and not in a traditional one
- Tasty stews and soups: chili soup, cream of vegetable soup, and other thick soups are best made in a Dutch oven
- Desserts (everything from fruit desserts to luxurious cakes)
- Bread: make sure to make a moist dough
- Pasta dishes
- Pot roasts and other slow cooked meats
- Roasted vegetables
- Casseroles and layered foods
There are so many great Dutch oven products to choose from, both with and without enamel coating, that it can be difficult to decide which kind of cookware piece to buy. While both enamel and non-enamel Dutch ovens are great appliances, there’s a lot of diversity!
It’s important to always consider your personal preferences for cookware first. Do you want something easy to clean or something that will last a lifetime? Once you know what’s available, you’ll know better what to look for!