At the end of the day, cooking comes down to two things: the act of preparing delicious food for your family and the desire to make the experience as enjoyable for yourself as possible. So it only makes sense that you’d select cookware that helps you get there.
Without a shadow of a doubt, enameled cast iron cooking vessels—square-shaped and ridged grill pans, round-shaped and flat-bottomed skillets, and pressure-cooker-like Dutch ovens—make for some of your best tools for the job.
For example, their cast-iron cores distribute heat more evenly than most other metals and can hold on to it for prolonged periods of time. So they’ll keep your food warm for hours on end, long after you’re done cooking.
Porcelain enameling also prevents bare iron from reacting with the acids in tomato, vinegar, and wine sauces, and thereby from leaching a significant amount of dietary iron into your food. The enamel also comes in bright, shiny colors that beautify your kitchen.
But, if you own a glass cooktop, can you use enameled cast iron on it?
Bare cast iron, with its rough and porous underside, can scratch and damage glass-top cooktops. Enameled cast iron, on the other hand, can be used on a smooth-top stovetop as long as it has no burrs and rough spots.
Glass cooktops, as their name suggests, have a surface made of glass-ceramic.
Glass-ceramic is a material that’s tough, translucent, heat resistant, and long-lasting. It’s produced through the crystallization of glass, which is something that glass manufacturers otherwise avoid.
As good of material that glass-ceramic is, it has one major problem: rough and porous cookware, such as bare cast iron skillets or older carbon steel woks, can all too easily scratch it.
I don’t know about you lot, but scratches on my cooktop can drive me mad. At least until I get used to seeing them, and they no longer stick out like a sore thumb whenever I lean over the stove.
With enameled cookware, you don’t have that problem at all. The vitreous coating on them is smooth, and it won’t scratch the glass-ceramic surface to begin with. Just in case, don’t drag them across the cooktop and avoid moving them around too much as you flip and stir foods in them.
Enameled pans and pots, however, don’t come cheap. So, naturally, before using them on a glass cooktop for the first time, some home cooks are worried whether doing so can cause any damage to the enamel (maybe that’s why you came here, too).
How expensive are they, exactly?
Well, on the day of publishing this article, the average price of a 7-qt Le Creuset cast iron Dutch oven at three top online retailers was $410. For the curious among you, there’s a set of good reasons why Le Creuset is so expensive (one of them being that a high number of pieces get thrown away because they don’t conform to the brand’s strict standards for quality).
What’s the bottom line, then? Can enameled cookware get damaged on the stove?
While enameled cookware is generally safe to use on the stove, make sure always to choose a zone that matches the base of your cooking vessel, never preheat it empty, and don’t cook with it on overly high heat.
Bare cast iron pans and pots can handle any level of heat your range throws at them. Their enameled counterparts are different, and they’re typically oven-safe at temperatures of up to 400-450°F.
As every enameled manufacturer will tell you in their products’ manuals, high heat can cause the enamel to chip or crack.
Unsurprisingly, this also applies to your stove. If you want to keep your enameled cooking vessels spick and span, add a knob of butter or drizzle some cooking oil before preheating them (an empty cooking vessel can get heated to an extreme degree).
For the same reason, you don’t want to turn the heat dial all the way up to high when cooking in an enameled skillet or Dutch oven. Opt-in for low, medium, or medium-high heat instead.
Cooking zones matter, too:
When a cooking zone is too big or too small for the size of your pan or pot (the “size,” in this case, meaning the diameter of the base), uneven heating can cause the metal to expand and contract in ways that can chip or crack the porcelain enamel coat.
What else should you watch out for?
Don’t let liquids boil dry in your enameled pan or pot. Else, the enamel will sustain damage on the inside, causing some of the cast iron core will reveal itself.
As Cook’s Illustrated once wrote, it’s not the end of the world even if you do end up damaging an enameled piece of cookware. After all, there’s just bare cast iron under the surface, which is okay to be around and—if the chip or crack is on the inside—cook with.
One thing you definitely don’t want to do is place a room-temperature enameled cooking vessel on a scorching-hot cooking zone. Thermal shocks, the stark temperature differences from one surface to another, can chip or crack the enamel.
A few old wives’ tales are circulating in forums on the Internet about glass stoves heating enameled cookware so much that the porcelain coating melted and fused with the glass-ceramic surface.
Yet that’s never happened to me or anyone in my circle. Also, cookware experts and appliance engineers generally agree that the amount of heat coming from a glass cooktop isn’t high enough to melt the vitreous enamel (for that to happen, you’d have to heat it over 1,000°F).