Cast-Iron Cookware: Benefits of Traditional vs. Enameled

Should you get a traditional black cast-iron skillet or a colorful enameled one? Depends on how you use it.

Published Oct. 4, 2021.

So you've decided to buy a cast-iron skillet. You're going to love it! But which style is best for you: traditional black cast iron or the colorful enameled variety?

While both styles offer cast iron's excellent heat retention for searing, baking and frying, they differ in a few ways, including how you handle them and what it takes to maintain them. Here are a few things to consider before you buy.

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Reasons to Buy Traditional Cast-Iron

• You’re never going to baby your cookware. You want to bang it around with no fear of damage and use it at any temperature, under the broiler or on the grill over live fire, or with metal utensils.

• You don’t want to spend a lot. The best 12-inch traditional skillet costs around $40 and lasts a lifetime.

• You don’t mind simple maintenance. Wash, dry thoroughly, and lightly oil to prevent rust.

• You are OK with using little to no soap (hot water and a scrub brush will suffice).

• You don’t plan to make long-simmered acidic sauces such as marinara in it.

• You won’t leave it soaking.

Best Traditional Cast-Iron Skillets

Artisan brands of American-made cast-iron cookware challenge the old guard. Which one was rated best?  

Reasons to Buy Enameled Cast-Iron

• You never want to think about seasoning the pan. Enamel doesn’t need it.

• You don’t mind spending more. Our recommended 12-inch skillets range from about $70 to about $210.

• You’re prepared to protect the glass-like enamel. You won’t use it under the broiler (unless you’re prepared to buy our durable—and expensive—winner); you’ll avoid metal utensils and banging or scraping the pan; and you’ll stack with care.

• You dislike the idea of not using soap.

• You plan to use it for long-simmered acidic sauces.

• You don’t mind that the enamel will not become more nonstick. An enameled pan will never become as nonstick as a well-seasoned traditional pan.

Best Enameled Cast-Iron Skillets

A traditional cast-iron skillet is a kitchen workhorse, but the upkeep makes some cooks balk. Could enameled cast-iron pans, which need no special care, top the classic? See which enameled cast-iron is our favorite.  

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