Warnings About Porcelain Cast Iron Pots

by Joanne Thomas

Porcelain cast iron pots (also known as enameled or porcelain enameled cast iron) are popular because they have excellent heat distribution for even cooking; they provide a naturally non-stick surface; and they are extremely hard-wearing. Unlike regular cast iron pots, porcelain cast iron does not require seasoning and cleans up easily and safely with soapy water. Porcelain cast iron pots have all the benefits of cast iron with few of the drawbacks. There are, however, some important care tips that will ensure your pots last you a lifetime.

Weight

Before purchasing porcelain cast iron pots -- which are very heavy -- consider their weight and how convenient they are for you. Try lifting the pots in the store to assess their weight, but know that the weight will be further increased when they are filled with food or water. If you have any trouble with lifting, carrying or moving heavy items, it may be hazardous to move the pots from the stove to the sink, or into and out of the oven, for example.

If you have a glass or ceramic stovetop, the weight of the pots affects the way you should use them: do not bang the pots down on the stovetop or slide them, as this may damage the surface. Instead, lift the pot directly up and down.

Temperatures

Because cast iron conducts heat so effectively, you can cook with them at a lower temperature than you normally would. For frying and searing, only a low to medium heat setting is necessary. You only need to use high heat settings for fast boiling. If you are new to using porcelain cast iron, it may take a little time before you learn what heat settings to use for different purposes. Try using a meat thermometer while you adjust to cooking in the pots.

While porcelain cast iron can withstand very high temperatures, the same is not true for all knobs and handles. If the knobs and handles are made from porcelain cast iron or stainless steel, they can also withstand high heat. Plastic ones can not. Le Creuset’s famous porcelain cast iron pots have phenolic (resin) knobs and handles, which are only oven-safe to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your particular pots before placing them in the oven.

Utensils

Metal utensils will scratch the surface of porcelain cast iron pots, damaging them and shortening their lifespan. Use wooden, heat-resistant silicone and heat-resistant plastic utensils, which will not scratch the pots.

Cleaning

You may be tempted to plunge a hot pan into cold water to cool it down quickly, but don't do this with porcelain cast iron. The sudden extreme temperature change “shocks” the enamel and may cause damage. Let the pan cool down to room temperature before you rinse or wash it. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations to make sure they are dishwasher safe before putting them in the dishwasher. Wash the pots by hand as you would any other dish, but don’t use metal scourers as they scratch. For stubborn residues, soak the pot in hot soapy water for about 15 minutes, then scrub.

About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.