Growing up, you get used to the familiar curves, shapes, and eccentricities of your household’s cookware. For me, that meant beige Pyrex plastic measuring cups, metal stock pots with floral designs, and a Marseille blue Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet. The latter was from my dad’s bachelor Navy days (when back on dry land, he was a good cook), part of a set that also included a Dutch oven, and both were considered “the good cookware.”
My nascent cooking days mostly consisted of making simple things, like scrambled eggs and sauteed vegetables (I thought I was so inventive with my sauteed kale with white beans and garlic). And every time I cooked something stoveside, the 9-inch Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet (whose larger sibling also happens to be one of our winners) was my pan of choice, for a few reasons.
It’s “Naturally” Nonstick—and Durable
Unlike uncoated cast iron skillets, enameled cast iron doesn’t need to develop a patina to release food easily. This is because the enamel, which is made by fusing glass with a substrate, is basically thin layers of hard porcelain, which is less porous than unadorned cast iron. Porcelain enamel is also harder than ceramic, meaning it’s less prone to chipping and cracking over time. All of these qualities were great for a bumbling burgeoning cook prone to burning garlic and blowing chili powder into her eyes (this, sadly, actually happened), amongst other kitchen misadventures. This pan could handle the heat, the fork I used to scramble eggs, and soaking in the sink. Which brings me to my next point.
It’s Easy to Clean
I don’t know about you, but growing up, I HATED cleaning—and not just my room. Today I reflect in horror about how I’d leave wooden spoons soaking in a pan for hours, or how I’d casually toss a hot skillet in the sink and turn the faucet on cold while examing my nails and blasting My Chemical Romance. It was a cringe time.
Back then, there was no way I could handle the responsibility of caring for a cast iron skillet—that thing would’ve rusted faster than my eyeliner smudged. The enameled cast iron skillet, on the other hand, was incredibly easy to clean; just wash with hot, soapy water, rinse, and wipe. It was the least painful cleaning experience my angsty self could handle, and there was no risk of damage.
It Heats Up Evenly
Again, as a novice cook, I made mistakes, including chopping things up unevenly, adding too little oil (or too much), and keeping the pan on too low a temp while trying to sear meats. But the nice thing about the Le Creuset skillet was it actually heated up incredibly evenly, making up for my mistakes and ensuring a great sear on fish fillets and various cuts of meat. And because it’s on the heftier side at five pounds, six ounces, it took a little more time to heat up than, say, a carbon steel wok or stainless steel skillet. This was a boon for me since I could multi-task while the pan heated up (whether that was to prepare my mise en place or scroll through my iPod, I’ll leave it to you to decide).
It’s an Heirloom That Lasts a Lifetime
My parents got married in 1992, and my dad had Le Creuset before then, during his bachelor days. That means this skillet is older than I am (I’ll let you do the math), and I can tell you it’s still a dream to cook with. No enamel has chipped in the decades that have passed, and it still has that signature smooth interior surface. Whenever I visit my parents and help my mom make dinner or whip up some eggs for breakfast, I still reach for that same Marseille blue skillet and will probably do so for years to come.
What is the best enameled cast iron skillet?
I’m partial to the Le Creuset, which also did well in our review of enameled cast iron skillets. We also really liked the skillet from Staub, as well as the one from Crock Pot as a more budget-friendly option.
What is the best way to clean an enameled cast iron skillet?
You can clean an enameled cast iron skillet as you would any other pan: scrub with soap and water, rinse, and dry. Many are also dishwasher-safe, though we don’t recommend putting skillets in the dishwasher. We also don’t recommend using any metal scrubbers on this style of pan, since they can scratch the enamel.
What is the best size for an enameled cast iron skillet?
Enameled cast iron skillets come in a variety of sizes, including 8-, 9-, 10-, and 12-inch sizes. Choosing the size that’s right for you depends on how many people you usually cook for. If you’re making dinner for just yourself, a 10-inch skillet is probably fine. If you’re cooking for a few folks, then we’d recommend a 12-inch skillet.