Enameled Cast Iron vs. Unfinished Cast Iron: Key Differences

Enameled Cast Iron and Unfinished Cast Iron are the same at their core, but couldn’t be more different to cook with.

By George Steckel
Nov 1, 2021
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If you’re in the market to buy a Dutch Oven, you’ll come across two different kinds: Enameled Cast Iron and Unfinished Cast Iron. Both of these Dutch Ovens are oven safe and are great for searing short ribs, braising brisket, and sautéeing vegetables. However, while they may sound similar, there is one crucial difference, and that is in the coating.

While both Unfinished Cast Iron and Enameled Cast Iron share a cast iron core, Enameled Cast Iron is coated with a thin layer of enamel. This coating covers the pores of Cast Iron, which creates a smoother cooking surface and protects the Cast Iron from rust. Best of all, this means that, unlike Unfinished Cast Iron, an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven does not need to be seasoned.

What Is Enameled Cast Iron?

Enameled Cast Iron is at its core Cast Iron Cookware, except it has an added layer of protection. This layer is a coating of enamel, a glass-like substance that covers the entire Dutch Oven. Enameled Cast Iron is mostly constructed into a Dutch Oven, rather than a Frying Pan or Stock Pot. These Dutch Ovens usually have either a beige or black interior with a colorful exterior.

Enameled Cast Iron is a pleasure to cook with because it combines the heating capabilities of Cast Iron with the smooth cooking surface enamel provides. It’s perfect for searing and braising meats, sautéeing vegetables, and baking bread. It can go from the stovetop to the oven, and since Dutch Ovens come in various sizes, it is easy to find the right one for your cooking needs.

When cleaning Enameled Cast Iron, you should wash it with soap and water and never place it in the dishwasher. Also, since the enamel coating can be delicate, it is best to avoid metal utensils and stick with wooden and silicone utensils. Enameled Cast Iron is also a fantastic conductor of heat, so you don’t need to use high heat often.

What Is Unfinished Cast Iron?

Cast Iron is an iron and steel alloy formed to make highly durable cookware. There is no coating on Cast Iron, so you must season it before you use it and upkeep that seasoning throughout your cooking with it. Cast Iron is beloved by home cooks because it is indestructible. The most common shapes of Unfinished Cast Iron are Frying Pans, Dutch Ovens, and Braisers.

Similar to Enameled Cast Iron, Unfinished Cast Iron is great for searing meat, baking cornbread, and making hearty stews. It is oven safe and an unbelievable conductor of heat, so cooking on medium heat is highly recommended.

Acidic ingredients, such as tomato sauce or a white wine sauce can strip the seasoning, so it is recommended to cook these ingredients in Enameled Cast Iron over Unfinished Cast Iron.  While this isn’t a health risk, it does require a reseasoning.

However, caring for Unfinished Cast Iron is more difficult. It involves maintaining seasoning, knowing that you can’t cook certain things in it, and understanding that it is susceptible to rusting.

While all of this is fairly easily resolved, it still is much more care than you’d ever need for its enameled counterpart.

Enameled Cast Iron vs. Unfinished Cast Iron: Which Is Better?

Enameled Cast Iron isn’t necessarily better than Unfinished Cast Iron and vice versa. Both are wonderful pieces of cookware to have in your kitchen. However, if you’re looking to purchase one instead of the other, here are some guidelines to follow.

If you don’t like the process of maintaining your cookware, prefer cooking on a smooth surface, and prefer a pop color in your kitchen, then Enameled Cast Iron is the right choice for you.

Unfinished Cast Iron requires more care than Enameled Cast Iron since it needs to be seasoned and can’t be washed with soap and water. Other than that, Cast Iron and Enameled Cast Iron are really quite similar.

Made In’s Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

When designing our Dutch Oven, we obsessed over every detail so that we could put the best product on the market. Ever since the founding of Made In, we knew Enameled Cast Iron would be part of our collection and we never settled until we found the perfect manufacturing partner.

This led us to Northeast France, where we found artisans who have been perfecting their craft for centuries and where the entire process is done in one factory. The enamel gets sprayed by hand and each piece is polished to perfection.

You’re left with a Dutch Oven that looks as good sitting on the stovetop as it does with your most cherished recipes inside.

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