When choosing kitchen implements for enameled cast iron cookware, it is important to understand the nature of the enamel that makes it different from ordinary cast iron pots and pans. Standard cast iron can be given nonstick properties and rendered easier to clean by seasoning with hot oil or grease. Baking oil into the pan at high temperature forms a bond that reduces the likelihood of rusting and iron getting into the food, and also makes it relatively nonstick and easier to clean.
Enameling is also a way of creating a barrier between the food and the iron base, and enameled cookware is fairly easy to clean and possesses an acceptable degree of nonstick properties, though you should try to avoid burning food onto the bottom or sides of the pan. If you do, however, enamel is fairly resistant to scratching – much more so that straight cast iron, stainless steel or nonstick Teflon surfaces. It can therefore tolerate scouring better than these other surfaces, but is very sensitive to knocks and bangs that can chip the enamel off the base.
Enamel is not baked on paint, as many think it to be, but is silica, or glass, that is mixed with pigments and then melted onto the iron surface. The process creates a bond that, while strong enough for normal handling, can chip if given hard knocks. If you drop enameled cookware onto a hard floor, for example, it is liable to chip, but not if you stir the contents with a metal spoon.
Nevertheless, although you can use stainless steel and other metal kitchen implements with enameled cast iron cookware, you are advised not to, and to try to use wood, plastic or silicone. Silicone is a form of plastic that has been cured and cross-linked to render it heat resistant, a property that ordinary plastic kitchen implements lack.
Wood is best for any type of cookware, but most people have a set of wooden spoons in their kitchen arsenal, and perhaps a wooden spatula , but very little else. You can get a wider range online, but the ladles and slotted spoons tend to be very small in comparison to their metal or plastic alternatives.
Plastic is excellent in respect of protecting your cookware, but it can be soft and can get even softer when hot. Not only that, but forget to take it off the pot when cooking and you will have given a new meaning to plastic food! The same is true of a plastic spatula or fish slice: these kitchen tools rarely last long without showing signs of a few burns. Which takes us to silicone kitchen tools.
Silicone kitchen implements are heat-rated, and some are rated as high as 900 degrees, so they will not soften or melt in the same way as normal plastic. There is also a good range of silicone implements, such as turkey lifters, fish slices, spatulas and cooking spoons, but still not as many as are available in stainless steel.
The problem with stainless steel is not that it scratches enamel, because it doesn’t as long as you are not trying hard to do so, but that if you hit the pan with a heavy stainless implement it might chip. Nevertheless, it is possible to use stainless kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware as long as you are careful, and make sure that you don’t knock or drop any implements onto the pan.
Taking an overall view, when choosing kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware you are likely best advised to use wood or silicone where you can, particularly for stirring spoons and the like, and stainless steel where you must. That is a reasonable compromise, but if you prefer to have a battery of tools hanging from racks on your kitchen wall, then stainless steel looks great but be very careful when using them.
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