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Cooking in Enamel

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we’re talking enamel. And lucky for you, you can get the pretty pastel pots shown below by going here!

Enamel Pots

Pots and pans are essential. They’re the building blocks of our kitchens, and of the food we cook in them. They help us through our most ingredient-heavy ragus and our simplest scrambled eggs alike. But not all pots are created equal. Some are better for making stocks, some for rouxs. Some are cast iron, some are enameled. Today, we’re demystifying the latter.

What Exactly is Enamel, Anyway?

Here’s the bare science of it: what you see coating common enamel pots is known as vitreous enamel, which is made by fusing melted glass particles to metal at high temperatures.

What matters in the kitchen is the resulting coating -- glassy and smooth and sometimes pastel -- which acts much like a tablecloth does: it protects what is underneath it (in this case, your pot), and more often than not, makes it prettier than it was before.

Enamel Pot

Reasons to Love It  
Enamel shrouds the underlying steel, preventing it from altering the flavor of your food. It’s also a great heat conductor, and the colors added during the enameling process are easy on the eye. Who doesn’t love a pot that you can match to your kitchen?

How to Cook in It
There aren’t a whole lot of rules when it comes to cooking in enamel, so mostly, you can stir and simmer away at will. It’s important to remember, though, that enamel is a bit too delicate for fast flashes of high heat. If you’d rather your pot live a long, healthy life, leave your intense searing for another pan in your arsenal. And, when starting your favorite stew, be sure the pot doesn’t go empty too long on your heat source -- this could result in it boiling dry, which leads to a damaged coating.

Enamel Colander

The Suds
Your cleanup will be short and sweet. The glassy coating of enameled pots makes cleaning them a snap -- all you’ll need is hot, soapy water, a good rinse, and a thorough dry. It’s standard issue. Be wary of leaving your pot submerged in water, though, as this can cause water to become trapped inside; trapped water creates a perfect storm for rusting. And no one wants that.

Be Nice to Your Enamel
Enamel may seem tough as nails, and it almost is, but it’s not completely immune to chips. Be nice to your pots. Treat them like a part of your loving, kitchen family. Not dropping them goes without saying, but if by some stroke of evil you do get a chip, it’s not the end of the world. Simply make sure to dry the bare spot carefully each time you wash to stave off rust. To protect against scratching, lean toward wooden spoons and away from steel wool.

And, last but not least, the tablecloth metaphor comes full circle: unfortunately, enamel can get mild stains from potent foods. (Beets, anyone?) If this happens, brush a quarter-sized amount of baking soda in your pan, and its original color will magically reappear.

Have any tips for cooking with enamel that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Tips & Techniques, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Kitchen Confidence