What Is Hard Enamel Cookware?

If you’re looking for durable, effective and stylish cookware, you should try hard enamel.

But, what is hard enamel cookware?

Hard enamel cookware is coated with porcelain enamel, which is made by melting the porcelain over aluminum, iron, stainless steel or steel. 

But, there’s more to it than just that!

Here I detail what it is, why it’s great and a few things you should be aware of before considering it. 

Hard Enamel Cookware Properties

The porcelain coating makes the cookware unusually strong with low porosity and a scratch-resistant finish. The non-stick finish won’t peel off, even with daily use rigors, and the color won’t fade. 

Cookware can have the hard enamel coating on the exterior and interior, or it can be plain with a non-stick coating on the interior. Hard enamel cookware also comes in a range of colors, designs, shapes and different metal coatings.

Hard Enamel vs Hard Anodized Cookware 

Both hard enamel and hard anodized cookware have their advantages and disadvantages, although hard enamel cookware has been around for a lot longer.

Both sets of cookware are naturally not sticky, easy to clean and can withstand high temperatures without the material leaching. They’re also both made without any harmful toxins.

(Be warned though – hard anodized cookware often has a non-stick coating that may contain Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), the active ingredient of Teflon.)

But, unlike hard enamel cookware made of different materials, hard anodized cookware can be made only from aluminum.

If it isn’t coated or painted hard anodized cookware will be a natural gray. Hard enamel cookware is renowned for coming in a beautiful range of colors.

Enamel vs Ceramic Cookware 

Ceramic cookware is baked in a kiln at low temperatures and is then glazed. It can also be simply a ceramic coating over cookware. 

Enamel cookware can be ceramic, but the real thing “enamel” refers to is the coating—powdered and melted glass coated over cookware. 

This is why you can have enamel cast iron cookware and enamel ceramic cookware, or a variety of others. 

Choosing between enamel and ceramic cookware comes down to personal preference. Ceramic is great for dishes like lasagne or ratatouille, as it’s naturally free of any toxic chemicals, and you don’t have to worry about leeching. Just be careful what glaze you choose as anything containing lead could be toxic. 

That’s why it’s important to always buy from reputable manufacturers.

Enamel cookware is also great for cooking dishes at high temperatures without leaching, as it doesn’t react to the food. What’s more, it retains heat, which keeps food warmer for longer on the table.

Enamel vs Nonstick Cookware 

As you now know, enamel is non-toxic. The risk with many non-stick coatings on cookware is that they may contain toxins that could leach into food. Enamel eliminates this problem from the start.

Porcelain Pans vs Stainless Steel 

Stainless steel is highly durable, but it requires some oil or butter to prevent sticking. They aren’t non-stick, so porcelain pans have the advantage there.

Enameled Cast Iron vs Traditional “bare” Cast Iron

The most common type of hard enamel cookware is enameled cast iron. This takes the traditional cast iron pan or pot and coats it with a layer of enamel.

The Pros and Cons of Hard Enamel Cookware 

Cookware is a part of our daily life, and many people are looking for healthier and longer-lasting cookware options

Before making that final buying decision, it’s best to know the advantages and disadvantages of hard enamel cookware.

Advantages of Hard Enamel Cookware 

Yes, Hard Enamel Cookware Is Safe To Use

I see many people asking whether enamel cookware is safe. If you’ve been wondering this, it doesn’t react to food as bare metals do. This means that you can have one set of cookware that cooks all your favorite meals safely.

The enamel coating that provides a non-stick surface is also free of chemicals like PFOA, PTFE, cadmium and lead.

When the enamel is applied to the cookware, it’s fired in the kiln between 788 and 816°C (1,450 and 1,500°F), fusing the enamel to the base metal (normally cast iron). This forms a very strong bond around the material, permanently sealing in the enamel, which is why your food won’t be contaminated. 

Heat Retention

Depending on the brand of hard enamel cookware you buy, your pots and pans could withstand high temperatures of 260°C (500°F), which is great if you’re looking to braise or sear food. 

You’ll find that the enamel’s heat conductivity is good and that it warms up slowly and evenly. Once the enamel cookware is hot, it will hold the heat well and maintain a consistent temperature. 

Heat Sources

Hard enamel cookware can be used on all heat sources, from stove tops that include gas and electric, to the oven or grill. If the base material is the typical cast iron it can be used on induction stoves.

If you’re into camping, you may even be able to use the enamel cookware in coal or wood-powered ovens. 

If you’re using the cookware in a coal open fire or wood-powered oven, you just have to make sure that you don’t scorch the outside of the cookware with temperatures that are too hot.

It’s always good to bear in mind that hard enamel cookware is best warmed slowly and not to rush the process. Extreme temperature changes risk cracking the enamel.

As ever, make sure to check manufacturer’s guidance on stove types, especially for induction stoves, open fires or high temperatures.

Long-Lasting

When you invest in hard enamel cookware, you’ll have it for many years to come. 

You won’t have to worry about enamel rusting, and it won’t retain any strong odors from something you’ve cooked either.

As with all pots, you have to take care of hard enamel cookware to make sure that you get many years of cooking with it. For instance, most enamel cookware is dishwasher-friendly, but it’s recommended that you hand wash with warm soapy water to be safe. 

It’s also recommended that you don’t use metallic utensils in the pots. Metal can lead to deep scratches in the enamel. 

Disadvantages of Porcelain Enamel Cookware

Enamel cookware sounds awesome so far, right?

It’s not all plain-sailing, especially since some may find it to be expensive. Although, when you look at how long it can last, it does pay for itself over time. 

Here are some other things to bear in mind when you consider buying hard enamel cookware: 

Weight

When you compare the weight of hard enamel cookware to aluminum, enamel cookware is much heavier, making it much less portable and user-friendly.

The weight directly depends on the material. For example, an enamel cast iron pot is heavier than one with stainless steel in its base. 

Thermal Conductivity

Thermal conductivity levels mostly depend on the metal under the enamel.

If you have an enamel pan with an iron base, it will take a bit of time to heat. But, you can get enamel cookware that has a steel base, which will heat more quickly while distributing the heat evenly throughout the pot. 

Chipping and Cracking

The enamel coating can chip or crack on hard enamel cookware. Once that happens, unfortunately, there isn’t any way to repair it.

Yet, it doesn’t need to crack. Treat your enamel cookware with care and you’ll be fine:

  • Hand wash
  • No metal utensils
  • Don’t drop it
  • No extreme temperature changes

What is Hard Enamel Cookware?

You now know that hard enamel cookware is tough, durable and stylish – all at the same time!

If you can afford to spend a little more on hard enamel instead of ceramic or plain metal cookware, you’ll find that your cooking is not only safer but quicker. You’ll also have invested in some high-quality long-term cookware.

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