Enamel vs. Ceramic: Making an Informed Cookware Choice

If you’re trying to decide which skillets, pans, griddles, or woks are best for your kitchen, you’ve probably realized that you have a lot of options. In addition to deciding what type of cookware you require, you must also determine the material that makes up the cookware. Two of the most popular materials to choose from are enamel and ceramic.

However, is it possible to place an “eco-friendly” tag on something that poses a risk to users? Although sustainability and good health are inseparable, we rarely consider how the cookware we use can affect the safety of the food we eat. Suffice to say, you may consume beyond what you put in the pot while cooking.

So, what’s the difference between enamel cookware and ceramic cookware? Which is the best option for your kitchen? Discover the answers to these and many more in this comprehensive guide.

What’s Enamel Cookware Made Of?

Enamel Cookware
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Enamel cookware is made by coating a base of iron, steel, or aluminum with porcelain enamel. When presented with a piece of enamel cookware, most of us would recognize it immediately. Of course, there’s the red pot, ready to be filled with a delicious casserole or chili.

Enameled cookware is made of a material called nitride. For the most part, porcelain or vitreous enamel cookware is what you’re looking at when a metal base, such as steel, cast iron, or aluminum is coated with heated glass. This combination combines the metal’s heat conduction properties with the porcelain’s non-stick properties.

Enamel cookware has become popular in recent years, and many people now use it for more than just cooking. This cookware contains no poly- or perfluoroalkyl (PFA) chemicals and is therefore environmentally friendly.

The resulting pots and pans are extremely durable. A good enameled pot can last a lifetime and is easy to clean. Moreover, they can withstand high temperatures (up to 842°F) and are resistant to acidic foods such as tomatoes.

Let’s take a more detailed look into the various forms of enamel cookware in the following sections.

Enamel Cast Iron Cookware

Enamel Cast Iron Cookware
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You’re probably wondering what enameled cast iron is. It’s essentially a modernized version of the centuries-old heavy-duty cast iron. In other words, an enameled cast-iron pan is essentially a regular cast iron pan that has been coated with enamel.

The enamel coating protects your kitchen equipment from various unwanted elements, including rust, and adds a new dimension to your cooking process (enamel cast iron is ideal for slow cooking).

Enamel is extremely durable, imparting high dependability on enamel cast iron cookware as they can last several years. It also means that they can sit on the stovetop longer than usual.

Other benefits of enamel cast iron cookware include their ability to heat quickly and withstand high temperatures, making them ideal for searing meat and other ingredients. They also retain heat well, making them ideal for cooking soups and stews. Finally, they’re great for baking bread and braising.

Porcelain Enamel Cookware

Porcelain enamel, also known as hard enameled cookware, is a popular choice among home chefs because it’s lightweight and functional. Porcelain pans are suitable for various cooking methods and are relatively simple to clean.

Porcelain enamel cookware comprises gleaming pots and pans coated with a slick, pristine, and long-lasting glass layer. On the inside of the cookware, the glass layer is bonded to steel, stainless steel, or aluminum. Interestingly, the cookware is available in a wide range of colors from several manufacturers.

These pots and pans have a coating bonded to the rest of the cookware’s construction. This makes the cooking surface non-stick, eliminating the need for excessive amounts of oil, butter, or cooking spray to prevent food from clinging to the slick surface.

High-priced porcelain enamel cookware outlasts most of the more affordable ceramic coated pans on the market. The coatings on these cookware pieces are seamless. When used properly, the hard, lustrous finish doesn’t corrode, fade, or peel, but it’s prone to scratches if metal utensils scrape hard against their non-stick surface.

When subject to high heat, hard enamel cookware is safe. Even if the pan has been chipped, it’s still safe to use. Suffice to say, it’s a safer and more durable nonstick option than Teflon, cast iron, or anodized aluminum.

You can use enamel cookware for cooking a wide range of foods at various stages. Remarkably, the ability to switch from the stovetop to the oven is a very useful feature of porcelain enamel cookware. For example, you can cook a sauté and then transfer it to the oven to bake a beautiful fish plank in a simmering sauce.

Porcelain enamel was first fired onto iron in the 1800s, creating a pot lining that eliminated iron leaching into food. It’s a combination of kaolin clay and glass fired at extremely high temperatures.

Stainless steel, as well as aluminum, have also undergone fusion with porcelain over the years, resulting in a hard porcelain enamel product that adds to the plethora of cookware options. You can use hard porcelain enamel cookware in the microwave to reheat previously pot-baked dense pasta dishes as well as creamy sauces, as long as it doesn’t cover cast iron or an aluminum core.

Last but not least, the porcelain-enameled cookware is suitable for use on gas, electric, ceramic, and induction cooktops, as well as ovens, campfires, and grills.

Is Enamel Cookware Safe?

The FDA regards enamel-coated iron cookware safe. The inner coating not only makes cleaning easier but also prevents iron from interacting with food’s acidic content, attaching to, or leaching into food.

Enamel coating’s neutral nature accounts for its extensive use in preparing a wide range of foods. They’re also able to retain foods in their fresh state for prolonged periods. Finally, they reduce health risks due to their non-corrosive nature.

What’s Ceramic Cookware Made Of?

Ceramic cookware is a popular choice among consumers due to its appealing appearance and non-stick properties. It’s simple to clean, completely safe for our health, and often marketed as a safe substitute for Teflon.

The ceramic coating provides the benefits of a non-stick cooking surface without the risks associated with PFOA — a potentially toxic chemical used to produce traditional non-stick coatings.

There are two types of ceramic cookware in the market today, as highlighted below.

Pure Ceramic Cookware (100%)

Ceramic cookware is made entirely of clay, minerals, and quartz sand. The mixture is hardened after shape-forming by firing to vitrification at 1915°F. Afterward, glazing is applied to ceramic cookware to create a decorative and waterproof surface.

Ceramic cookware made of clay is also referred to as pure or classic ceramic cookware. It’s the best choice for everyday cooking because it’s long-lasting, scratch-resistant, and simple to maintain. Furthermore, this cookware option is completely safe because it contains no metal materials.

Ceramic Coated Cookware

Another name for ceramic-coated cookware is ceramic non-stick cookware or modern ceramic cookware. They feature a metal base, usually aluminum.

The base comes with a hard film of polymer materials with a ceramic appearance applied to it. Binders, nonstick components, color pigments, and reinforcing agents are included in this coating. The binding agent used is a sol-gel coating that affixes to the metal, giving it a non-stick effect.

This non-stick coating isn’t permanent and deteriorates over time, even with normal use, exposing the metal base. This cookware usually lasts 3–5 years, depending on the level of care and frequency of use.

Is Ceramic Cookware Safe?

Ceramic is non-toxic and offers a decent surface for wholesome cooking. Remarkable among its features is that pure ceramic cookware is resistant to high temperatures in the oven while remaining safe. Moreover, it’s a suitable option if you roast or bake.

Ceramic cookware is a safe kitchen option since it packs non-degradable chemicals, even at elevated temperatures. This cookware option lets you cook various recipes in the oven and on the stovetop. It emits no toxic fumes, even at extremely high temperatures.

Suffice to say, it’s a less hazardous non-stick alternative to Teflon.

What Is the Difference Between Ceramic and Enamel?

Enamel cookware is not only non-stick but also long-lasting, appealing, and heat-resistant. On the flip side, ceramic cookware doesn’t react with acidic foods while aiding wholesome cooking. However, what other differences do they have?

They’re particularly distinct in their manufacturing process. Ceramic is a brittle and dense solid formed by heating a non-metallic and inorganic material at high temperatures to yield a product impervious to corrosion and heat. In contrast, porcelain enamel is a slim powdered glass layer affixed to the surface of a metal at high temperatures.

The term ceramic derives from keramos (means pottery in Greek). Porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware are examples of traditional clay-based ceramics. They differ based on various factors, including the types of additives employed, the firing temperature, and the composition of the clay.

Due to the hard coating, you have the luxury of using metal utensils on both ceramic and enamel-coated cookware from time to time. They’ll, however, impart scratches on their surfaces in the long run.

All pans have drawbacks, and each of these pans has its own set of flaws. Ceramic can chip just like a plate, as the name implies. A very hard fall from the counter to the floor may be all it takes to chip the ceramic coating, but it’s possible. When this occurs, the chip may cause a web to appear on its surface, subsequently cracking the rest of the surface.

Enamel-coated pans, too, can crack and wear down over time, even though they sport the same type of surface coating as coated cast iron Dutch ovens. However, they have a less porous surface, making them easier to maintain than naked cast iron; so cast iron coated with enamel is common. This, too, can crack, especially if a heavy cast iron pot is mishandled.

In cost terms, ceramic pans are the least expensive, while enamel-coated pans are the most expensive.

Enamel-coated pans are expensive because they’re mostly made of cast iron, and cast iron cookware is more expensive than other cookware materials.

Ceramic pans, on the other hand, are decently priced. However, they’re still more expensive than non-stick pans. This is because of the ceramic coatings fused to the pan (usually aluminum but can also be stainless steel) in a process similar to car painting. It begins as a powder and, when fused, produces a slick surface.

FAQ

Porcelain enamel vs. ceramic enamel: What’s the difference?

A general name for porcelain enamel is ceramic enamel. By definition, porcelain is essentially a ceramic material derived from rasing elements such as white quartz, kaolin, steatite, feldspars, and other minerals to high temperatures. It’s important to mention that porcelain is just one form of ceramic, and not every ceramic qualifies as porcelain.

The non-reactive porcelain enamel cookware’s contents (either metals or chemicals) don’t transgress into your food while cooking. They’re well suited for a wide range of recipes due to their extensive heat transfer capacity. You must exercise caution during cleaning to avoid chipping.

However, porcelain and ceramic composition differ slightly because porcelain is less porous than ceramic. An inherent coating on porcelain enamel cookware ensures safe cooking. It’s also more dense and long-lasting than ceramic cookware.

How about hard enamel cookware? Is it safe to cook with enamel?

Yes, it’s safe to use hard enamel cookware. This means you can have a single set of cookware that safely cooks all of your favorite meals. The non-stick enamel coating is also free of chemicals such as PFOA, PTFE, cadmium, and lead.

Enamel cast iron vs. ceramic cookware: What’s the difference?

Cast iron is capable of retaining heat for an extended period, explaining why it’s a top choice for cooking heat-intensive foods like cornbread. The reason behind this excellent heat retention capability isn’t far-fetched. Notably, compared to ceramic cookware, enamel cast iron has a denser and thicker body.

Moreover, cast-iron pots and pans have a higher resistance to erratic fluctuations in temperature. In simple terms, cast-iron pans and pots perform decently well in keeping a consistent temperature.

Ceramic, however, is also very good at retaining heat, but contrary to cast iron, it presents a higher susceptibility to temperature changes. Overall, enamel cast iron pans are ideal for even cooking, eliminating dish texture changes.

Is enamel cookware toxic?

No, it isn’t.

Cooking with enamel cookware is safe because the food won’t react with the metal. Hence, you can cook almost anything in them, including tomatoes and other acidic foods. Because the enamel coating is made of glass, it’s simple to clean.

A Wrap-Up

You now understand that hard enamel cookware is tough, long-lasting, and fashionable all at the same time. If you can afford to spend a little more on hard enamel cookware rather than ceramic or plain metal, you’ll find that your cooking is not only safer but also faster. What’s more, you’re purchasing high-quality long-term cookware.

On the other hand, traditional ceramic cookware is baked at low temperatures in a kiln before being glazed. It could also be a ceramic coating applied to cookware. Enamel cookware can be ceramic, but “enamel” usually means cookware coated with enamel. It refers to the powdered and melted glass coated over cookware, whether cast iron, porcelain, steel, or aluminum.

Personal preference is a major determinant when choosing between enamel and ceramic cookware. Ceramic is ideal for dishes such as lasagne or ratatouille since it’s naturally free of toxic chemicals and doesn’t leech. However, be cautious about the glaze you choose, as anything containing lead could be toxic. That’s why it is critical to only purchase from reputable manufacturers.

Enamel cookware is also excellent for cooking dishes at high temperatures without leaching because it doesn’t react with the food. Furthermore, it retains heat, which keeps food warmer for longer on the table.

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