Cast Iron, the Original Nonstick

Le Creuset skillet

When we first “tied the knot” a dozen or so years ago, we purchased an inexpensive set of cookware at Target. Budgets were tight and cooking wasn’t such a passion. All the pieces were coated with teflon for a non-stick finish, even the sauce pans. Overall, the pans worked well and held up to frequent use. Concern over the safety of teflon began to emerge a few years ago. Pans heated to 500ยบ C could emit toxic fumes. According to Cook’s Illustrated, it was fairly easy to get to that temperature quickly when cooking over high heat. We began to consider other alternatives.

As I become enamored of cooking and my husband ran out of gift ideas, finer cookware became a common and welcome present to be gleefully opened. Now, I have a nice set of All Clad stainless steel cookware and an ever growing variety of Le Creuset cast iron.

I still have a few teflon coated fry pans that are needed for crepes (or 49ers). We also cook eggs and egg whites daily, so a non-stick pan is needed for that, but does the non-stick have to be teflon? Some folks have suggested going back to the original non-stick, cast iron. I’ve tried cooking eggs in my Le Creuset skillets with the inner black, matte finish. It works okay, but not as well as teflon.

I was at a Le Creuest outlet in Gilroy, California in January and I believe I saw skillets with the shiny enamel finish on the inside. I didn’t buy one at the time and searched for them when I got home. Either I was mistaken or they don’t normally sell fully enameled skillets. My Le Creuset french oven and deep saucier clean up so well, I wondered if fully enameled skillets would fare as well. Since I could not find new Le Creuset with the shiny enamel interior, I decided to check eBay. I found a vintage Le Creuset pan on eBay that had the shiny enamel finish. I decided to buy it and give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well it works for eggs. It’s a small pan, about 9″ in diameter, so it’s not too heavy. With a spray of canola oil, I preheat the pan on low. Once it reaches a suitable temperature, I add the eggs. It works well enough for scrambled eggs, perhaps a higher heat might be more suitable. I’ll have to play with that. It does an amazing job on eggs over easy. The eggs do not stick at all. Once I flip the eggs over, I turn the heat off and let the residual heat finish cooking the other side for perfect eggs. Clean up is a breeze, just like teflon.

I’m not sure if other cast iron manufacturers make fully enameled skillets with the shiny interior. It would be a wonderful addition if they did.

2 Comments

  1. drew on April 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Cast Iron Rocks!

    I made your 49er recipe using a $10 cast iron pan from a hardware store, and they turned out perfect. We even make eggs in the cast iron pan now, so the Teflon saute pans have been permanently retired.

    Granted this particular pan has a beautiful black patina, as it has been used almost daily for five years. It never leaves the stove and never needs more than a little hot water simmer and a brushing to clean (neither were needed for the 49ers).

    Anyway, for anyone thinking about cast iron, I say go for it! The only caveats are the weight (it’s very heavy) and you have to remember not to touch the hot handle after taking it from the oven with braised meat or the perfectly cooked pizza. They make nice silicone slip-on things that help with this.

    p.s. thanks so much for the perfect pancake recipe of my dreams! I can’t wait to make them again and would say they were even better than OHP, only because we could use real maple syrup rather than the sticky corn syrup variety they offer.

  2. Laura on June 25, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I picked up a Coussance enamel interior egg skillet from a thrift store so you might look for that brand as well. They are beautiful vintage pieces ๐Ÿ™‚

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