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Cast iron pot vs. clay pot?

 
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RuthE9778



Joined: 04 Dec 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Washington D.C. or thereabouts

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi All! I've been a C&Z reader for some time, but first time in the forum! I want to ask for a cocotte or dutch oven, but I'm not sure what the advantages of an enameled cast iron pot are versus an enameled clay pot, a la Emile Henry or the like. Does anyone have any advice? As much as I'd LOVE a Staub Cocotte like the one our fearless leader owns, such a pricey request would inevitably be laughed at. Is enameled cast iron such a necessity that I should just suck it up, save up my own dough, and ask for a coffee pot instead?
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ruth and WELCOME! I might be wrong here but Iwould think a cast iron enamelled pot/dutch oven can be used on the stovetop as well as theoven while a clay based one might not hold up on the stove. If I'm not right here---I just KNOW the truth will will out! Very Happy
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KYHeirloomer



Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Posts: 552
Location: Central Kentucky

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are advantages and disadvantges to enamaled cast iron vs. raw iron.

The number one advantage of enamaled is aesthetics. Most people think it looks nicer. Second is ease of clean-up. You can put it in the dishwasher, or submerge it in a sink of soapy water.

Downsides include the fact you have to be careful not to chip it. And, over time the enamal tends to crack and craze. Furthermore, if you do a lot of searing and browning, enamaled iron isn't as suitable as raw. But, on the other hand, it's great for times when acidic foods (like tomato sauce) will spend a long time in the pot.

Raw cast iron has to go through a curing and seasoning proceedure. And the cure must be maintained. If you do that, however, it is the next best thing to non-stick cookware, without the drawbacks and dangers of such coatings.

Negatives are aesthetics---many people think it's ugly. And it's not recommended that acidic foods be cooked in them for long periods.

FWIW, clay pots are not enamaled. The are glazed. It's actually a glass coating which liquifies at very high temperatures. It is not recommended that glazed pots be used directly over a flame. For stovetop use a diffuser is recommended. That or you have to work at a very low flame.

To show the difference, my unglazed tagines are used both on top of the range and in the oven. But my glazed ones are only used in the oven.

Another downside to clay, of course, is its fagility. They break easily.
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clotilde
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Joined: 24 Sep 2004
Posts: 443
Location: Paris, France

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forums, Ruth!

I agree with the points David and KYHeirloomer have made, especially in regards to the stovetop vs. oven only difference.

Another big difference between clay and cast iron also has to do with heat conduction: cast iron takes longer to heat up, but once hot, it will conduct the heat in a much more powerful yet gentle way, making it ideal for stews and slow-cooked dishes.

I speak from my own experience, of course, but my cast iron cocotte is the single piece of equipment I use the most in my kitchen. It is, indeed, a pricey investment, but it is one that will last several lifetimes.

And one of the happy consequences of this sturdiness is that it's okay to buy a used one from a garage sale, or on eBay. (I got my second cocotte on the French eBay for 20 euros, about $25 -- as a bonus, it is nicely seasoned, and nothing ever sticks to the bottom.)

In short, I think a cast iron pot (enameled or not) is absolutely worth saving for. And when you're ready to take the plunge, just make sure the whole thing is ovenproof: some recent Le Creuset models have a handle on the lid that does not withstand high temperatures, and that can be a pain.

Let us know what you decide!
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RuthE9778



Joined: 04 Dec 2008
Posts: 3
Location: Washington D.C. or thereabouts

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent! Thanks for the advice, everyone! I was pretty much coming round to the conclusion that I would just save up for a Staub, but as I was doing some searching for a teapot for my mom for Christmas, I saw Emile Henry had a type of dutch oven that I thought might possibly work well. I didn't know about the difference in heat conduction, though, and I like the idea of a gentle heat much better - there are few things more disappointing than discovering that after hours of slow cooking, you've actually over-done your food!
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Barbara



Joined: 13 Nov 2004
Posts: 899
Location: Gold Coast Australia

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in favour of the cast iron. I bought mine a couple of years ago and now wonder how I ever lived with out it.
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melinda



Joined: 01 Oct 2004
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Location: Richmond, VA, usa

PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

you can get really reasonable cast iron pots at hardware stores.....
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birgit



Joined: 31 Jan 2005
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Location: Germany

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

... or you could buy a cast iron wok, which is not as pricey and even more versatile (for smaller portions). The lid is not as tight fitting, but here it's possible to improvise Very Happy
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KYHeirloomer



Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Posts: 552
Location: Central Kentucky

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As big a fan as I am of cast iron, I don't recommend it for woks.

Cast iron woks are initially appealing. But, they are heavy, they take two days longer than forever to heat up, and they don't heat the way woks are supposed to.

The best woks are carbon steel, which takes a cure similar to cast iron, but which heat quickly, and operates the way a wok should.

In the United States, at least, the best deals on cast iron cookware are found at flea markets, garage sales, and antiques malls.
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clay vs. Cast Iron, I say both. Why limit yourself.
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birgit



Joined: 31 Jan 2005
Posts: 247
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Protest! Wink
Cast iron wok might not work as woks preferably do, but for an affordable cast iron pot they're fine, nevertheless.

Clay pots are working better (e.g. meat gets much more succulent) in the non glazed version because of better water circulating possibilities.
But they're more delicate and tend to break more easily, that's why they're harder to find nowadays.

In case you're looking for a glazed clay pot, you might consider as well moroccan tagines or spanish cazuelas.
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KYHeirloomer



Joined: 21 Aug 2007
Posts: 552
Location: Central Kentucky

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Birgit, I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say.

Are you suggesting that a cast iron wok be used as a pot, instead of as a wok? That might work on top of the stove, but I'd be leery about the stability of a round-bottomed vessel in the oven. Plus, for braising, their lids don't fit tightly enough.

Tagines are available in three general forms: unglazed, glazed cooking, and glazed serving.

Serving tagines should not be cooked in, they're not designed for that purpose. Most of the time you can tell because they're highly decorated.

Glazed cooking tagines are either plain, or only slightly decorated. They should never be used on top of the stove without a heat diffuser, or they're liable to crack.

Unglazed tagines can be used either directly over a low flame, or in the oven.

Of course, the best would be to have one of the special charcoal ovens they're designed for in the first place.
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birgit



Joined: 31 Jan 2005
Posts: 247
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KYHeirloomer wrote:
Are you suggesting that a cast iron wok be used as a pot, instead of as a wok? That might work on top of the stove, but I'd be leery about the stability of a round-bottomed vessel in the oven. Plus, for braising, their lids don't fit tightly enough.


Yes, exactly Smile
I've got one with flatted bottom, so it's no problem to put it into the oven (BTW, it heats quite okay when used a "wok", but this may be because I'm cooking on a gas oven). If I had to choose just one pot, it would be this cast iron wok, it's so useful! You can start a dish by frying some ingredients, and then transfer it into the oven for further braising. I've even baked the no-knead bread in the wok. For a tighter fitting of the lid you can improvise with a wet piece of cloth wrapped around the lid before placing it on the wok. Some aluminium foil works fine, too.

Quote:
Glazed cooking tagines are either plain, or only slightly decorated. They should never be used on top of the stove without a heat diffuser, or they're liable to crack.

Unglazed tagines can be used either directly over a low flame, or in the oven.


The clay pot I was talking about is the Römertopf, which was highly popular in this country, as far as I remember, in the 70s. It has to be submerged in water before cooking for at least 15 minutes, which prevents breaking. As well it's better to avoid sudden differences in temperature. And it's not possible either to use it on top of the stove. Later they started to sell a glazed version which is less delicate and still the one mostly available when buying a "Römertopf", but the unglazed version is much better.
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