Which cast-iron pot is best?
Cast iron was first invented in the fifth century B.C. Craftspeople in China poured iron into molds to make weapons, cookware and hand tools, many of which can still be seen in museums across the globe. Today, cast-iron pots are made in a similar process and can be found in kitchens all across the United States.
For a cast-iron pot that is as functional as it is beautiful, the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Signature Braiser is a good choice.
What to know before you buy a cast-iron pot
Type of pot
- Braisers: Braisers are perfect when you want to cook a roast or other type of long-simmering food with just a small amount of liquid. The design of a lid keeps moisture in and returns it to what you’re cooking.
- Cast-iron skillets: Deep frying, cooking over a campfire or creating perfectly crispy hash browns? You need a skillet. Use a skillet to make perfect cornbread and biscuits, too.
- Cast-iron Dutch ovens: For soups and stews, a Dutch oven is the best. These are perfect for cooking in lots of liquid.
- Cast-iron woks: Cast iron works well for this style of cooking that uses high heat and speedy frying to keep vegetables bright and fresh.
The size of the cast-iron pot you choose depends on your storage space and how many people you’re serving. Cast iron is heavy and requires room, so if you have a smaller space, but still routinely make dinner or special meals for large groups, consider getting a set of more than one.
Sizes range from single-serving 8-ounce pots to 5 quarts or more.
Cast iron for use over a campfire is necessarily left plain, but for use indoors you have more options. Enameled cast iron covers the interior of the pot as well as the exterior, with multiple color choices for the outside of the pot.
This finish also means you don’t need to worry about seasoning. It’s essentially nonstick.
What to look for in a quality cast-iron pot
Because of the weight of a cast-iron pot, there must be handles. These can help you safely maneuver a fully loaded pot on the stove.
Bonus points if these handles are heatproof. Cast iron gets hot and stays that way for a long time after it’s off the stove or out of the oven.
If you opt for cast iron that is not enameled, pre-seasoning takes the work out of using your pot. A factory pre-seasoned pan has a thin coat of oil baked into the surface to make it nonstick right from the start.
The lid of your cast-iron pot keeps splatters out and moisture in the food. Some have ridges designed to return condensation on the lid back into the pot.
How much you can expect to spend on a cast-iron pot
Cast iron can be remarkably affordable or wildly expensive. The price varies based on the size of the pot and the brand, with pots available from $50-$400.
Cast-iron pot FAQ
Why is cooking with cast iron good?
A. Cooking with cast iron comes with a variety of benefits.
- It’s useful on all types of cooktops: It can be used in ovens and on every cooktop, from gas to induction.
- It adds a vital nutrient to your diet: Uncoated cast iron adds a small amount of iron to whatever you are cooking. This is especially beneficial if you are iron deficient or anemic.
- Cast iron retains heat: Chicken gets crispier and your searing is better in cast iron because the surface gets hot and holds heat.
- It’s nonstick without chemical coating: When properly cared for and seasoned, cast iron rivals nonstick pans in its easy release.
- It lasts forever: It may not actually last forever, but it’s certainly more durable than many other pots.
- Cast iron is affordable: Especially when compared to high-end cookware, cast-iron pots offer a solid performance at an affordable price.
Can cast iron be cleaned in a dishwasher?
A. Although your enameled cast-iron pot, and even your raw cast-iron pots, are technically safe in the dishwasher, this is not the recommended way to clean them. When it comes to raw cast iron, cleaning your pot with any kind of detergent removes the seasoning. This means you then need to re-season the pot before its next use.
And although enameled cast iron does not require seasoning, frequent trips through the dishwasher with even the mildest detergent eventually causes the enamel to flake. Likewise, utensils and other pots and pans rattling in the dishwasher can cause the enamel to chip or flake.
Stick with hand-washing to keep your pots in top shape.
What’s the best cast-iron pot to buy?
Top cast-iron pot
What you need to know: This 5-quart braiser is the perfect pot for special gatherings.
What you’ll love: Its heirloom quality is unmistakable. It’s beautiful enough to serve from. It comes in three other sizes and 12 colors.
What you should consider: It’s very expensive.
Top cast-iron pot for the money
What you need to know: Simmer soups and reduce sauces in this perfect lidded cast-iron pot.
What you’ll love: It has a domed lid that self-bastes and features two drip-free pour spouts. The 2.5-quart capacity is big enough for sauce work but small enough to store easily.
What you should consider: Some users found they needed to season it frequently to keep food from sticking. It’s also very heavy relative to its size.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is useful for a variety of applications, and it’s made by one of the most trusted brands in cast iron.
What you’ll love: The wide, shallow shape makes it versatile for frying, braising or one-pot meals in the oven. It’s oven-safe to 500 degrees. It’s enameled and available in eight colors and a 3-quart size.
What you should consider: Because it’s shallow, it doesn’t work for soups or larger cuts of meat.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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