Porcelain enamel cookware can be a fun addition to your green kitchen, however, not all porcelain enamel cookware is created equal. Here is a rundown of everything you need to know about this eco-friendly cookware coating made from clay.
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It might seem strange to consider porcelain as a green cookware option, but porcelain enamel is not the same as those fragile (and, let’s face it, sometimes creepy) doll figurines some of us had as children.
Porcelain enamel cookware refers to cookware made of aluminum, steel, stainless steel, or iron, coated with porcelain enamel, a type of glass.
- Porcelain enamel is light and strong
- Low porosity means it’s naturally non-stick
- Available in a variety of colors
- Does not fade or peel when used according to instructions
- Easy to clean
- Resistant to stains and scratches
- Some companies coat cookware with chemical non-stick coatings
- Glazes may contain heavy metals and other compounds
- Some types can’t be used over high heat for long periods
- May be prone to cracks
Porcelain is made from baked clay
Porcelain itself is a ceramic material made from a type of white clay called kaolin, plus feldspars, quartz, steatite, and other rocks.
To make regular porcelain, the whole mixture is baked at 1300-1400 degrees. Porcelain enamel is made when the porcelain is melted together with a stronger metal. This makes porcelain enamel cookware both light and strong, with low porosity, so it is naturally non-stick.
Pay attention to porcelain coatings
Oddly enough, though, some companies seem to want to coat their porcelain enamel cookware with chemical non-stick coatings or to use potentially toxic heavy metals and other compounds in glazes and in the enamel mixture. It pays to be picky about porcelain enamel cookware and to ask questions of manufacturers if it’s not clear what they use in their pots and pans.
Unlike somewhat terrifying porcelain dolls that could be extras in a Stephen King movie adaptation, porcelain enamel cookware is a fun addition to the kitchen. That’s because it is available in a variety of colors and does not fade or peel when used according to instructions.
My advice, though, would be to avoid porcelain enamel in reddish tones and to favor those that are blue, given that some Le Creuset models with a red tone have tested positive for lead and cadmium.
The Signature Enameled Cast Iron Braiser (in a blue shade like Marseille or Marine) from Le Creuset is a good option for one-pot meals.
How to choose porcelain enamel cookware
High-quality porcelain enamel cookware has a thick enamel coating that makes it hardwearing and easy to cook with. It is easy to clean, naturally non-stick, and resistant to stains and scratches, as long as it is treated well.
Spotting lower quality porcelain
Lower-quality porcelain enamel has a thinner coating that can crack and chip easily, which significantly affects the cooking experience. Dropping porcelain enamel cookware can also crack or chip the surface. Some porcelain enamel cookware has non-stick coatings, including Teflon, so be sure to check labels.
The best option is either porcelain enamel with a cast iron or stainless-steel interior, or enamelware, which is a type of cookware with a porcelain enamel coating inside and outside.
This coating creates a seamless, non-porous interior that is resistant to acidic food, heat, and humidity. This makes enamelware an excellent choice for baking and roasting, serving, and storing foods.
Avoid using enamelware over high heat for long periods of time as this can melt the coating. Also, be careful to never let the pot boil dry as this can crack the finish.
How to clean porcelain enamel
It is best to clean porcelain enamel cookware right away as the surface can crack and chip if food residues are left to dry inside the pot or pan. Avoid using steel wool scrubbers or other abrasive cleaning items on porcelain enamel. Some porcelain enamel cookware is dishwasher safe, just be sure to check first and to wipe out food residues before putting porcelain enamel in the dishwasher. As porcelain enamel is part metal, it is typically not microwave safe. It may be useable on induction cooktops, though, so is a great option if you’re looking for cookware options in an energy efficient kitchen.
All in all, I’d say porcelain enamel is a decent option for eco-friendly cookware, but you’re much better off with ceramic, cast iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, or metal-ceramic, rather than porcelain enamel.
For more on climate friendly cookware, see our post on PFOA free nonstick pans and check out the eco-friendly kitchen section of the site.
Do you have any examples of Enamel Coated Aluminum Pots?
GreenLife offer a decent range of enamel coated aluminum cookware (view on Amazon). As always, be on the lookout for pots that boast a non-stick coating but don’t say what it’s made from or if it’s PFOA/PTFE-free.
Hope this helps,
Can you give me the best pans to buy please…
Check out my post here: https://www.leafscore.com/eco-friendly-kitchen-products/the-7-best-ecofriendly-cookware-choices/
I have a 1991 Nesco porcelain enamel electric roaster. Does the insert contain lead or heavy metals? Is it safe to cook in?
It’s a good question! I took a quick look at Nesco’s literature and they don’t say much at all about materials used to make their products, so it’s very hard to tell if even the current batch of roasters is lead-free. Your best bet is probably to reach out to them directly with the make and model and see if they had third-party lead testing back in the 1990s. My suspicion is that they won’t have, like many ceramics manufacturers then.
If the enamel on your roaster isn’t chipped and flaking off into food, it’s probably still okay to use it and is certainly more eco-friendly than ditching it for new cookware. If it is chipping, you could take the approach of saving some paint chips and getting them tested for lead and other heavy metals. Let us know if you take that route as we’d love to know the results!
Thanks again for reaching out and happy cooking!
I found a multi purpose brand new pot, rack, steamer/pasta removable insert. Brand lincoware cook and serve which says made from premium quality carbon steel coated with porcelain enamel. The company is no longer in business. Is this cookware safe. Thanks
Thanks for reaching out.
Because the brand is no longer in business, I haven’t been able to find any spec sheets or safety info. If you have any original documentation, you might be able to find more information on the makeup of the coating and any third-party testing or certification.
Your other option is to send some of the glaze for heavy metal testing, though you wouldn’t want to chip away the inside of the pot, so give this some consideration first!
In general, if the pots aren’t chipped, i.e., the glaze is intact, chances are that little to no chemicals will leach from the pot into food. If the pots do start to chip, I’d reconsider their use, especially if you cook acidic foods and/or have young children or other vulnerable members of the household.
Sorry I can’t be of more help with this one!
Are these good for cooking eggs without the pan getting damaged? Would the pan also have to be coated with butter to make the eggs not stick, or will the eggs not sticks even without butter?
Hi, Leigh! Can you possibly weigh in on thinner, steel enameled dishware–such as Falcon Enamelware, just by way of example–in general? I know that it’s not safe to use it if it’s chipped, but is it normally safe if it’s intact? I keep reading that sometimes the finish itself leaches lead and other metals, but how would we know? Thanks, in any case!
Lead has been illegal for use in cookware or serving pieces since the 1970’s. If your equipment was American made and from the nineties, you should be fine. There are lead testers available in many drug stores and many paint stores.
Yep, definitely a good idea to test any old (particularly inherited or thrift store purchase) cookware for lead and resign it to decorative purposes only if levels are high.
And, as you say, anything US-made in the last couple of decades or so should be okay in terms of lead levels. The trouble is that a lot of cookware is imported and it’s sometimes hard to tell where a product was cast and glazed. That’s why we so love third-party test results and manufacturer transparency!
I have been trying to buy a set of cookware that is non-toxic and healthy to cook in. With so much information out there, some of them advertisement really, which set of cookware do you recommend that would be the best for healthy cooking?
Great question! Unfortunately, it’s not an easy answer! The best kind of cookware really depends on the individual. I love my cast iron pans, ceramic bakeware, Pyrex, and stainless steel, but for some folks cast iron is too heavy and a chore to maintain, or the kinds of foods cooked most often are acidic and so not always a good fit for cast iron. Stainless steel or non-reactive Pyrex, porcelain enamel, or other non-toxic ceramic may be better if you tend to cook more acidic foods, but some of these aren’t suitable for induction stoves or for use straight from freezer to oven.
I’d say the easiest cookware set to invest in if you’re starting from scratch is probably a good quality set of stainless steel pans without any plastic or silicon. You can read about the Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Cookware or just jump to our top picks for cookware for more inspiration.
Hope that helps!
Do you have any brand recommendations for enamel stainless steel frying pan?