Lightweight and functional, porcelain enamel cookware is a popular choice for home chefs. However, there are pros and cons to every type of cookware. Cooking methods work better with certain materials, such as a deep pan that holds heat for braising and a sauté pan that will react to the slightest change in temperature so liquids don't burn off too quickly. Porcelain pans work well for many types of cooking methods and are relatively easy to clean.
What Is Porcelain Cookware?
The gleaming pots and pans that are coated with a slick, pristine and durable glass layer are considered porcelain enamel cookware. The glass layer is bonded to the steel, stainless steel or aluminum on the inside of the cookware.
Porcelain cookware comes in a wide variety of colors from a host of manufacturers. Higher-end porcelain enamel cookware lasts longer than most of the affordable ceramic coated pans that you can find on the market. These higher-end porcelain enamel cookware pieces have seamless coatings. The hard, lustrous finish doesn't corrode, fade or peel when used correctly, but it can be scratched if metal utensils are scraped hard against its nonstick surface.
Disadvantages of Ceramic Cookware
The ceramic coating's nanoparticles on the surface of the pan create the nonstick surface. This increases the microscopic surface so that there are areas where the surface isn't fully in contact with the food. Due to the irregular surface, the food doesn't have the opportunity to stick.
While this is a great benefit to ceramic pots and pans, it also makes the cooking irregular. Foods are heated slowly and unevenly, so it isn't ideal for some elaborate culinary creations. Porcelain enamel pans are durable, but they tend not to last as long as stainless steel or cast iron pans. The ceramic coated surface can get scratches and show more wear and tear. For example, metal cooking utensils can't be used on the surface of the porcelain enamel pan because it will scratch and chip away the coating.
High heat is not a friend of these types of pans. When they are exposed to high heat, the excessive temperatures can quickly damage the sensitive coating that makes this cookware so favorable. Egg dishes and simmering sauces work best for the porcelain enamel skillet.
Difference Between Ceramic and Porcelain
They may look a lot alike, but there is a rather distinct difference between ceramic and porcelain. Porcelain is a type of ceramic, but not all ceramic is porcelain. Both types of cookware are great heat conductors but can chip or break if not handled correctly.
The general term to describe any piece made of natural clay hardened by heat and generally given a glaze is ceramic. It's more porous than porcelain. Porcelain enamel cookware describes the coating that is on top of the framework material of the pots and pans.
Porcelain Cookware Pros and Cons
Porcelain enamel pots and pans have a coating that is bonded to the rest of the construction of the cookware. This is what provides the nonstick cooking surface. It eliminates the need to use excessive oil, butter or cooking sprays to keep food from sticking to the slick surface
Ceramic cookware is safe when used with high heat. When the pan is chipped, it is still safe to use. Compared to Teflon, cast iron or anodized aluminum, porcelain enamel cookware is a safe and durable nonstick option.
Versatility of Porcelain Enameled Cookware
Porcelain enamel cookware can be used to cook a wide variety of different foods at many stages. The ability to move from the stovetop to the oven is a highly beneficial part of porcelain enamel cookware. For instance, this cookware can start a sauté and move to the oven to bake a beautiful plank of fish in a simmering sauce.
As long as it's not covering cast iron or an aluminum core, solid porcelain enamel cookware can also be used in the microwave to reheat creamy sauces or dense pasta dishes that have been baked in the pot. The porcelain enameled cookware can be used on gas, electric, ceramic and induction cooktops as well as ovens, and over campfires and grills.
Stovetop Cooking — Porcelain Enamel Cookware
When using porcelain enamel coated pots or pans, low to medium heat creates the best results. A cast iron pot that is covered with a coat of porcelain retains heat naturally and can ruin dishes that break or bubble over to the point of burning.
When searing meats or vegetables on the stovetop, allow the pot to come up to temperature gradually. Brush the inside of the pot with a bit of oil to let the food achieve that quick sear without burning. Use a burner on the stovetop that is nearest in size of the porcelain enamel cookware to achieve the desired temperature in a reasonable amount of time.
Don't allow the porcelain enameled Dutch oven or pan to heat without a bit of water or oil in the bottom. A pan that is dry on the stove can become damaged or prone to chipping or cracking if brought up to a high heat and left unattended for too long.
Cleaning Porcelain Enamel Cookware
Most of the porcelain enamel cookware on the market can be popped into the dishwasher. It is durable enough to handle the harsh environment of the appliance. However, the benefit of investing in an affordable set of porcelain pots and pans is that they are relatively easy to clean by hand.
The nonstick surface can be quickly cleaned with a simple sponge and mild detergent. The swish of the dish sponge and soap will remove most of the leftover food particles that cling to the nonstick surface of the pot or pan. Don't use hard plastic or steel wool on the surface or you may mar the coating.
Enameled Cast Iron Pan Care
After using cast iron porcelain enamel cookware, allow it to cool before wiping out the inside of the pot or pan. Don't use a cleaner with a citrus base because it could dull the exterior gloss.
For stubborn stains, soak the interior of the porcelain enamel cookware with a mixture of bleach diluted in hot water. Leave this solution in the pot for a few hours before wiping clean. You can also boil water with a few tablespoons of baking soda to loosen chunks of food stuck to the porcelain siding.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.