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Goodbye, Teflon. Hello, Le Creuset.


Making pancakes with Le Creuset enameled cast iron skillet (left)
and Lodge Logic preseasoned cast iron griddle (right).

Raise your hand if you own cookware with a Teflon nonstick coating.
You're not alone.  Nonstick cookware accounts for about 60 percent of all cookware sales.


But there are reasons to do without it.  Particularly if you are trying to not eat plastic.  Even the new-fangled "green" pans have their issues.  It took me many years, but I now no longer use any cookware or bakeware with nonstick coatings.  The final step in this long, long journey I took just a few months ago when I said goodbye to my Teflon skillet.  My 10" Cuisinart nonstick skillet, which I used every other day to make scrambled eggs.



Cuisinart Contour Stainless 12 Inch Skillet with Helper HandleReplacement #1: Stainless Steel

Eggs are the ultimate test of a pan.  I've seen Barefoot Contessa make scrambled eggs in an All-Clad skillet, but I definitely can't make them in my stainless steel skillet without a huge mess.  I know, because I tried that once.  Let me say right here that inexpensive stainless steel does work just fine for cooking many foods (like ground meat) that you probably have been told to cook in a "nonstick skillet."  But more on that in another post. 


Lodge Logic L5SK3 Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron 8-Inch Skillet Replacement #2: Lodge Logic Pre-seasoned Cast Iron

After my stainless steel egg failure, I kept on using my Teflon pan to cook eggs for quite a while.  Eventually I decided to try Lodge Logic pre-seasoned cast iron.  Cook's Illustrated loves pre-seasoned cast iron.  It's always one of their top recommendations for a nonstick pan.  I put off trying pre-seasoned cast iron for a long time because it seemed like a pain to use.  But it's cheap, so I finally dove in and bought 3 different pieces for about $15 each: a 10" skillet, a 12" skillet, and a griddle.  Guess what?  Pre-seasoned cast iron is a pain to use.  At least for me it was. It works fine for some things, but it didn't work that well for eggs, and cooking eggs was its primary purpose. 

My pre-seasoned cast iron pan after making scrambled eggs 
(best case scenario).  More often I had a much eggier mess.  
I almost always had black spots on my eggs.

Here is why the pre-seasoned cast iron didn't work for me:
  • Usually, eggs stuck.
  • Almost every time the eggs came out with black spots on them.  Lodge Logic told me this was the seasoning and that it was safe to eat.  I did not find that reassuring.
  • I had to clean it immediately or the food was even harder to get off and even more of the seasoning came off.  I am not in the habit of cleaning my dishes immediately after using them because I usually have 2 screaming children hanging off of me after I've been cooking for more than 2 minutes.
  • I couldn't let it soak in water.
  • I wasn't supposed to use soap or more of the seasoning came off.
  • I worried about making anything with a sauce (especially acidic tomato sauce), for fear that it would pull off some of the seasoning.
  • Most instructions state that after cleaning, you should pour a little oil in the pan and then wipe off the excess with a paper towel.  As I try not to use paper towels at all, this annoyed me.  I tried using a cloth rag, and it ruined the rag.  Oil is wicked to get out of fabric.
  • Re-seasoning the cast iron involved heating my house with my oven on super high for hours and hours (especially annoying in the summer when you have no A/C) and my entire house smelling like burning oil.  I also had to use 1,000 paper towels during the process.
  • Adding to the drama is that you find contradictory advice about how to use, clean and season cast iron all over the Internet.  I kept thinking if I could just find the holy grail of cast iron instructions, I would have a slick nonstick cast iron skillet.  But that never happened for me.

It was really the black spots all over my eggs that did the pre-seasoned cast iron in.  I was feeding those eggs to my baby, for crying out loud.  Today, the 10" and 12" skillets are in the garage, awaiting re-seasoning since the old seasoning was coming off (onto my food) and I don't feel like re-seasoning them any time soon.  Honestly, I was pretty fed up with the pans when I stuck them in the garage.  I still use the pre-seasoned cast iron griddle regularly:  it works great for quesadillas, burritos, tacos and pancakes (see photo below).


Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillet with Iron Handle, RedReplacement #3: Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron, Black Surface

After my pre-seasoned cast iron debacle, I decided to get serious.  I remembered that when I had first wanted to ditch my Teflon I had read an article in the New York Times called "In Search of a Pan That Lets Cooks Forget About Teflon."  I had read this article with great interest, but the top pick was so expensive, I pretty much wrote it off immediately.  Now, having experimented with the cheap option (pre-seasoned cast iron) and failed, I was ready to reconsider.  It took me a few months, but I finally used all my (and my husband's) Christmas money to buy the pan that would let me forget about Teflon:  Le Creuset's black-surface enameled cast iron 11 3/4 inch skillet.  It cost me over $100.

And I love it!  It came carefully packaged and with a lifetime warranty.  It's made in France.  It really is a lovely piece of workmanship.   The beauty of enameled cast iron is that it gives you all the benefits of cast iron (great heat retention, perfectly seared fish and meat) without the high maintenance.  I can soak it.  I can use soap to clean it.  Heck, it's supposedly dishwasher safe, although, personally, I would never put a $100+ pan through the dishwasher.  You have to take a little care to not ruin the enamel (no metal utensils, don't stack something else directly on top of it), but that's it.  It also weighs a ton, but, you know, that's how it goes with cast iron.  I could have bought a different (cheaper) brand of enameled cast iron, but at this point, I wasn't messing around.  (My husband likes to point out that with all the pre-seasoned cast iron I bought I could have paid for half of the pan I really wanted.)

This is how my Le Creuset usually looks after 
scrambled eggs.  And no seasoning/ black spots on my food.


I use my Le Creuset pan to make:
  • Scrambled eggs!
  • Fried eggs
  • Pancakes
  • French toast
  • Stir fry with fried tofu
  • Fried rice with fried tofu
  • Black bean burgers
  • Hamburgers and turkey burgers
  • Delicate fish
  • Homemade naan

This was one of those times where I actually invested in the durable high-quality item instead of purchasing (and soon enough replacing) the cheap crap, and I am so glad I did!  Since my Teflon pans tended to only last a year or two and cost $10-20 a pop, I will actually break even sometime in the next 10 years.  I hope to pass my beautiful Le Creuset pan on to my children someday.

A few tips for using enameled cast iron:
  • Allow a long, gradual preheat
  • Don't be afraid to use fat
  • If a lot of food sticks, you probably didn't preheat long enough.  Pour in a little water while the pan is still hot and leave it soaking on the stove top.  In 10 minutes, it will be a breeze to clean.

 I often use my Lodge Logic griddle (right) in combination 
with my Le Creuset skillet (left) to make pancakes.


Thinking of Ditching Your Teflon?

Try pre-seasoned cast iron first.  It's so cheap!  And you are probably smarter than I am, and it will all work out fine for you.  I find pre-seasoned cast iron works well as long as the food doesn't stick and you barely have to clean it so that the seasoning stays in tact.  If you decide to season your pan yourself, I would follow these instructions by Sheryl Canter.  After all my web-surfing, that seems like the surest bet to me.  The latest issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine even recommended Sheryl's method!

If that doesn't work, or if you want to skip the trial-and-error, buy the Le Creuset.  You'll thank me for it.

Interested in what else I use?

You can read about ALL my plastic-free bakeware and cookware in this post.]



This post is part of

16 comments:

  1. I've drooled over Le Creuset for years... You may have convinced me to "invest"!

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  2. I totally needed to read this post! Thank you for all the info!!!

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  3. Thank you for this post! I have had the same problems with my cast iron pan and was looking for an alternative for cooking eggs. I think I willl invest in le Creuset!

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  4. To all of the above, do it! Save yourself from misery and just buy the Cadillac.

    I would also like to add that before buying the pricey Le Creuset, I consulted with my friend Lys (who worked as a chef once!!!). She told me that she has one piece of Le Creuset and that it is her favorite to cook with. And, yes, it was very expensive. That was the final encouragement I needed to make the purchase.

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  5. Hmmmm-I might have to give Le Creuset a try. I have all stainless and everything sticks. Good to hear from someone who actually has used the pots and pans!

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  6. I LOVE my Le Cruset. I now have 2 pieces and they are my favorites. Everything cooks so well in them. For some reason I never though about a skillet! My last hold out for keeping my Teflon pans is too cook eggs. I may be getting a third Le Cruset. Lodge has enameled cast iron as well for about half the price of Le Cruset. I have a Lodge pre-seasoned griddle that I love for pancakes. I wonder how these compare.

    One tip - watch for sales on Le Cruset at Sur La Table. I bought my second Le Cruset - 3 3/4 deep covered skillet - for $100 including shipping. I think it's retails for at least $150.

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  7. I was wondering if you ever seasoned your enameled cast iron skillet before using or just went ahead with eggs(or whatever) right away. I usually find that making omelet or scrambled eggs are really easy(without sticking) in a very heavy stainless steel skillet. But every time I try making eggs sunny side up, it creates a holy mess :)
    I just bought three of the enameled cast iron skillets. I'm wondering if they'd do well with eggs sunny side up without seasoning. And if I do season, I'm wondering how to go about it..

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    1. I've never seasoned enameled cast iron, and as far as I know, you don't need to. They do say that over time a "patina" can develop on the enamel and i have seen some color change. I think sunny side up is far easier than scrambled eggs b/c I find moving the eggs around is what causes the sticking. I've made sunny side up with no problem on both enameled cast iron and preseasoned cast iron (that has been used for other things first).

      No seasoning, but I would definitely use some fat (butter or oil). I'd start with a good amount (tablespoon) until you figure out how much you really need.

      The good thing about enameled cast iron is even if the eggs stick, you can soak it. I usually put some water in while the pan is still hot, and by the time it's cool enough to handle, it's easy breezy to get any stuck-on food off.

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  8. thanks for this info- Do you know if the Le Creuset toughened non stick pans are non toxic and just as non stick as the cast iron enamelled pans? are the enamelled pans safe and completely non toxic too? thanks Melissa

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    1. I emailed Le Creuset once about their enamel on their enameled cast iron. They told me the Le Creuset enamel consists of:
      1 Nitrates
      2. Potash
      3. Agile
      4. Aluminate
      5. Bentonite
      6 Clay

      The coatings are fired on to the cast iron at over 1400 degrees to adhere to the product. They also told me that the really bright exterior colors contain lead (it is necessary to create those brighter colors, but that the interior enamel does not contain lead or cadmium.

      Personally, I only buy cast iron and enameled cast iron made in the USA or somewhere comparable (like France) b/c you are taking their word for it on what the enamel is made of.

      I have never asked about their nonstick, but since it isn't marketed as PFOA-free, I'm guessing it isn't.

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  9. Hi, Betsy! I have a question -- I make pancakes in mine and sometimes they are fabulous, and sometimes they stick a lot (even in the same batch). Any advice? It's driving me nuts having to scrape off a few in each batch.

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    1. I try to always do a thorough preheat and make sure the pan is plenty hot before beginning. I also use butter between each batch, which is my preference for taste as well. If I have a little sticking, I do find it only gets worse (next batch sticks even worse) unless I really scrape it off and grease it well. I'd say the number one culprit for me is not waiting for it to get hot enough. Esp. since I'm always pressed for time. I have an induction stove now (rather than electric coils) and I find the cast iron heats up much faster now which is wonderful. Hope this helps, Laurie!

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  10. Thank you, Betsy, for your thorough reply (especially on such an old post!). I did preheat for awhile, but you're right, it gets worse as I go along. I used coconut oil but next time I'll try something else. What do you scrape it with?

    I don't have an induction (though I would love one!) but I have a glass-top, and heat it to just under medium, then turn it a little lower (not too slow, though). I did re-grease each time, but I didn't scrape off anything that might have been left. I'm terrified of ruining the pan because I had one before and it did get ruined (though the saleswoman at the Le Creuset store said it was likely defective, since she had never seen before what had happened, and I had only made pancakes in it).

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    1. I have a plastic (silicone?) spatula. I don't dare use metal on it and I think it's pretty tough to flip pancakes with a wood spatula. I use wood implements for most other ventures, but plastic (with a nice fine edge) for pancakes/ eggs/ french toast. Scrapes off the bits quite well.

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    2. P.S. I use coconut oil for the long preheat (b/c butter would burn), and then butter between batches. Not sure the type of fat you use matters for sticking, but I think the butter does taste good :)

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    3. Thank you! That is what I was doing (spatula), and will try adding more oil (or butter) between. I appreciate it, Betsy!

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