Pros: Even heating; withstands very high heat; very non-stick; easy to clean; elegant; wide and shallow
Cons: Can’t go in dishwasher; heavy; wish it held just a little more
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
First posted 5/10/2005
Review item courtesy of Lodge Manufacturing Company
Cast iron usually isn’t my first choice of cookware for several reasons: it isn’t non-stick; it’s heavy (I have tendonitis in my hands); and it can’t go in the dishwasher. Thankfully, Lodge’s new enamel-coated line takes care of most of these issues!
I recently got my hands on one of their two-quart enamel-coated casserole dishes for review, in apple green (it’s actually quite an elegant and beautiful thing, despite the fact that it isn’t usually my favorite color). The design is an oval shape, wide and shallow, with a handle at each end; a stainless steel inset in each handle bears the Lodge logo.
I love the wide, shallow design. After all, many casseroles wind up with browned, crusty toppings–which are the best part!–and this allows more of the casserole to come out that way. I also find this a little easier to lift, particularly because of the wide handles, although you definitely need both hands and I still let my husband move it in and out of the oven for the most part.
Two quarts is barely enough for most casseroles, I find; I usually prefer dishes that are two and a half quarts just because they allow a little more room for error and help to avoid spill-overs. However, I think most reasonably-sized casseroles will fit in this.
The quality of the enamel coating is part of what I love most about Lodge’s enamel-coated line. In the past I’ve used Le Creuset enamel-coated cast iron (admittedly bought quite a while ago, so if they’ve improved their coating in recent years I can’t address that) and it was definitely inferior. It wasn’t as slick, so it didn’t clean as easily nor release food as easily. It also didn’t stand up all that well to metal utensils. In contrast, it’s hard to imagine this coating wearing down any time soon. We made cornbread in it and it slid out of the pan without any help at all (and an oval cornbread loaf just looks cool!).
Speaking of cornbread, that’s one of my tests for cast iron. Pretty much the only reason we’ve kept our Le Creuset skillet around is in order to make cornbread in it. If you put a cast iron pan in the oven to preheat at nearly 500 degrees, add oil and heat that for another couple of minutes, then add the batter, reduce the oven heat to normal baking temperature, and bake your cornbread, you end up with a loaf of cornbread that has the most amazingly crunchy, delicious bottom and sides. I had to find out if this would still work with the slick, impressive enamel coating of the Lodge pan, and it worked like a charm! (Hmm, speaking of which, I still have cornbread in the fridge. I think I should wrap this up and go have a snack.)
I love the way this pan heats evenly, holds heat and keeps your casserole warm until you come back for seconds, releases food with ease, and cleans like a charm despite the fact that you should wash it by hand (harsh dishwasher detergents can eventually wear down the coating). It’s elegant, the wide and shallow design is perfect for giving you more of the browned topping that’s so delicious on most casseroles, and it makes the niftiest oval loaf of cornbread.
What more could you want?
Well okay, I wish it could go in the dishwasher on general principle, I wish they could come up with a way to make cast iron lighter for those of us with hand problems, and I wish it held just a little bit more. But in good conscience I can only take about half a point off for those, so consider my rating to be 4.5.
Postscript: I had to edit this review to add something; I can’t believe I forgot to mention this originally! We recently reviewed a cookbook called “The Fearless Chef”, and one of the recipes nearly caused a kitchen fire (the review of that cookbook explains in great and loving detail). So I can now happily report that the Lodge enamel-coated cast iron casserole not only can survive a fireball–it looks exactly the same afterward as it did beforehand, with absolutely no ill effects! This isn’t a test I’d normally apply to a piece of cookware, but there you have it.