You should choose your kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware very carefully, not because it is particularly prone to scratching, because it is not, but because it tends to chip if banged. Chipping of enameled cookware occurs when the enamel surface is shocked sufficiently to break the bond with the metal.
This type of cookware is becoming very popular again, largely because of the bright colors and designs in which it is available, unlike the dark raw cast iron versions that look unexciting even though they appear traditional and functional. Another reason is that is easy to clean, and tends to look cleaner and fresher than the more tradition seasoned cast iron cooking equipment.
An enameled pot, pan or skillet eliminates the need for seasoning, which involves treating bare cast iron with fat or grease at high temperatures to render it nonstick with a good cooking surface. While seasoned cast iron can withstand high temperatures, its enameled cousin is more heat sensitive although it is still resistance enough for normal cooking duties. The main advantage of enameling is that the surface is rust-resistant and can be produced in a large variety of colors and patterns.
Enameling on cookware involves mixing silica, or glass, with pigments, painting it onto the iron surface using a liquid medium and then baking it, effectively melting the silica and bonding it onto the metal surface. This provides a hard glassy surface that can resist scratches, but can be sensitive to knocks that can chip the enamel. Enamel is not painted as most people believe but melted glass/silica mixed with pigments.
Enameling offers protection from leaching of the iron into the food while cooking, and while it was popular in the middle of the 20th century, it was largely superseded by aluminum and stainless steel until recently when it made a comeback. It is important to understand how enameled cookware is made to understand the best implements to use with it.
Kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware are best not to be too hard because, although it is very scratch resistant, as stated previously it can chip. For that reason wooden and plastic kitchen implements are best, followed by silicone and then stainless steel. The latter should be used carefully so that it doesn’t knock against the enameled surface. Scraping should be OK, but a knock can cause damage because the bond between the fused silica and the iron is not tremendously strong, particularly if highly pigmented.
The problem with wooden kitchen implements, of course, is that they are not available in a large range of tools. Wooden spoons are common, and so are spatulas, but ladles and slotted spoons are very difficult to source in wood. They are available online, but not in nearly the range in which metal tools are. Plastic is more common, though even here you will have to be careful what you use.
Some of the softer plastic kitchen utensils can bend while in use, and of course, they will be damaged if they come into contact with very hot surfaces, and if left in the pan some can even melt. It gives a new dimension to the term ‘plastic food’! A solution to that could be the newer silicone kitchen utensils, although they are more expensive than normal plastic. Silicone is more heat resistant (up to 900F in some cases) and resilient, and perfectly safe for use with enameled cast iron cookware. It will neither scratch nor chip the enamel.
Nothing can be more annoying that spending a lot of time cooking a fabulously delicious dish and then for the plastic spoon or spatula to melt into it because you forgot to lift it off the pan. We have all done something like when frying food on a frying pan or skillet, but while you just get a burn with a stainless steel kitchen tool, plastic melts. Wood is fine, so use that whenever you can, but make sure that you give it a good clean by rubbing salt into the pores to prevent any bacterial growth.
In conclusion, then, if you have gone to the expense of purchasing expensive pots and pans, it makes sense to buy the most appropriate kitchen utensils for enameled cast iron cookware you can. That might not be the most expensive or even the best looking, but it should be the least likely to chip your pans when you are a bit heavy handed when using them. Don’t worry about scratches, because enamel is pretty tough, but what you have to think off is not the enamel surface but its bond to the metal. That is what can come apart if too much sudden pressure is applied. Enamel chips – it rarely scratches.
Try to avoid metal kitchen tools, therefore, unless you are very careful with them, and wood, plastic and silicone are preferred even if plastic looks cheap. A good compromise is to use wooden kitchen implements when you can get them, and either plastic or silicone for those that are harder to find in wood. Your enameled cast iron cookware deserves the best treatment you can give it, so take the care necessary to provide that. Choose a dutch oven for your kitchen by reading http://www.cookware-solutions.com/