I’m all for grilling, but there’s something about cooking over and eating around an open fire, something simple and wholesome, that grilling can’t provide. Though sticks and stones may be the most basic and handy tools for this type of cuisine, enamelware is certainly the most common man made equipment for it, and with good reason.
Composed of a hard vitreous glaze melded at high temperatures to a metal substrate, enamelware is extremely durable, shatterproof, heat and rust resistant, non-reactive, and easy to clean. Because the enamel lends strength and rigidity to the substrate, the metal used can be thinner than it would be for uncoated metal objects, making enamel lightweight and portable as well.
Certainly all of these qualities make enamelware an excellent choice for use over and around a hot fire in the great outdoors, but they make it a pretty good choice for daily casual dining, too. Unfortunately, though there was a time—spanning nearly two centuries—when utilitarian enamelware could be had in virtually any color of the rainbow, the advent of plastics brought all but a few manufacturers to their end, leaving us mostly with the choice between red, green, blue or black—all with white speckles.
While these may not fit into any kitchen, they’re not bad to look at, and if you’re vigilant, it is possible to find a little more variety. Aside from current manufacturers, there are a few artisans hand-making beautiful enamelware (check out Kiln Enamel and Etsy) meant for actual use, though I’m not entirely certain how good I’d feel about throwing a $50 or $250 bowl on the fire. And, because enamel is so robust, there are tons of vintage pieces around, many of them rather affordable, and most of them still perfectly usable and fire-pit ready.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.