I want to use a KitchenAid enameled cast iron dutch oven for stir frying Asian style. Are there any issues with using it for stir frying? I am a cooking newbie, and want to find healthy cooking options for others in my family who cook.
I wouldn't do it, for a few reasons :
- Cooking over extreme heat can damage the finish of enameled cast iron. It will typically cause discoloration if you have a white interior, and it may cause crazing (fine lines all over the place). It can also soften the enamel enough to fuse he pan to the stove.
- The high sides of a dutch oven hold in steam, which will change how the food cooks.
- It's more difficult to keep things moving in a large pot to ensure even cooking when cooking over high heat.
You would be better off just using a skillet, and working in batches and re-combine everything when done.
Do not use an enameled Dutch Oven for stir-fry. But you can do it with a non-enameled heavy cast-iron one.
The secret to guaranteed great kitchen stovetop stir-fry is essentially to heat a heavy-duty cast-iron Dutch oven as hot as possible. Specifically:
I have a well-seasoned Lodge, heavy-duty, 7-quart, cast-iron Dutch oven. It is an indoor-kitchen model without the legs or loop-handle the outdoor models have. It's not enameled, just black iron. But it's very heavy-duty, and that is the secret.
I use a laser thermometer gun to keep track of temperature/timing.
I put the clean, empty Dutch oven on a burner and turn the burner on all the way. Then, I wait at least 25 minutes as the iron heats up. Yes, 25 minutes (or even a bit longer), with nothing in the pot. Use a timer for best results. It takes this long to build up to its highest possible temperature (about 760F in the middle). The hotter the better.
When I prepare something to be stir-fried this way, I add the oil & flavorings (soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha sauce, etc---Whatever particular combo of flavorings the dish requires) on top of the stuff (cut veggies or meat) in a large bowl, along with a sesame oil/peanut oil combo, again, poured on top.
When I'm ready to stir-fry, I pour all the ingredients to be fried, plus oil and sauce in together, simultaneously. No need to stir in the bowl, they'll be mixed when you stir in the pot. Not putting the oil in ahead-of-time avoids unnecessary (and dangerous) spattering.
Stir with a long-handled spoon or other long utensil. It is smart to wear oven-gloves if you are afraid of burning yourself. It's super hot. Be careful and alert around it, and you should have no problems.
Stir-fry meat separately from most veggies, for best results (if you do the meat first, as I do, you can pour it, still-warm, in with the veggies right at the end (as veggies finish), frying them all together very briefly, before putting the finished dish in a serving bowl.
After cooking, while the Dutch oven is still hot, I pour in a couple cups of water to cover the bottom keep the cooking residue hydrated for easier cleaning later on.
The long pre-heat period gets the Dutch Oven to a temp that is hot enough to truly fry the food, and not just steam-boil it, as is the case with regular frypans and thinner woks when used over a regular stovetop burner. Try it -- it is a revelation. The flavor is identical to a professional Mongolian stir-fry or Chinese restaurant.
But do not use an enameled Dutch oven, only a heavy cast-iron one.
I don't think there is anything wrong with using a dutch oven for stir fry, but the warnings about using enamel in high heat is something you should take note of. Enamel Dutch Ovens are the predecessors of slow cookers and should generally be used as such.
Lodge has a 14 inch cast iron wok which is one of my favorite cooking tools, especially for stir fry. They also have non enameled dutch ovens if you are looking for a multi-purpose tool. Make sure you get one big enough for the size of your family. My 5 qt dutch oven barely makes enough food for 5. I never have enough stew even when the liquid level is brought to within a 1/2 inch of the top. I haven't yet, but I need to add a 7 qt oven to my arsenal.