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August 13, 2012 6:46 PM   Subscribe

Can I leave an empty enameled cast iron kettle on a hot woodstove?

I grew up with a kettle on top of the woodstove to keep the air from being bone dry. I remember it always having water in it. I'm gearing up for this winter, and wondering what will happen if I let it run dry. If the kettle is enameled cast iron, it shouldn't have any problem with the heat, right?
posted by daboo to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
The enamel can crack/pop. I have a few spots about an eighth of an inch across in the bottom of my enameled cast iron pot where bits of the enamel just popped off when I accidentally turned on the wrong burner and heated it for a few minutes completely dry.

On a very low heat you might be OK. I put ceramic bowls of water on top of my radiators in the winter for this purpose.
posted by enn at 6:57 PM on August 13, 2012

Looks like this is a no-no with enamel - under the "Oils and Fats" section, Le Creuset says that boiling enameled cast iron until it's dry may damage the enamel.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:57 PM on August 13, 2012

Very interesting - not what I would have guessed, as I've seen several stoves made out of enameled cast iron.

What about the same question with just a plain cast iron kettle?
posted by daboo at 7:07 PM on August 13, 2012

I wouldn't worry about the enamel kettle. Any setting that you would be likely leave the stove burning at for several hours probably won't be hot enough to hurt the enamel. If you run the stove hot enough to hurt the enamel, you'd to be adding wood fairly frequently, so you'd have the opportunity to check the water level.

With the plain cast iron kettle, no worries at all.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:25 PM on August 13, 2012

But plain cast iron will rust. It has to be seasoned. If you're using it as a room steamer, I'd say re-season every two weeks.
posted by Marky at 10:53 PM on August 13, 2012

Maybe a copper kettle?
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:53 AM on August 14, 2012

My parents did this last winter with their wood stove - they kept an enameled dutch oven on the stove, with some water in it to humidify the air.

The enamel flaked off, and the pot is now pretty much useless for cooking.

Places that sell wood stoves will have cast-iron kettles designed for humidifying... search for Kettle Humidifier. Amazon has a few models for sale from $20.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 AM on August 14, 2012

Depends on the construction of the stone. Enamelled stoves are double skinned; the enamel casing is not directly in contact with the firebox so is not subject to either the high heat, or the high rate of heating which could cause damage.

The top of many stoves, however, are often designed to cook on and can be the hottest external parts of the burner. This would probably boil any water off fairly rapidly and could then damage the enamel.

I'm not an expert though; lack of moisture has not been a problem in Scotland recently.
posted by BadMiker at 5:37 AM on August 14, 2012

Use a cast iron kettle and you might like stand it on some sort of cast iron trivet so it's not getting the full heat, you want a soft steady boil not a rolling boil so it takes longer to dry out. I have melted the enamel on an expensive enameled cast iron dutch oven simply making apple butter that I let simmer too long and too hot, so I'd be hesitant to let one heat without anything in it.
posted by wwax at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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