Cast Iron Cooking: What’s the Difference?
There are many types of cast iron cookware available today. Some are made from high quality stainless steel while others have been produced using cheaper materials such as aluminum or even plastic. All these different types of cast iron cookware differ in their properties and characteristics, but they all share one thing in common – they’re not good at retaining heat very well! They won’t keep food hot enough to cook it properly. If you want your food cooked evenly, then you need to use a nonstick pan.
How do I know which type of cast iron will work best for my needs?
There are several factors that go into choosing the right type of cast iron for cooking purposes. These include the following:
The Type of Cookware You Need To Know About
How Much Heat Does Your Food Require?
Heat retention is one of the most important aspects when selecting a suitable type of cast iron for cooking purposes. If you don’t have enough heat to maintain a proper internal temperature, then your food won’t get cooked properly. For example, if you’re making macaroni and cheese, you’ll want to use cast iron that retains heat well so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of your pot. The same goes for cornbread or any other bread that requires high heat while cooking.
Is Drainability an Issue?
If your food tends to produce a lot of liquid when it’s cooked, then you should look into whether or not cast iron will work well in your kitchen. Pots and pans made from quality cast iron will be able to contain the liquid, but some varieties will leak quite a bit. This isn’t usually a problem while the food is cooking, but it can cause a big mess on your stove top.
How Will You Clean It?
Some cast iron cookware requires special treatment in order to keep it looking nice and prevent it from rusting. If you’re going to be storing your cookware or leaving it out for long periods of time, then you need to make sure that it’s not going to rust.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
Finally, cost is another thing you’ll want to take into consideration when looking for a new type of cast iron cookware. High quality cast iron can be quite expensive, but it lasts a lot longer and will save you money in the long run. Good quality cast iron also heats up quickly and retains heat well which helps to cook your food evenly.
Cast Iron Care and Maintenance
Caring for your cast iron cookware is very easy, but it is essential if you want to prevent it from rusting. Here are a few tips that will help you care for your cast iron cookware:
1) Clean Your Cast Iron After Every Use
After every use, it’s essential that you clean your cast iron cookware. Don’t let it sit overnight because it will begin to rust if you do. While it’s still warm, wash it with warm, soapy water and a stiff brush. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry it completely.
2) Oil It Thoroughly Before Storing
When you’re ready to store your cast iron for the night or before you put it away for the day, be sure to rub a thin layer of oil all over the inside of the pan as well as the outside. This will prevent it from rusting and ensure that it doesn’t get damaged while in storage.
3) Give It an Oil Bath Once a Month or So
If you use your cast iron cookware on a regular basis, then you’ll only need to oil it once every one to two months. If it’s been awhile since you used your cookware, then you should oil it more frequently at first until you get into a rhythm.
4) Do Not Use Soap to Clean It
You should never use dish soap or any other abrasive cleaner on your cast iron cookware. These cleaners can take the protective layer off of your cookware and cause it to rust.
Cast Iron Cookware Safety
While cast iron is a very durable and safe material for cookware, there are certain safety concerns that you should know about. If you stick to the tips listed below, then you won’t ever have to worry about your cast iron cookware causing any harm.
1) Cast Iron Should Never Be Heated Up Empty
You should never let your cast iron cookware get hot before adding anything to it because it could potentially crack the surface of the cookware. Cast iron can withstand high temperatures, but only when they are applied gradually.
2) Cast Iron Can Get Very Hot!
While cast iron may be durable, it can still cause some serious burns if you’re not careful. This is especially true for the handles which can get especially hot. Be sure to use oven mitts when touching your cast iron cookware and always make sure that you’ve properly set it down before touching it.
3) Cast Iron Shouldn’t Be Used With Aluminum
Aluminum and iron have a strong chemical reaction with one another. If you have aluminum in your cookware, then it can potentially cause your iron to rust which will ruin the entire piece. If you’re shopping for a new piece of cast iron cookware, then make sure that the seller doesn’t list aluminum in the material description.
Cast Iron Cookware FAQs
Can cast iron be used on glass top stoves?
A. If you have a glass top stove, then make sure that you check with the manufacturer to see if it is safe to use cast iron on it before doing so. You can also try to use a cloth between the stove and the bottom of the pan to prevent it from being scratched.
Is seasoning required for new cast iron cookware?
A. While seasoning isn’t necessarily required for a new pan, it is highly recommended. The seasoning process helps to seal the surface of the pan so that food doesn’t stick and it also helps improve the non-stick properties.
How should I go about cleaning my cast iron cookware?
A. You should use only hot water to clean your cast iron. Do not use any soap or other abrasive cleaners. If there is any burnt on food, you can put some water in the pan and set it over a medium-high heat on the stovetop and the sediment should loosen after several minutes. When the water has evaporated, wipe out any remaining sediment with a paper towel or soft cloth. You can also season the pan after cleaning it to restore its non-stick properties.
What happens if I cut my hand on the cast iron cookware?
A. Cast iron is pretty durable, but cutting your hand on it can still be pretty dangerous because of how deep the laceration can go. The best way to handle this is to immediately run hot water over the wound and then get to a medical professional as soon as possible.
How do I restore a well-used cast iron pan so that it isn’t so sticky?
A. If your cast iron cookware has become sticky over time, then you’ll need to restore it. The best way to do this is to carefully sand down the stickiest areas to make them smooth again and then thoroughly clean the pan before reseasoning it with vegetable oil.
You can also try placing a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil into the pan and heating it up on the stove before wiping out any excess oil and then repeat this process several times.
Of course, you can also just reseason the pan with a thin coat of oil.
What is the difference between enameled and coated cast iron?
A. Enameled cast iron refers to pieces that have been coated in a hard enamel material. This type of material will chip or crack if you drop the cookware, but it is still incredibly durable and will not erode or flake off. Coated cast iron, on the other hand, is coated with a more fragile material that can erode and flake off if you don’t take proper care of it.
Is cast iron difficult to keep clean?
A. It really just depends on how you use your cast iron cookware. If you cook something that leaves a sticky or tacky residue, then you’ll have to clean the cookware before the residue hardens. You can do this by soaking the cookware in water and some lemon juice and then gently scrubbing it with a stiff brush.
If food doesn’t stick or cake on to the surface too much, then you shouldn’t have to do any extra cleaning and can just wipe out the pan with a damp cloth after use.
What is the best way to store my cast iron cookware?
A. Cast iron should be stored in a dry place where it is protected from extreme temperatures. Storing the cookware in a heated space can cause the metal to expand and you may find that your lids no longer fit. Storing in a cold place can cause the metal to contract, which can also cause the lids or covers no longer fit.
If you are storing cast iron cookware for an extended period of time, you should coat the inside with a thin layer of oil so that it doesn’t dry out and start to erode.
Should I use stainless steel or tinned cookware?
A. This is really up to you and your personal preferences. Cast iron cookware can often be cheaper than other types of cookware, especially if you buy the enameled cast iron, but it is a little heavier. Other types of metal cookware tend to be lighter than cast iron, but they are also generally more expensive.
Cast iron cookware is incredibly durable and lasts a lifetime, so if you were looking to buy new cookware, you would only need to buy it once.
Other types of metal cookware can start to erode and flake after just a few uses if you don’t take proper care of them.
Most types of metal are also easily damaged if you drop them, so if you’re the clumsy type, then cast iron may be a better choice for you.
Which is better, vintage or new cast iron cookware?
A. It really just depends on what you’re looking for. Newer cast iron tends to come pre-seasoned which makes it useful and ready-to-use straight out of the box, but the older vintage pieces are often cheaper, more stylish, and made to a higher quality standard. It really comes down to your own personal preferences.
Which is better, a skillet or a dutch oven ?
A. Another tough question. It really just depends what you want to use it for. A skillet is best for cooking things like eggs, pancakes, or a quick stir-fry, but it only has one flat side so you won’t be able to cook things evenly or thoroughly if you’re trying to cook something like a roast which needs to be cooked evenly on all sides. It’s best for dishes that only need to be cooked on one side or that only require a little bit of stirring.
A dutch oven is great if you’re cooking stews, slow cooking briskets, boiling crabs, or anything else that needs to be cooked evenly on all sides and goes from the stove top straight to the oven. It also comes with a handy lid so you can use it for things like steaming vegetables.
What if I only have a glass top non-stick cooktop?
A. No problem! Cast iron is great to use on these types of cooktops since it’s designed to be used on any type of cooking surface and you don’t need to worry about scratching the non-stick coating.
Should I use metal, wood, or plastic utensils?
A. For non-stick cookware, you should only use plastic, wood, or nylon utensils as metal can easily damage the non-stick coating.
For all other types of cookware, you can safely use any type of utensil.
Are cast iron pans oven safe?
A. Yes, most cast iron pans are oven safe, but make sure to check before putting it in as not all cast iron is designed to go in the oven.
I have spots on my non-stick pan, what should I do?
A. If your pan does develop spots from food or anything else, you can try using some coarse sandpaper to gently remove them. Be careful not to damage the non-stick coating though.
In case your pan does develop a hole in the non-stick, you can use it as a meditative exercise in controlling your anger and not destroying your kitchen…. or you can just buy a new one. Your call.
Are there any types of foods I should avoid cooking in cast iron?
A. Some foods are known to leach iron from cast iron cookware and into your food, so if you’re pregnant or have a fetus that hasn’t developed a taste for non-blood sources of iron yet, you might want avoid cooking those foods in your cast iron cookware. These types of foods include:
Bran and other fiber-rich foods (don’t these just pass right through you anyway?
Also, acidic foods such as tomatoes, oranges, lemons and other citrus fruits should also be avoided since they can cause your pan to deteriorate.
Are there any types of food I should avoid cleaning my cast iron cookware with?
A. If you have a enameled cast iron pan, never clean it with anything abrasive as this can damage the enamel.
For all other types of cast iron, you can safely use a mild soap to clean it. No need to scour it or anything like that though. If it’s really dirty, you can even boil water with a little bit of baking soda in it to give it a more thorough cleaning.
If you cook items that have a lot of burnt on food or other caked on material, you can scrub it out with a sponge and some kosher salt.
How do I take care of my cast iron cookware?
A. In addition to using your common sense when it comes to cooking, there are a few additional things you can do to make sure you get plenty of use out of your cast iron cookware.
-Wash it by hand using only hot water and a mild soap.
-Dry it immediately after washing to prevent water spots from forming.
-Coat the entire inside with a thin layer of animal or vegetable oil to prevent rusting.
-If there are any rust spots, you can gently scrub them off using a scouring pad and some sandpaper.
-If the outside of your pan has started to rust, you can sand it down and re-season it. Just be sure to wash off all the sandpaper dust afterward.
6) I have an old rusty (or non-rusty) cast iron pan that I found in my grandmother’s basement.
Is it worth anything?
A. If you’re extremely lucky, then it might be worth something to a collector. The older and more primitive the better.
The more likely scenario is that it’s just an old cast iron pan that isn’t worth anything. Cast iron ware was very common back in the day, especially in poorer households where other types of cookware weren’t as readily available.
Just because it has some rust on it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worthless. If the pan only has a little bit of rust or patchy coloring here and there, then you can probably clean it up pretty nicely and be on your way. Still, if you don’t think you’ll use it all that much, then I’d advise you just to throw it away. If you do decide to keep it, remember to season it before using it.
Now if your pan is severely rusted, or there are deep chunks of cast iron missing from it, then you should just throw it away. There’s no way you’d be able to restore such a pan back to its former glory, so there’s really no point in keeping it.
If you come across a large cast iron pan (or skillet) with a cover, you may have a treasure on your hands. Cast iron pots and pans such as these are known as “Dutch Ovens” and they’re very popular with campers and outdoorsman. If it’s in decent shape, you might be able to get a good price for it at a yard sale or flea market.
What are the big differences between new cast iron and old cast iron?
A. The main difference between new and old cast iron is the manufacturing process. Modern cast iron pans are made by pouring molten metal into a mold, letting it cool down, and then finishing it by hand. While this method works well for mass producing cookware, it doesn’t allow for much customization.
The older method of casting allowed for much greater customization. This process involved pouring the molten metal into a mold, allowing it to cool down, and then finishing it with a file, by hand.
The main reason you see many old cast iron pans with a rough finish is because the original manufacturers couldn’t be bothered to take the time to smooth out the cookware. Some people actually prefer to use pans that have this kind of “character”.
These days it’s quite rare to find old cast iron pans. This is because of two major events that happened in the last hundred years:
The Great Depression was a tough time for many people, and some cast iron manufacturers went out of business. Since it was cheaper to manufacture large quantities of standardized products rather than small quantities of customized products, many manufacturers switched over to the newer mass production method. If they hadn’t gone out of business, they would’ve had to invest large amounts of money into restructuring their factories. World War II happened, which involved the usual bombing of industrial complexes, and more economic hardship on the general population
modern cast iron tends to be a lot smoother than old cast iron. It also tends to only come in a few standard sizes and shapes. Along with this, there are slight differences in thickness from pan to pan. (Some will be thicker than others)
Do not mistake the differences in manufacturing process for inferior quality. Modern cast iron is every bit as strong as old cast iron, if not stronger due to more advanced casting techniques. It’s also just as easy to take care of.
The main thing you need to remember is that modern cast iron tends to be thicker. This doesn’t matter too much though, just keep the thickness in mind when you buy new cookware. You don’t want to get a pot or pan that’s so thin that it’ll flex and bend when you cook with it.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effect of different oil-on-water cooling conditions on tool wear in turning of compacted graphite cast iron by C Wang, H Lin, X Wang, L Zheng, W Xiong – Journal of Cleaner Production, 2017 – Elsevier
Study of specific energy and friction coefficient in minimum quantity lubrication grinding using oil-based nanolubricants by P Kalita, AP Malshe, SA Kumar, VG Yoganath… – Journal of Manufacturing …, 2012 – Elsevier
Formation of deposits from thin films of mineral oil base stocks on cast iron by SI Tseregounis, JA Spearot, DJ Kite – Industrial & engineering …, 1987 – ACS Publications
Sliding Wear Behavior of Cast Iron: Influence of MoS2 and Graphite Addition to the Oil Lubricant by BK Prasad, S Rathod, MS Yadav, OP Modi – Journal of Materials …, 2011 – Springer
Investigation of the tribology behaviour of the graphene nanosheets as oil additives on textured alloy cast iron surface by D Zheng, Z Cai, M Shen, Z Li, M Zhu – Applied Surface Science, 2016 – Elsevier
Lubricated sliding wear behavior of a cast iron: effect of graphite and/or talc fraction in oil by BK Prasad – Journal of materials engineering and performance, 2010 – Springer
Sliding wear response of cast iron as influenced by microstructural features and test condition by BK Prasad – Materials Science and Engineering: A, 2007 – Elsevier
Antiwear performance and mechanism of an oil-miscible ionic liquid as a lubricant additive by J Qu, DG Bansal, B Yu, JY Howe, H Luo… – … applied materials & …, 2012 – ACS Publications