Today, you’re going to learn about the primary advantages of cooking with a cast iron skillet.
These benefits include:
- Flexibility with different heat sources
- Affordability compared to other materials
- Range of sizes
- And more!
Once you’re familiar with cooking with cast iron, you’ll see immediate results in your kitchen. Let’s get right into the advantage of cast iron skillets compared to other cookware.
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What Is Cast Iron Cookware?
Cast iron cookware, including skillets, refers to a range of products made from iron that has about 3% carbon, give or take a percent, and trace elements of some other minerals.
The result is a material with excellent heat retention, sturdiness, the ability to handle hot temperatures for a long time, and surprisingly good nonstick capabilities.
Why Is It Better To Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet?
Cast iron offers several advantages over other cookware options.
First, it works well with almost any heat source, from electric or gas stove tops to open fires. They even work with induction cooktops, which heat and cook things faster than traditional stoves.
Cast iron is also more affordable than many competing materials. While prices vary by company, you can often find a good cast iron skillet for less than $50 or even lower if you’re looking for something that isn’t seasoned.
As if the low price point wasn’t good enough, cast iron skillets will last for literal generations if you care for them properly. They’re extraordinarily durable, and the seasoning process means they only get better over time. That makes them an outstanding long-term investment for families.
As a solid metal, cast iron is nearly impervious to damage unless you go far out of your way to hurt it. Even if you do, there’s a good chance you can work it back into shape and continue using it as before.
Another advantage of cast iron skillets is that they’re available in many sizes and thicknesses to suit different needs. Some people are happy with a thinner one, while other people want to get something a little thicker.
Regardless of thickness, cast iron is suitable for serving food, so you can transfer it straight from the oven to a hot pad on the table. This avoids the problems of fiddling around with other containers, and as a bonus, the hot pan will keep the food warmer for longer while you’re serving it.
In short, cast iron is an excellent material for many families. It’s so good that some other cookware uses cast iron as an interior component, even if they cover it with enamel for better non-stick performance.
Is Cast Iron an Advantage or Disadvantage?
Overall, cast iron is an advantage for most kitchens. It’s easy to clean once you know how, with a naturally nonstick surface that gets better over time. It also holds heat well once it’s warm, though it can be slower to heat up than some other materials. On top of that, its affordable price point makes it easy to fit into a budget.
However, cast iron does have a few downsides to consider. It’s heavier than most other materials, and people with mobility issues may find it harder to use. It also leeches a little iron into food, though most people won’t notice a difference from this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about cooking with cast iron.
Is it healthy to use a cast iron skillet?
Yes. Cast iron is a healthy option for many foods, especially because you don’t need much oil to make them work. Cast iron skillets will leech a small amount of iron into food, especially if you’re cooking something acidic in them for a long time, but this isn’t nutritionally significant for most people.
What are the disadvantages of cast iron?
The main disadvantage of cast iron is its weight. Solid metal is tough and heavy, and if you’re not careful, you could end up damaging a stovetop by dropping cast iron onto it. Some people may also find that cast iron is hard to move easily.
Cast iron isn’t as non-stick as some other options, so it takes more work and effort to clean. However, it also tends to significantly beat those materials in longevity, so cast iron’s characteristics aren’t entirely negative.
What foods are cast iron bad for?
Cast iron is good for meals that include things like meat, vegetables, eggs, and assorted breads. However, it’s not as good for acidic foods that will absorb far more iron flavor. Dishes involving a lot of tomatoes, vinegar, wine, or lemon juice may taste a little off if you cook them in cast iron.
Cast iron can also be a bad choice if you want to simmer something for a long time. It heats up and cools down slower than some other materials, so it can be harder to adjust the temperature when you need fine control.
How does cast iron compare to other materials?
Aluminum is a popular, lightweight material for skillets. It’s cheap and distributes heat well, but doesn’t retain temperature nearly as well as cast iron. Aluminum is also bad with acid, so they need a barrier to protect them from food. Another advantage of cast iron skillets here is that aluminum doesn’t work with induction stoves.
Copper is heavy and tough, but it’s also quite expensive. You can expect to spend significantly more on a copper skillet than a cast iron one. Like aluminum, copper is reactive to acids and doesn’t work well on induction stoves.
Stainless steel is about 75% iron. It’s less dense than copper, but still quite durable. Unlike aluminum and copper, stainless steel doesn’t react with acid. However, it’s also one of the worst choices for distributing heat, so some manufacturers layer it with other materials to try and improve performance.
Carbon steel is a relatively new material, and it’s both thinner and lighter than cast iron. However, it doesn’t distribute heat as well or hold the temperature for as long, so it has lower performance overall.