A black cast iron pan on a brown wooden table surrounded by mixed spices.

Is Cast Iron The Best Cookware? A Deep Dive Kitchen Guide

Is cast iron the best cookware? In this deep dive kitchen guide, we’ll take a closer look. I, for one, always need choices hence of course cast iron cookware has to make my cook war, oops, cookware paraphernalia.

I have fought the good fight, roughing through the plethora of information out there then shoveling the relevant bits into readable bite size portions for you. So, pull up a chair and let’s get started!

Difference between cast iron and ceramic cookware

Don’t get me wrong, cookware made from cast iron or ceramic can be similarly effective for cooking. They are both quite durable and can withstand high temperatures without breaking however, there are some key differences between the two materials. Cast iron is made up of carbon and iron and it gets its name from the process in which it is made.

Cast iron cookware is made from pig iron [1] that has been melted and then poured into molds. Some are then treated with a coating of enamel or porcelain to prevent rusting.

Ceramic cookware, on the other hand, is made from clay that has been fired in a kiln [2]. It is non-porous and usually has a glazed surface. When it comes to cooking, cast iron pots and pans tend to be better at evenly distributing heat. They are also less likely to stick than ceramic cookware. However, ceramic pots and pans are less likely to rust, and they don’t require as much care as cast iron cookware.

Which is better cast iron or enameled cast iron?

An orange enameled pot and skillet side by side on a black table.

Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries and is prized for its durability, versatility and heat retention properties [3]. Enameled cast iron is a newer option [4] that offers many of the same benefits as traditional cast iron pots and pans. So, which material is the better choice?

When it comes to durability, both cast iron and enameled cast iron are extremely tough and built to last. However, enameled cast iron may have a slight edge in this department since it is not as prone to rusting as traditional cast iron. As far as versatility goes, both materials can be used on a variety of cooking surfaces, including gas, electric and induction cook tops.

They can also be used in the oven or on the grill. When it comes to heat retention, both materials excel however, enameled cast iron does tend to retain heat slightly better than traditional cast iron.

So, which material is the better choice? Both traditional cast iron and enameled cast iron have their pros and cons but as always the final decision comes down to personal preference.

Why cast iron cookware is better?

While there are many different types of cookware available on the market, cast iron remains a popular choice for both home cooks and professional chefs. Despite its heavy weight, cast iron is an excellent conductor of heat and can be used on a variety of cooking surfaces, including stovetops, grills, and even campfires.

In addition, cast iron is very durable and is unlikely to scratch or chip with regular use. Perhaps most importantly, cast iron cookware is naturally non-stick (well, most times) and becomes more so with each use. As a result, it is an ideal choice for cooking delicate foods such as fish and eggs.

For all these reasons, it is no wonder that cast iron cookware continues to be a kitchen staple.

Cast iron skillet vs. frying pan

A man pouring oil into a frying pan, while placing it on a glass stove top.

Here’s a look at the key differences between these two types of cookware:

Cast iron skillet

Cast iron skillets are generally thicker and heavier than frying pans, which gives them better heat retention and distribution properties. They also tend to have lower sides, making them better for cooking thick cuts of meat or large quantities of food.

The downside is that they can be difficult to maneuver and require more care when cleaning.

Frying pans

Frying pans, on the other hand, have sloped sides that make them easier to toss food or turn over smaller items. They’re also lighter and easier to clean than cast iron skillets. Though, they don’t retain heat as well and can warp more easily if exposed to sudden temperature changes.

So, which is the right choice for you? It depends, if you’re looking for a versatile pan that can handle both large and small jobs, a cast iron skillet may be the way to go. But if you want something that’s easier to use and clean, a frying pan may be a better option.

Cast iron skillet vs. grill pan

A black grill pan with 4 sausages, with herbs and garlic in the background.

Cast iron skillets are typically used for frying, whereas grill pans are better suited for grilling. Grill pans have raised ridges that help to create evenly grilled food, while cast iron skillets do not have these ridges. This means that cast iron skillets are more versatile and can be used for a wider range of recipes.

On the other hand, grill pans are easier to clean because the raised ridges help to collect any grease or food particles. When it comes to choosing between a cast iron skillet and a grill pan, it really depends on what you will be using it for. If you plan on doing a lot of grilling, then a grill pan is the better option. Still, if you want a versatile tool that can be used for multiple purposes, then a cast iron skillet is the way to go. 

I adore using both as some drool-worthy meals call for grill and others for frying, I like having the variety at my taste buds, I mean fingertips 🙂

How to clean black residue off cast iron skillet

3 black cast iron pans placed one on top of each other, with a light blue scourer in the smallest pan.

The black residue that you are seeing is most likely carbon buildup. When cast iron is heated, the carbon is oxidized and turns black. While it may seem like the black residue is difficult to remove off cast iron, it is fairly easy to address and below are different ways to go about it.

Method 1: Soap and water

The first step on how to remove black stuff from cast iron is with soap and water. Use mild dish soap and scrub the cookware with a sponge or brush. Rinse the soap off with clean water and dry the cookware with a towel.

Method 2: Vinegar and salt

If soap and water doesn’t remove all of the residue, you can try using vinegar and salt. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt onto the affected area. Next, pour vinegar over the salt until it is saturated. Use a sponge or brush to scrub the cast iron.

Rinse the vinegar and salt off with clean water and dry it off.

Method 3: Baking soda

Another option if you want to know how to clean a cast iron skillet is with baking soda, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the affected area. Next, pour water over the baking soda until it is saturated.

Use a sponge or brush to scrub the cast iron then rinse the baking soda and water off with clean water, don’t forget to dry it.

Method 4: Commercial cleaner

If you want to use a commercial cleaner, look for one that is made specifically for cast iron. Apply the cleaner according to the instructions on the label. Rinse the cleaner off with clean water and dry.

Once you know how to get rid of black residue on cast iron pan, it is important to season the cast iron. This will help to prevent future buildup and create a non-stick surface.

How often do you season a cast iron skillet?

A black cast skillet while being seasoned for cooking use. Placed on a light brown wooden board, with a brush and oil placed in the skillet.

Seasoning is an important part of caring for a cast-iron skillet – trust me, I learnt this the hard way due to the time my cast iron skillet started to smoke! This should be done whenever the pan starts to look dry or rusty. The best way to season a cast-iron skillet is to rub it with a thin layer of oil, then bake it in a preheated oven for about an hour as explained above.

It’s important to note that cast-iron skillets should be washed with soap on rare occasions, as this usually strips away the seasoning. Instead, rather scrub it clean with hot water and a stiff brush or use the above options to clean.

How to season cast iron cookware

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Rub a thin layer of vegetable oil on the cookware with a paper towel
  3. Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour
  4. Turn off the oven and allow the cookware to cool in the oven
  5. Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel.

Cast iron skillet blotchy after seasoning

One common problem is that the skillet becomes blotchy after seasoning, with patches of rust appearing on the surface. There are a few possible causes for this:

  • Make sure that the skillet is clean and dry before seasoning. If there is any residue left on the surface, it can prevent the seasoning from sticking properly.
  • The skillet should be heated slowly and evenly before being seasoned. If the skillet is heated too quickly, the oil can become unevenly distributed and cause blotches.

What is the best oil for seasoning cast iron cookware?

There are a few different types of oil that can be used for seasoning cast iron cookware, but the best oil to use is one that has a high smoke point. This includes oils such as vegetable oil, peanut oil, or canola oil [5]. The high smoke point means that the oil can be heated to a higher temperature before it starts to smoke, and this helps to create a stronger bond between the cookware and the seasoning.

In addition, the high smoke point also helps to prevent the formation of sticky residues or deposits on the surface of the cookware. For these reasons, oils with a high smoke point are the best choice for seasoning cast iron cookware.

Can you put butter in a cast iron skillet?

A portion of lamb fillet cooked in a cast iron skillet, with butter as a cooking base.

It’s actually pretty easy to cook with butter in a cast iron skillet. The key is to use high-quality butter and to heat the skillet over low heat so that the butter doesn’t burn. When the skillet is heated, add the butter and swirl it around until it melts. Then, add your food to the skillet, and cook as usual.

The butter will help to create a crispy, golden brown crust on whatever you’re cooking. Just be sure to keep an eye on the heat so that the butter doesn’t burn. And when you’re finished cooking, be sure to clean the skillet thoroughly so that the butter doesn’t go rancid.

When to throw away a cast iron skillet

Your cast iron skillet can be one of your most prized possessions however, there may come a time to give up your old friend and invest in a new one. Here are a few signs that it’s time to say goodbye:

  • The surface is severely cracked or chipped. Over time, cast iron skillets can develop cracks and chips in the surface. While minor damage can typically be repaired, large cracks and chips can make the skillet unusable.
  • The seasoning is “off.” Seasoning is what gives cast iron its ‘non-stick’ properties. If the seasoning starts to become sticky or tacky, it’s time to re-season the pan or replace it altogether.
  • It’s rusted, busted and disgusted. Rust is the enemy of cast iron, and even a small amount can render the skillet unusable. If you see rust on your pan, it’s best to toss it and start fresh.

Can cast iron go on glass top stove?

A black cast iron pan with a egg being fried on a glass stove top.

Cast iron cookware is popular as it can be used on a multiplicity of cooking surfaces, including gas, electric, and glass top stoves. While cast iron is generally considered safe for use on glass top stoves, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Does cast iron scratch glass cook tops?

Yes, so always use a glass top stove protector for cast iron such as a trivet or heat diffuser. This will help to distribute the heat evenly and prevent the glass from being cracked or shattered by the heavy cookware.

How to protect glass top stove from cast iron?

Be sure to use a low heat setting when cooking with cast iron on a glass top stove. High temperatures can damage the cookware and the stove surface.

Are cast iron skillets oven safe?

Can a cast iron skillet go in the oven?

Yes, a cast iron skillet is oven safe. In fact, it is one of the best materials to use for cooking in the oven. Cast iron provides decent heat distribution and retention, making it ideal for baking, roasting, and braising. It is also less likely to stick and considered safer than other materials, such as aluminum or stainless steel.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when using a cast iron skillet in the oven. Firstly, it is important to preheat the skillet before adding food. This will help to prevent sticking and ensure that the food cooks evenly.

Lastly (shoo long list right ha-ha), it is important to use caution when handling a hot cast iron skillet, the handles can become very hot, and so it is important to use an oven mitt or towel when gripping them – ask me, I have the battle scars to prove my point.

Best oven mitts for cast iron

A person using a red and white colored cloth to hold a black cast iron pan.

Cast iron is a popular choice for skillets, Dutch ovens, and baking pans because it heats nicely and holds heat well. But cast iron can be difficult to handle because it gets so hot. I have many cooking battle scars from burns that’s why using an oven mitt is essential when cooking with cast iron but not all oven mitts are created equal.

When you are choosing oven mitts, look for one that is heat-resistant and has a good grip. Cotton and linen are good choices for heat resistance, but they can be slippery. Thus, you may want to consider an oven mitt that has a silicone or rubber coating for added grip.

You’ll also want to make sure the oven mitt is long enough to protect your wrist and arm from the heat of the pan. With these features in mind, you’ll be able to choose the best oven mitt for your needs.

Cleaning cast iron with steel wool

Cast iron can be difficult to clean but can you use steel wool on cast iron? Yes, one way is to use steel wool (it is not exactly the best way if you like to be rough). Steel wool is made of very fine strands of steel, and it can be used to remove rust, built-up grease, and burnt-on food.

When using steel wool on a cast iron pan, it’s important to scrub, gently, in the same direction as the pan’s surface as this will help to avoid scratching the pan. In addition, it’s important to rinse the pan thoroughly after scrubbing it with steel wool to remove any lingering particles.

What are The White spots on cast iron?

These spots are usually caused by mineral deposits from water or food that has been left on the surface for way too long. While they may look unsightly, they will not affect the performance of the pan. To remove white spots, simply scrub the surface with a stiff brush and some dish soap.

If the spots are particularly stubborn, you can try boiling water in the pan and then scrubbing with a paste made from equal parts salt and flour. You can also try the options mentioned above.

How to keep cast iron from rusting

Here are a few tips on how to stop cast iron rusting:

  1. Wash your cast iron with hot water and a mild detergent after each use and be sure to rinse then dry it thoroughly (immediately) to prevent rusting.
  2. If your cast iron begins to rust, you can remove the rust, gently, with a mildly abrasive cleaner like steel wool or sandpaper.
  3. Once the rust has been removed, coat the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil or beeswax to help protect it from moisture.
  4. Store your cast iron in a dry place, such as a cupboard or pantry, to further prevent rusting.
Rusted cast iron pans that are no longer fit for cooking purposes.

Does coke remove rust from cast iron?

This soda contains phosphoric acid, which can dissolve rust [6]. To remove rust with coke, first, let the pan soak in the drink for a few hours then, use a scouring pad to scrub away the rust. Rinse the pan with water and dry it thoroughly. You may need to repeat this process several times to remove all of the rust.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to season the pan before using it to cook as this will help prevent future rusting.

Can you boil water in cast iron?

The thick walls and tight-fitting lid of the Dutch oven help to retain heat, making it an ideal choice for boiling water. Yet, it’s important to note that not all cast iron cookware are made the same way. Some pots and pans are made with thinner walls, which can make them more prone to cracking or breaking when exposed to high temperatures.

Therefore, choose a quality pot or pan if you plan on boiling water in cast iron.

S0, is cast iron the best cookware?

My verdict, cast iron cookware is a great choice for your kitchen, whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned pro, like me (just kidding, I’m more a salty pro-ish).

It’s a hard-wearing, all-rounder and reasonably priced marvel – what more could you want?

I hope this guide has helped you toughen up your knowledge base and make you keener to fight for your right to good cookware. So what are you waiting for? Cast (iron) off!

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Charlene Gallant

Charlene is a lover of good food. She enjoys nothing more than cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing her favourite recipes with her readers. She also enjoys reading a good book.

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