Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel: Which One Is Better
Are you looking for the best cooking pan for your kitchen? It can be quite confusing to choose between a cast iron pan and a stainless steel pan. Are you too confused and want to know which one will be the best in terms of cooking or cleaning? Then you are at the right place. We are here to provide all the details about cast iron vs. stainless steel so that it can help you to find the suitable one for your needs and requirements. There is no doubt both metals are quite popular when it comes to choosing the best cooking utensil or pan. So, to get a clearer view of which one to choose, you have to make sure that you have a complete overview of these two metals. Read on to know more.
Differences Of Materials
If you are wondering why these two are often compared together, then you must know that both cast iron and stainless steel are iron alloys. But there is a difference in the carbon content of the materials. While cast iron contains about 2% to 4% carbon, stainless steel contains less than 2% of the carbon.
Cast iron has quite a long history when it comes to cookware, but it is manufactured in a comparatively low-tech fashion. It mainly contains molten cast iron which is the iron alloy with 2% to 4% of carbon in it. This molten cast iron is then poured into a mold which cools down and hardens into the desired shape. Then it is properly polished, blasted, rinsed, and seasoned/coated as per requirements.
On the other hand, steel is also an iron alloy that contains about 10.5% of chromium in it, along with less than 2% of carbon. In fact, some other elements are also often mixed to produce the stainless steel material which has a strong resistance against rust and corrosion. This material is quite durable in nature and non-reactive too. However, the cookware made up of stainless steel is not just made with stainless steel. As stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat, while making cookware, it is often mixed with some other heat-conducting materials.
Now that you know the differences between these two materials, you have to know the differences they can bring while you are cooking or cleaning. Read on.
Differences When Cooking
Both the cooking pans made up of cast iron and stainless steel are great for cooking. But while the pans made up of cast iron are best for slow cooking or low cooking, the pans made up of stainless steel can be used for cooking everyday dishes.
Cooking With Cast Iron Pans
For different reasons, cast iron pans are best for cooking selective dishes as they can react to acidic foods. Quick cooking of acidic foods is still fine, but when it comes to long cooking, the acidic elements can wear off the seasoning present on the pans made up of cast iron. Also, the cast iron can be quite heavy, so it is a bit difficult to handle as well as it takes a lot of time to even heat up.
Having said all these, cast iron cooking pans are still a preferable option for many because of the flavors that they can add to the food. With time, a cast iron cooking pan which is seasoned properly can develop a glossy patina that can produce a non-stick surface (not 100%).
When cooking in your cast iron cooking pan, you have to preheat the pan before you start to cook. If you add the foods to the cast iron cooking pan when it is still cold, it can cause the foods to stick. But as mentioned above, heating the pan can take some time. So it is better to start heating at the medium-low heat, and then you can gradually increase it. Also, once the pan is fully heated, it can retain the heat better than the stainless steel.
Cooking With Stainless Steel Pans
As for the stainless steel pan, cooking is quite easy and breezy. It takes only a few minutes to get completely heated over the medium heat. Often, as mentioned earlier, the pans made up of stainless steel are combined with some materials that can conduct heat effectively. Aluminum and copper are often layered over the stainless steel to offer better conductivity of the heat for easier cooking. These metals are either placed at the pan’s bottom or right in the core of the pan. This results in quicker heating and even distribution of heat so that you can cook without any hassle.
There is an advantage of cooking on the stainless steel pan over the cast iron as most of the pans made up of stainless steel are non-stick in nature. As the surface is non-stick, the foods don’t stick to the bottom while cooking. Hence, you can do it whether you want a crunchy stir-fry or perfect cooking in little oil. Want to make some cheese omelet? All you have to do is to brush the stainless steel pan with some oil or you can coat the pan with some oil pouring out the extra.
The best thing about cooking in stainless steel is the versatility that the pans offer. You can cook all types of foods in pans made of stainless steel. Right from making an omelet to sautéing some vegetables to making sauces and searing scallops, you can make all types of dishes on the pans made up of stainless steel. You can use this for cooking everyday dishes as well as some fancy dishes.
Differences When Cleaning
When you are comparing the pans made up of cast iron vs. stainless steel, you have to compare their cleaning and maintenance process too. Of course, they are quite different from each other and so is their cleaning or maintenance process. Technically, the pan made up of cast iron doesn’t need cleaning with soap and water. But it definitely needs more maintenance than that of the stainless steel pan.
Cleaning Of Cast Iron Pans
First of all, a bare cast iron cooking pan needs proper seasoning right after your take it out of the box. When the cast iron is brand new, take some soap with warm water to clean it properly. But cast iron cooking pans don’t commonly need washing with hands. The first wash is actually needed for removing any substance or debris that can be left behind while manufacturing.
You have to hand-dry the cast iron cooking pan and don’t leave it to dry on its own. This can lead to rusting. Once the pan is hand-dried, you have to start seasoning the pan properly with oil. Also, you have to clean the cast iron and oil it properly after each use. You can use a paper towel to clean the excess oil and food bits stuck on the pan and give it a good rinse under some hot water.
Cleaning Of Stainless Steel Pans
On the other hand, cleaning the stainless steel pan is quite easy. While most of the manufacturers provide a label mentioning the cleaning and maintenance techniques, they are not as complicated as the cast iron one. You can wash the cookware made up of stainless steel with soap and water normally. You can use warm water along with soap for cleaning with a soft sponge if there is a lot of grease or tough stains. Make sure to dry the stainless steel cooking pans before you store them in their place.
Why Stainless Steel Pan Beat Cast Iron?
While there are a lot of differences in terms of cooking and cleaning, the pans made up of cast iron and stainless steel has a lot in common too. Both are quite versatile and durable in nature while adding a great sear to the foods. But when it comes to choosing one from these two, the answer is – Stainless steel. Why?
There is no doubt that cast iron cooking pans are classic in nature, and if they are properly maintained, they can last for a lifetime. But there are some disadvantages too. First of all, pans made up of cast iron are too heavy to handle every day. The cleaning and maintenance are quite complex and require a lot of time and effort. Also, it takes a lot of time to get heated, so you have to wait before you actually start to cook.
But on the other hand, stainless steel cooking pans are very easy to handle. They are the most popular choice when it comes to choosing kitchen utensils. They are durable, non-reactive, lightweight, easy to clean and maintain. All these factors make stainless steel more popular than that of the cast iron cooking pans, nowadays.
Now that you know the differences between the cast iron and stainless steel, it is quite evident that you have figured out which is the perfect choice for you. In terms of stability, versatility and durability, both are great. But when it comes to everyday hassle-free cooking, cleaning and maintenance, the stainless steel cooking pans always steal the show! Hopefully, now it will be easier for you to pick the right metal when you are shopping for the best cookware for your kitchen.