Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel

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If your new year’s resolution was to cook at home more, and you are now looking to invest in some high-quality pieces of cookware, look no further. This article will tell you about some of the most popular choices for cookware: cast iron vs stainless steel..

Both materials are known for their versatility and long-term longevity, and this article will discuss the different uses and benefits of both types of cookware. Depending on your budget, the size of your kitchen, the number of people you are cooking for, and what you typically cook most, one type of cookware might be a better fit for you than the other. Let’s take a look at what each has to offer as well as their benefits and features.

Biggest Benefits

Stainless steel is found most commonly in professional kitchens for a good reason. It is known for its heat transferability, which means that it cooks things at a quick rate once heated up over a surface. Stainless steel is also “non-reactive,” which means that it will not be affected by any type of food that you cook in it. This is not the same with cast iron, which is not recommended to be used when cooking highly acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits.

Cast iron has the advantage of “seasoning,” which refers to the buildup of grease and flavor in the dish from continued use. Cast iron cookware that has been properly seasoned is also naturally non-stick, which makes this a good choice for people who no longer use Teflon pans but enjoyed the benefits that those pans brought. The seasoned aspect of cast iron pans also adds an extra flavor to foods that cannot be achieved by using any other type of pan.

Durability

Both stainless steel and cast iron pans are notoriously strong. Stainless steel, when invested in and cared for properly, can last a lifetime. If you are looking to buy stainless steel, try to get quality pieces on sale, but beware of discounts that seem better than possible; if it seems too good to be true, it likely is. A crappy stainless steel pan will not last you nearly as long as a high-quality pan. The opposite is true for cast iron. Cast iron is built strong and sturdy, so you can buy a cheap cast iron pan and expect it to last the entirety of your life, your children’s lives and your grandchildren’s lives.

Frankly, in a battle of sturdiness, cast iron would take home the gold medal, but stainless steel would be close behind with the silver. The only disadvantage durability-wise with cast iron is the weight of the pieces. If you do not have the upper body strength, wielding a cast iron pan with ease may not be an option if you are an active cooker and like to wave your cookware around.

Maintenance and Care

Unfortunately, stainless steel is notorious for being difficult to clean. Because it has such a smooth and “stainless” surface, all stains, burns and streaks are immediately visible on a pan, and so lots of scrubbing is required to maintain a clean finish. Cast iron, on the other hand, requires very little cleaning. Just stick your pan in the oven, scrape off the remaining bits and re-season if necessary.

The most care-intensive part of a cast iron pan is the seasoning process, which can be an extra added step if you do not cook a lot of greasy foods like meat and dairy. Some people think that it’s weird to not wash your pans when you are done cooking, but others do not wash their pans anyways, so this type of system works very well for their existing cooking habits.

However, not washing a cast iron pan is perfectly sanitary, because any hazardous germs are killed during the baking and seasoning process from the exposure to high heat in the oven. Some people just like to wash cast iron for extra reassurance that they have control over their kitchens and their lives. If you are confident in your cooking and yourself, you do not have to worry about this.

Final Thoughts

Both stainless steel and cast iron cookware have varying benefits in a kitchen. Stainless steel is lighter and more versatile, while caring for a cast iron pan is much easier. Cast iron adds a unique flavor to home cooked meals, while stainless steel lasts a lifetime if cared for properly. In the end, cast iron may win the battle because of its high durability at a low cost, but anyone who cooks frequently should invest in both pieces in their kitchen. Both types of cooking materials have different uses, and both would be at home together in any kitchen.

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