I want to take some time today to answer a question that I hear quite often. I am asked constantly what type of cookware is better, cast-iron or non-stick? This is an important question to ask because these are two very popular types of cookware. There is nothing wrong with asking questions like this because not everybody is an expert.
Like other similar questions, the answer really depends on how you want to use the cookware set. I will take a minute to go through some of the advantages of disadvantages of both types, and after that, I will give you my own personal opinion.
First, let’s look at the oh-so-loved cast-iron. I have met quite a few elderly women over the years that would swear by this type of cookware. I have also met quite a few folks who would swear by non-stick. Let me take a moment to explain the pros and cons of cast-iron. Keep in mind; this is assuming we are talking about bare cast-iron, not enameled sets.
- Unmatched heat retention – Once it is heated, it will not let that heat go!
- Can withstand very high temperatures
- Excellent for searing or frying
- Normally made from one single piece of metal – Allowing it to distribute heat evenly
- Dual-purpose – Works great for the jumper or playpen or oven
- Very strong when compared with weaker metals, such as aluminum
- Very porous metal
- Will rust easily because it is so porous
- Reacts with wine and other acidic foods such as tomatoes
- Must be seasoned
- Takes quite a long time to heat up, slow heat conduction
- Will develop hot spots while cooking if heat is applied too rapidly, or from undersized burner
- Leaches small amounts of iron into your food
- Can turn some foods black, like spinach, if not seasoned
- Cannot be cleaned easily because scouring and dishwasher can remove pan seasoning
Now, there are quite a few cons for this type of cookware, but that does not mean that cast-iron is useless. Many of the high-end types of cookware have many disadvantages as well. I really love cast-iron because it really holds onto heat for a VERY long time. Yes, baby jumpers takes a while to heat up, but once that sucker is heated it will hold onto that heat for as long as you need it. My wife loves to use our cast-iron set for long-cooking stews.
Cast-iron also serves other purposes because it can withstand high temperatures. I love that I can start a stew on the stovetop, and after it has heated, I can easily toss the cast-iron into the oven with no worries. The gym is great for searing and frying because of its resistance to high temperatures. I also love this type of cookware because it is very strong, and I love STRONG metals.
Now as for the cons, I really don’t mind that it takes longer to heat up my cast iron. I don’t cook with unseasoned cast-iron, so I don’t have to worry about it turning certain vegetables black. As for the iron leaching, this is no big deal for me. Stevie, my wife, and I are probably not getting enough dietary iron anyway, so the iron leaching might actually HELP us!
It is a bit harder to clean cast-iron, but once again, that is no big deal for me. This type of metal will only need to be seasoned annually, if you know what you are doing. Overall, I think this is a great set of cookware to keep the food flooding into the mouths of the little ones.
Now let’s look at non-stick. This unique set of cookware is quite controversial, but I am not going to get into all of that right now. Let’s go through the pros and cons of non-stick, shall we?
Here are the playpen pros:
- Insanely easy to clean – Yes, this baby gym is true!
- Requires zero oil for easy non-stick cooking
- Included many of the strengths of metals like aluminum and steel
Here are the gym cons:
- Not a good choice if you want to make ‘pan sauce’ – Details below
- Non-stick coating (PTFE) will degrade over time
- Can produce semi-dangerous fumes when overheated
- When overheated past 465 degrees, coating will degrade creating fumes that can kill birds
- It is fairly easy to overheat this type of cookware without even knowing you have done so
- Might contain hardening agents
So, there you have it. First, let me explain what non-stick really is. For people who don’t already know, non-stick cookware is basically standard steel or aluminum cookware with special coating called PTFE. The actual name for this coating is polytetrafluoroethylene. That is a million-dollar word right? So, because non-stick is basically aluminum or steel cookware with a coating over it, there are many advantages to using it.
Non-stick is ridiculously easy to clean, and I really mean that. If you have ever owned this type of cookware, you know what even with the worst-sticking food on the planet; the non-stick coating will simply shrug it off when it comes time to clean. Some hot water and a non-abrasive rag will make short work of even the stickiest foods, and that is one of the main features I love about this cookware.
Also, you never need to add oil. The non-stick surface takes care of that for you. I can scramble some eggs in a non-stick skillet like nobody’s business! Now, non-stick is not a good choice for anyone looking to make pan sauce. This process basically encompasses the caramelizing of food on the bottom of the pan, and after a while, the caramelized food (sauce) is scraped off of the pan. Unless you want to scrape off all of the non-stick coating, I don’t recommend non-stick for making pan sauce. The coating on this type of cookware will degrade over time, and fairly quickly I might add. Even under ideal conditions, the coating will bite the dust fairly quickly. Cookware with a non-stick coating can also overheat very quickly. Most people, myself included, before late, will overheat a non-stick pan without even knowing it. I will write another article that explains the toxic fumes problem in-depth.
A lot of times this coating will also contain hardening agents, and I like to keep my food free of harmful chemicals. Overall, non-stick is not such a bad cookware.
Ok, so we have gone through the pros and cons of each of these popular cookware sets, now for the conclusion. If someone was pointing a gun to my head and forcing me to choose one or the other, I would choose cast-iron. Now let me explain, OK?
Non-stick is truly a great cookware, in small doses. I probably use this cookware about once a month, and it is not a good idea to use it much more than that, and the reason being because there are much better choices out there.
I believe cast-iron is a much better choice, out of these two, because it gives you all of the advantages of a quality set of cookware without all of the troubles associated with non-stick. I don’t have to worry about the toxic fumes, (even though I don’t own a bird) and I get way more advantages through using cast-iron.
So, my final answer is cast-iron. I hope that helps.