Cast Iron vs Ceramic Cookware: Which Is Suitable For You?
Can you truly say your home is complete without the right cookware? While essential to every kitchen, choosing the right type of cookware can certainly be a daunting task. The right ones will make or break your food's taste, texture and presentation. And with cast iron and ceramic cookware being two of the most popular cookware options over other cookware in Australia as of late, you'd probably be wondering “which one shall I get?”.
Here, we'll start by exploring what cast iron cookware and ceramic cookware are before diving into their differences and similarities. From then on, you will certainly be equipped to decide on the type of cookware that will complete your home.
Cast Iron Cookware
So what exactly is cast iron cookware? It is essentially cookware made from molten iron that is poured into a sand mould to form its shape. Cast iron is a popular cookware material due to its ability to evenly distribute heat, making it ideal for recipes that involve searing, sautéing, and browning.
It's also typically the top choice for dishes that require long cooking times like stews and roasts. Cast iron cookware comes in a variety of shapes and sizes with notable ones being the cast iron skillet, cast iron Dutch oven, and cast iron grill pans.
When you think of ceramic cookware, you may be thinking of pure ceramic cookware which is made from clay or that it's stoneware. But that's not the case. Modern day ceramic cookware are primarily metal cookware, which are coated with several layers of non-toxic ceramic that naturally result in a smooth finish.
Aside from that, what makes it popular is its versatility, durability, and attractive design. This cookware is the ideal choice for many when it comes to cooking delicate food like chicken, fish, and vegetables. This particular cookware is typically available in the form of everyday cookware pieces like frypans, sauté pans, stockpots, and casseroles.
Now that we know what cast iron and ceramic cookware are, let's go deeper into factors to be considered before deciding whether to purchase cast iron cookware or ceramic cookware.
13 Factors To Consider Before Buying Cast Iron Cookware And Ceramic Cookware
Traditionally, cast iron cookware bears a significant disadvantage in the non-stick territory with its tendency to stick. So leading cast iron cookware manufacturers created non-stick cast iron cookware with a layer of non-stick material that prevents food from sticking on its surface. This form of non-stick is popularly known as enameled cast iron, but it usually comes with a steep price tag.
Ceramic cookware has a smooth and shiny finish that naturally results in a non-stick surface for easy release. This makes it wonderful for dishes that are easily prone to sticking like pancakes, fish, and eggs. Another plus point on its non-stick property is that its surface won't peel or flake like most standard non-stick cookware.
2. Heat Retention & Heat Distribution
Next, we'll look at one of the main differences that set both cookware apart. Cast iron cookware has the ability to hold heat for an extended period of time, ensuring that it performs beautifully for slow-cooking.
But homecooks and beginners must bear in mind that it takes a long time to bring the heat down which may affect cooking plans if you accidentally reach extremely high heat on the stove.
Ceramic cookware however, does not retain heat as well as cast iron cookware, making it suitable for dishes that don't require long cooking times. If you regularly cook simple dishes like a veggie stir-fry, pasta, or even delicate ones like our delicious dumpling recipe, then ceramic cookware is a more suitable choice to avoid overheating.
Another thing to note is the heat distribution between both cookware types. Cast iron is not an excellent conductor of heat because of its construction, causing it to distribute heat unevenly. While ceramic cookware may not be the best at retaining heat, it does heat evenly and quickly.
True to its rugged and heavy nature, cast iron cookware's full metal build makes it extremely durable and long-lasting. Which is why you'll often see campers cooking outdoors with their cast iron cookware thanks to its durability and strength. That very same durability allows it to last a lifetime with proper care, becoming family heirloom pieces for the next generation.
You won't find that same level of durability with ceramic cookware as the outer layer can be chipped with mishandling. It is recommended to use ceramic cookware indoors. However, with proper care, ceramic cookware will last you years.
4. Cookware Maintenance
If you've ever heard or read “this pan requires seasoning” while looking at cast iron cookware and thought about it literally, we're here to set the record straight. Cast iron cookware requires a bit more maintenance than ceramic cookware as it needs to be seasoned regularly.
This involves applying a thin layer of oil on the cookware, heating it for about an hour, and then allowing it to cool. It is recommended to do so after each use to maintain its optimal cooking condition and prevent rust.
Another thing to remember is thermal shock, cast iron's worse nightmare. Always allow the cast iron pan, cast iron Dutch oven, or cast iron pot to cool naturally over submerging it in cool water to avoid thermal shock.
Low-maintenance homecooks and families will find ceramic cookware to be a better choice as it does not need to be seasoned. All you have to do is pop it in the dishwasher or quickly wash it by hand for it to be ready for the next use. Unlike cast iron, ceramic coated cookware has a features a certain degree of resistance against thermal shock because of its ceramic coating. But that doesn't mean that you should expose it as such.
For more tips on maintaining your non-stick cookware, you can read our article which details how to care for your nonstick.
5. Non-Toxic Chemicals
Cast iron cookware is made from iron, making it a naturally non-toxic material. It does not release any harmful chemicals or toxins when heated. But cheaply built cast iron has been known to leach heavy metals over the cooking process. So that is certainly something to bear in mind.
Ceramic cookware is also non-toxic as it is not made with harmful chemicals like the controversial PTFE and PFOA. This makes both cast iron and ceramic cookware non-toxic, safe, and healthy choices for cooking.
6. Cooking Reactivity
Reactivity is an important factor to consider when it comes to choosing cookware. Certain metals like aluminum and copper react to acidic foods like tomato sauce, resulting in a metallic taste.
Traditional cast iron cookware is prone to acidic reactions, making it unsuited for recipes that call for acidic ingredients. But enameled cast iron cookware is able to prevent the metallic taste with its enameled surface.
Ceramic cookware being ceramic, makes it naturally non-reactive to acidic ingredients. This means that you can safely cook acidic foods and even reduce sauces without fear of any metallic taste leaching into your dish. Its non-reactive property also makes it a great choice for those with health concerns triggered by excess iron which may leach from acidic food on cast iron.
Classic and rustic, cast iron cookware often come in traditional shapes and colours like black and brown. While some higher end enameled cast iron cookware come in vibrant colours, most cast iron cookware will naturally feature a rough, textured finish.
On the other hand, you'll be hard-pressed to find a dull or ugly ceramic cookware. This type of cookware is famed for its wide variety of colours and designs, making it a great option for those who want to add character to their kitchen. It also usually features a modern, sleek appearance with its smooth surface and artfully crafted angles to act as a statement piece.
Cast iron cookware is incredibly heavy. At times, its weight alone can be the deciding factor on whether it's a suitable choice for your home. If you plan to cook regularly, the weight of it will become tiresome over time. That said, its weight is what gives it its strong heat retaining capabilities.
Those who plan to cook regularly will delight in the typically lightweight nature of ceramic cookware. It covers enough weight to ensure that your food does not burn easily, but is light enough for seamless daily use.
Homes that regularly carry out high-heat cooking like deep-frying, grilling, and roasting will enjoy having cast iron cookware in the kitchen. Its durability allows it to withstand high levels of heat without any adverse effects.
If you don't regularly cook with high heat, ceramic cookware is a great choice as it can handle a wider variety of delicate ingredients to cook food with ease. More so if the ceramic cookware in question comes with stainless steel handles, which would make it extremely versatile. Ultimately, both types of cookware demonstrate versatility in that they can be served directly from stove top to oven to table.
10. Types Of Suitable Utensils
Another factor to be considered are the differences in suitable utensil types. Cast iron cookware's durability allows it to withstand all kinds of utensils, even metal utensils like stainless steel!
However, enameled cast iron cookware is in the picture, it'd be best to avoid metal utensils and stick to wooden, silicone, and nylon utensils instead. This is because the enamel is prone to scratches which may cause the cast iron to rust when the enamel chips off.
Meanwhile, ceramic cookware is more delicate and is recommended to only be used with non-metal utensils such as silicone, nylon and wooden utensils. Metal utensils can scratch or damage the ceramic coating, reducing its effectiveness and overall lifespan. It is important to use the appropriate utensils for the respective cookware as it helps keep your cookware in great condition for years.
11. Induction Cooktop Compatibility
Most modern Australian homes now often have an induction cooktop as it fits the modern kitchen style. It is also a safer option over using a gas stove as it only heats the induction cookware placed on it, making it a preferred choice for homes with little ones. Cast iron cookware is generally suitable for induction cooktops as it is made of a magnetic metal that will conduct heat from the induction cooktop.
Not all ceramic cookware is compatible with induction cooktops as some do not come with a magnetic metal base. If you plan on getting ceramic cookware, be sure to check if the cookware you are considering is specifically noted to be induction-compatible. Alternatively you can check out Cosmic Cookware's range of ceramic coated cookware that are also suitable for use on induction cooktops.
12. Dishwasher Safe
Next we'll come to the most frequently asked questions by Aussies, “is it dishwasher safe?”. Cast iron cookware is not dishwasher safe and must be washed by hand. It is also not recommended to wash its enameled counterpart in the dishwasher. Popping cast iron cookware into the dishwasher is a recipe for disaster as the dishwashing detergents will strip away its non-stick surface and leave it vulnerable to rust.
If you're looking for cookware that is dishwasher safe, ceramic cookware will be your best bet. That said, we don't recommend frequent cleaning in the dishwasher to preserve the cookware's non-stick longevity. But rest assured that its easy release properties make it ideal for busy households who do not have excess time scrub dishes spotlessly.
In general, cast iron cookware, especially the enameled ones, are more expensive than ceramic cookware. Families who have settled down in their own home may have a preference for cast iron even with the price as they are built to last. Whereas young couples and singles working in the city who tend to move often may prefer the affordability ceramic cookware has to offer.
So Which One Should You Buy?
To sum up, the cast iron vs ceramic cookware debate clearly outlines that both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Cast iron is ideal for slow-cooking, outdoor cooking, those seeking to pass down an heirloom piece, and even perhaps those with a larger budget.
While ceramic cookware is versatile, looks great when served from cooktop to oven to table, and is perfect for delicate dishes while being affordable and dishwasher safe.
Ultimately your decision on whether to purchase a cast iron or ceramic cookware depends on your lifestyle, cooking style, and budget. Should you decide on ceramic cookware, do check out Cosmic Cookware's range of high quality, Swiss-approved ceramic coated non-stick cookware.