What are the pros and cons of cast iron cookware?

What are the benefits of cast iron? learn more about the pros and cons of cast iron.

What are the pros and cons of cast iron? Maybe you’re thinking about using the cookware for the first time and you’re looking into some of the benefits and disadvantages before deciding. 

If you enjoy cooking with your treasured pan you’re not alone. However, if you’re thinking about using cast iron cookware for the first time, I’ll go into some of the pros and cons of the cookware. It’s also great for those of you that adore cast iron pots and pans and what to read about what you already know. However, this article is really intended for those which are a little hesitant to cook with cast iron.

If you have a few reservations its quite understandable. “It’s heavy” is what comes to mind for many who don’t use it. It certainly is heavier compared to really thin pans and the weight does take a little getting used to. However, I believe a good cast iron pan will do you proud for many years. Also, it only takes a day or two to get used to the weight.

12inch cast-iron skillet with lid. The 12inch skillet is the best size for every day use.

What are the pros and cons of cast iron? We’ll give you the good and the bad

So, “What are the pros and cons of cast iron cookware?” We will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of bare or pre-seasoned cast iron. We are really referring to non-enameled cast-iron cookware.

Non-enameled cast iron is often called bare or pre-seasoned cast iron. Although they will have some cross-overs both positive and negative points. There will also be benefits and disadvantages different from each other. Bare cast iron will be familiar to most, it has been used for centuries and used by many different cultures around the world. It has that lovely black seasoned finish that is reminiscent of years past.

Seasoned cast iron

Proud owners of bare cast iron may put a layer of seasoning on the cookware to protect the iron from rust and deterioration. This seasoning also has non-stick properties making cleaning much easier.

Seasoning (process heating oil past smoke point to form a layer of polymerization) makes the cast iron, which is usually silvery to dull grey the luscious black color that we all know and love.
Since the innovation of pre-seasoned ironware by the Lodge Manufacturing Company most cast iron on the market, today comes pre-seasoned. This is wonderful for customers, it allows new owners to be able to use their cookware straight away without the hassle and time required to season new cast iron.

If you are looking for a new piece of cookware I highly recommend cast iron, primarily because it’s the most fun to cook with. However, with all cookware, it’s not perfect. Let’s look at the pros and cons of bare cast iron.

Pros and cons of cast iron. One positive is longevity this skillet is over 100 years old

Benefits of cast iron cookware

  • well seasoned cast iron cookware is easier to clean than stainless steel
  • cast iron has great thermal density. It remains hotter for longer
  • cooking in cast iron can naturally add iron into meals
  • long lasting. I mean there are some really old pieces still in use today
  • cheaper than enameled cast iron and high-quality stainless steel cookware
  • cast iron is extremely versatile

Disadvantages of cast iron cookware

  • the handle gets hot
  • cast iron is heavier than other cookware
  • bare cast iron is not the best for boiling water and cooking acidic foods
  • bare cast iron may need re-seasoning
  • cast iron takes longer to heat up
  • it’s stronger than kitchen tiles and toes. Ouch, don’t drop it

Let’s get to the pros and cons of cast iron. Is the seasoning on bare cast iron a positive or a negative? I’d probably say it’s both.

Seasoning may put a lot of people off cast iron. It can seem a little involved and daunting. However, it’s really easy to do and most cast-iron comes pre-seasoned ready for proud owner to use straight out of the box. Best of all seasoning slowly builds up over time.

What is seasoning on cast iron?

Seasoning or really oil the that is baked into the pan gives the cookware a smooth finish and makes pots and pans more non-stick. It also protects the iron from rust and separates food from the metal surface. Pro.

Benefits of seasoned cast iron cookware
Seasoning is polymerized oil on cast iron cookware which protects your cookware. If your ironware has a silvery-grey color, it’s time to re-season your cookware.

Can I use a scrubbing brush or Scotch-Brite pad on cast iron?

I use a brush and the yellow side of a Scotch-Brite pad with no issues. However, if you like to use a hard scrubber like the green abrasive side of a Scotch-Brite pad. Or if you want to throw your pan into the dishwasher it is not recommended.

Dishwashers are very good at what they do. Actually too good, using a dishwasher can remove the protective layer of seasoning and cause to cast iron to rust. Con.

Protect seasoning on cast iron cookware
Nonabrasive scrubbers should not lift the seasoning on your cast iron cookware. However avoid the dishwasher at all costs. This will lift the seasoning on your cast iron the bare metal.

Cast iron will keep food warm while on the table.

Once hot, cast iron remains hot even when taken off the heat source. This is ideal to keep food hot while preparing other dishes or keeping food hot on the table. Those yummy roast potatoes or corn with a little butter on top. There’s nothing better, friends love taking seconds when food is still hot. Big Pro to cast iron.

Cast iron cookware comes in so many sizes, you can choose the best size for your needs.

Manufacturers make a wide range of sizes. Big and small skillets and of even dutch ovens for single servings are available. They are great for meals served on the table without taking up to much room or for singles it’s perfect. That’s another Pro.

Iron intake

Cooking in cast iron, the cookware naturally releases a little iron into your meals supporting the daily requirements for the body’s needs.

This book Fuel for sports by H.E. Bard used to reference the increase of iron in food after cooking in cast iron pans. It explains cooking in iron can help supplement iron intake.

The amount released is determined by the acidity in the food and the layer of seasoning on the pan. Seasoning separates food and the bare metal pan. The thicker the seasoning the less iron that is released into food.

If you have any questions, have any blood conditions or take iron supplements, I recommend consulting a doctor or nutritionist before using cast iron cookware. I’m not a medical practitioner. Seek professional advice. 

What you do think? I think it’s better to give a Pro and Con. It really depends how you feel, for some added iron is a positive point and other others its a negative.

It’s going to last a long time

If you decide on purchasing your first cast iron pan, which I hope you do. It will most likely be the last one you’ll ever need. Some skillets and dutch ovens from the early foundries are still as usable today as they were when they were first made.

The big names were Griswold and Wagner back in the day. These two foundries made very high quality cast iron cookware and they had a very smooth cooking surface. Both Griswold and Wagner are considered to be some of the best vintage cast iron ever produced and are prized processions by many cast iron collectors.

We can not forget about Lodge, much of their ironware is still in use today, many pieces are over a hundred years in age. Here’s another Pro for cast iron cookware.

Since cast-iron cookware is a little thicker and heavier today, they may last even longer. The thinner older pans are more likely to warp or bow under sudden temperature changes. If you have lovely old pots and pans please pre-heat them for a few minutes first. Benefit for new cast iron.

One of the benefits of cast iron is that it will last a long time. Here's a new cast iron skillet with two antique skillets.

Pre-seasoned cast iron is cheaper than enameled and quality stainless steel cookware

If you want to know why use a cast iron skillet or dutch oven there are many reasons. One of the main reasons is it’s going to last a mighty long time and for surprisingly little money.

Lodge offers great value cast iron cookware. I’d really consider going for these guys.

They’ve been around a long time and they make some really nice stuff. They also have lots of tradition and heritage which we love at Boonie Hicks. With a little care, it’s only going to get better with age. You’ll never have to throw away and replace your cookware ever again. Longevity, iron is king. Pro.

The versatility of cast-iron cookware is incredible. What are the pros and cons of cast iron cookware? Well, it can do pretty much any cooking job.

This is where cast iron really shines, no other cookware comes close. It’s suitable for so many cooking methods. Bare cast iron can be used for:

  • Frying – not only is cast-iron great for pan frying fish fillets, but also deep fried chicken comes out a lovely golden colour.
  • Baking – cornbread comes to mind first. However pastries, desserts and bread come out wonderfully.
  • Searing – your steaks remain juicy in the centre and have a lovely caramelized outside to enhance favours. You may even want to consider a grill pan for those barbecue grill marks you’d find at a top restaurant.
  • Roasting – you won’t need a dedicated roasting pan to make scrumptious roast chicken. A skillet or dutch oven is going to do just as well.
  • Slow cooking – a French/Dutch oven is wonderful for slow cooking, it heats up slowly and can be left on at a low temperature, either on the stove top or in the oven.
  • Sauteed vegetables – I’m thinking corn with a little piece of butter then served directly on the table for family and friends to help themselves, they just love it.
  • Outdoor or camping trips – it’s so much fun, and everything tastes better when cooked outdoors.
Cooking methods used for cast iron cookware
Thinking about using cast-iron cookware? Here’s some different ways you can use iron cookware.

 You can use cast iron cookware on the following:

  • Gas
  • Electric
  • Glass (please be careful it may scratch like any other cookware).
  • Induction
  • Wood burning stoves
  • Cooking on barbecues, campfires and hot coals.

Remember no cookware is perfect. It is good practice is to preheat cast iron slowly before raising the temperature. Modern cookers can heat very quickly, this sudden rise in temperature may warp your cast iron cookware.

However, after looking at the pros and cons, we hope you consider cast iron cookware.  For many users, once they start using cast iron many no longer go back to cooking in anything else.

We really should have finished on a high note and but got too excited with the positive aspects. Let’s have a look at some more negative points.

 The handle gets hot

This one is not really a surprise. The design for modern cast iron skillets hasn’t really changed over the last 150 years. The handle is still cute stumpy, the same as it was all those years ago.

Usually, I’m able to cook meals before the handle gets too hot to handle. However, if the pan is too hot, simply grab the handle with an oven-mitt or tea-towel.

Lodge also has specifically designed handle holders that fit snugly onto your skillet. They really stop the heat well. The Lodge Handle holders are available on Amazon and come in the popular silicone (affiliate link) and cotton with lining (affiliate link) like mine pictured. With all cookware, consideration may be needed with young children. Small disadvantage.

Cast iron pros and cons what are they? This skillet has a red Lodge handle holder

Cast iron is heavier than other cookware

It really can be rather weighty, bodybuilders pump iron for good reason. The older pans such as Erie made pans are lighter like many of the vintage pans. However, they are often pricey because of their collectability. The older lighter pans are also more prone to warping and bowing because the casting was thinner.

The high-quality French enamelware such as Le Creuset is just as heavy and Staub is slightly heavier again. Lodge cast iron offers a good balance in weight, especially if you’re looking at a large dutch oven. Big Staub cocottes maybe too heavy for many uses. Con.

Really acidic foods

I grab my skillet nearly every time, however, when boiling I turn to enameled hollowware or stainless steel. Liquids may be tainted and discolored by the seasoning if boiling liquid for a long time. It may also lift off that lovely seasoning that makes the skillet or Dutch oven so non-stick and easy to clean.

Highly acidic foods are also not recommended for cast iron, for example, tomato-based sauces. However, this not to say you can’t fry some tomatoes with your fried eggs and bacon. As long as you have a nicely seasoned pan you’ll cook yourself a great breakfast.

The acidity in foods again lifts the seasoning from your pan, also increasing the amount of iron in the food. Food may taste tainted from a large amount of naturally released iron when cooking highly acidic food. Minor Inconvenience.

Can you cook tomatoes in cast Iron? Cooked breakfast in a cast iron skillet.

Bare cast iron may require seasoning

Cast iron may need re-seasoning if being over-zealous with the use of soap and scouring pads. Firstly this is not difficult (wipe the pan with a small amount of oil then place in the oven and set on high heat). This seasoning protects the cast iron from rust and gives the pan a non-stick quality. Seasoning is not needed for enameled hollowware and of course other cookware. So re-seasoning is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

We have weighed the pros and cons of cast iron cookware and we are bigger fans than ever. How about you?

After weighing up the pros and cons of cast iron and I’m first to admit it has both. But I think the pros outweigh the cons and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better safe cooking surface. Yes, I’m a huge enthusiast and a little biased in favor of cast-iron. However, I really tried to give an honest opinion.

I really enjoy using the cookware and each piece seems to have it’s own personality. They also look great on display they really have that homely feel when they are hung. Therefore if you are looking for a new piece of cookware, cast iron will do you proud for years if not decades.

I highly recommend Lodge Manufacturing if you are thinking of purchasing bare cast-iron. The history of the company is really quite amazing. If you’re wondering if I have a Lodge Yes I do it’s a Lodge 10.25 inch skillet that you can see in the post it’s a great cooker and perfect size for singles and couples. I’m very happy with it. Lodge seems a lot smoother than many other makers. They also come at a great price and are very easy to use.

Cast iron made by Lodge is a great choice. Lodge cast iron skillets are an amazing value. You really can’t go wrong with Lodge

Lodge makes fantastic cast iron. They are still an America family business and have supported the local community of South Pittsburg Tennessee. Lodge has made their skillet in they South Pittsburg foundry since 1896. Their skillets are easy and fun to use. I’d go for a 10.25inch skillet if you’re cooking for yourself and 12in skillet if you’re cooking for a family.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This might seem like a dumb question but what does the number 8 or 9 mean on an iron skillet? Does that mean it’s 8 inches or 9 inches wide? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Alisa

      Thanks for getting in touch, and it’s frequently asked question.

      You’re right the numbers on skillets indicate size. However, the size number is in reference to use on coal and wood ranges. Old cookers had different sized elements that skillets would slot into prevent movement. The numbers were to select the correct size pan with the correct element. In later years numbers were more symbolic with the development of modern gas and electric cookers, but it remained a popular way to indicate the size of the skillet.

      Hope this helps

  2. Thank you. Your contrasting information won the day. I stumbled across this site after I returned a rather expensive set; Green pan Diamond Craft cookware. I’m too simple I guess, but the value was $450-$570 and the last thing I want to do is worry about using and damaging a set of cookware for the sake of cooking dinner.

    Judging by the reviews of other folks, cast iron will cook food just fine. And just for the record SurLaTab knows ya know. What I can’t wrap my mind around is? Why I reached further than what I can grasp.

    Respectfully at your Service, Spider

    • Hi Spider

      Thank you for your kind words and I’m so pleased you found the information useful. I’m sure the good people at Sur la Table and Green pan understand their cookware is out the reach for many budding chefs at this moment. But I’m sure their cookware is hard to beat and I’m humbled if they know of my little hobby blog.

      Cast iron cookware has great thermal density and will cook up a storm in the kitchen. It takes little longer to warm up but you still can’t beat a good old fashioned cast-iron skillet for a full English breakfast. Easier on the pocket too.

      Cheers Spider

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