Cast Iron vs. Cast Aluminum: Which Should You Buy?

When it comes to the tricky question of what type of cookware you should buy, you’ll find many people with strong opinions. It’s especially true when it comes to cast iron vs. cast aluminum. You can compare both in terms of weight, price, and longevity, among other features.

Here’s a quick summary for each.

Cast iron:

  • Requires seasoning
  • Heavier
  • Better heat retention
  • Slower heating times
  • More expensive
  • Longer lifespan

Cast aluminum:

  • Requires seasoning
  • Lighter
  • Slightly worse heat retention
  • Slightly faster heating times
  • Cheaper
  • More available
  • Shorter lifespan

Both Need to be Seasoned

Cast iron and cast aluminum both need to be seasoned to maintain their non-stick quality. This seasoning process is the same for both materials, but it may take a little longer with cast aluminum. Cast aluminum is more porous than cast iron, which means that it needs more seasoning.

Seasoning them both will form a protective barrier over the metals, protecting them from the acidness of food and protecting them from moisture in the air which can cause rust. 

To season the materials, all you need to do is wipe a thin layer of cooking oil onto the pan and bake it in the oven for around 1 hour. Baking the seasoning will cause the oils to polymerize and bond to the imperfections in the metal, creating a non-stick surface. 

Both are Slow to Heat

If you’ve ever tried to cook with either a cast iron or cast aluminum pan, the first thing you noticed was that they took time to warm up. It takes longer to heat cast iron instead of cast aluminum, although they both take a while to heat up.

In reality, though, the differences are not that big. So this isn’t a significant factor to take into consideration when looking at which material to purchase.

Both will take a while to heat up. But if you are looking to shave a bit of the time, then go for the cast aluminum option. 

Cast Aluminum is Lighter in Weight

Cast aluminum is lighter in weight than cast iron, which means it is easier to handle. It’s also easier to store and moves around your kitchen more quickly than cast iron. Cast iron tends to be heavier, mainly if you use larger skillets too.

So which one would you want? If you are prone to knocking the pans on the stovetop, you may wish to opt for the cast iron option because it’s going to be a lot harder to knock off the stovetop due to its weight. The last thing you want is spilling hot liquids or food over yourself. 

Cast aluminum would be the best choice if you don’t have the most muscular arms and require the pan to be moved from the stovetop into the oven and vice versa. 

Cast Aluminum pans are cheaper

If you decide to buy cast aluminum pans, you can expect to pay less money than if you purchased cast iron pans. Cast aluminum is also faster in its production, which means it costs less to make and is more readily available.

However, don’t let the price convince you of which one to buy. Although cast aluminum may be cheaper, it certainly does not last as long as cast iron, which takes me onto the next difference—the lifespan.

Cast Iron Has a Longer Lifespan

Cast Iron pans don’t rust or chip as quickly as cast aluminum. Even premium quality cast aluminum can chip or rust. If you don’t treat cast aluminum right, it can be ruined by a simple scrape from a utensil.

This means that cast iron has by far a much longer life span than cast aluminum. 

Cast iron has such a long lifespan that people have passed their cast iron pans down from generation to generation. There are even vintage cast iron pans around that have lived for over 100 years! 

So if longevity is something you require, then it’s best to opt for the cast iron option.