Cast iron vs ceramic can be a difficult argument, both cast iron and ceramic cookware have their benefits, and both are suited to their own audiences.
Cast iron typically tends to be used by home cooks who don’t mind a steeper learning curve, and are willing to take the time to care for their cookware. Where as people who go for ceramic cookware, typically enjoy the ease of use and lack of caring needed for their ceramic cookware.
In this article, I’ll be discussing the differences between cast iron and ceramic, and recommending which one you need based on your preferences.
What is Cast Iron Cookware?
Cast iron pans are incredibly versatile cooking utensils. They are often associated with cooking traditional recipes such as fried chicken, cornbread and cakes. The great thing about cast iron pans is that they are less susceptible to sudden changes in temperature, they retain heat for much longer when compared to other metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, copper or brass. Contrary to popular belief cast-iron skillets can be used on glass top stoves and cooktops as well; however I wouldn’t recommend placing them on induction cooktops. Note: Always use a trivet or hot pads when placing your skillet on a counter top or table.
What is Ceramic Cookware?
Ceramic cookware is a form of heat resistant material developed from the use of high temperature glaze, typically fired at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a kiln. Depending on the quality of the glaze and the type of base material used in forming the ceramic item, they can be extremely durable and even very beautiful. Ceramic cookware has been gaining popularity for some time now due to its ability to withstand extreme temperatures and its resistance to staining.
The Main differences between Cast Iron and Ceramic
Ceramic and cast iron cookware is quite different from each over, so there are a lot of differences, below I will discuss the differences between the cookware and then finally give my recommendation on which might be more suited to you.
Cast iron can retain heat for a very long time, which is why so many people prefer it to cook food such as fried chicken or cornbread. The main reason for its superior heat retention capability is the fact that cast iron tends to have a thicker and heavier body than ceramic cookware. Cast-iron pots and pans are also much less susceptible to sudden temperature changes. Simply put: cast-iron pots and pans are excellent at maintaining a steady temperature.
Ceramic also does a great job at holding heat, however unlike cast-iron it is more susceptible to sudden changes in temperature.
If you want to make sure your food cooks evenly without changing the texture of the dish then cast iron pans are what you want.
Cast Iron: In terms of reactiveness, cast iron pans are very reactive with acidic foods and tends to leach iron into your food. This can be both good and bad, for example meats take on the flavour of iron very well and it actually enhances the flavour of the meats, where as acidic foods like lemon or tomatoes don’t take on the flavour well, and it will taste metallic. So cooking in cast iron does limit some recipes.
Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is much less reactive than cast iron. So you can cook recipes such as acidic tomato based sauces in a ceramic pan without it ruining, the only downside is meats won’t taste as good in ceramic cookware.
Cast Iron: Cast iron can seer foods very well, due to the nature of cast iron, it can reach very high temperatures which allow you to get a great seer on foods.
Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is not very good at seering food, due to the nature of ceramic cookware it cannot reach high enough temperatures to seer food.
Cast Iron: Cast iron can have problems with sticking. Most recipes involving grilling or frying will be fine, however sauces may stick to the pan and not cook properly. You can offset the lack of nonstick by seasoning your cast iron, and this is always recommended to do, but even once it’s seasoned, it still has some stickiness to it.
Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is an excellent nonstick cooking utensil. It can withstand very high temperatures and still retain it’s non stick ability, ultimately preventing food from sticking which is great for sauces.
Cast Iron: Cast iron cookware can be time consuming to clean, and you do need to follow specific steps in order to ensure it doesn’t rust. To clean cast iron cookware after cooking, you need to wait an hour for the pan to cool down, then soak it in water for 5 minutes, and then begin to scrub. After you’ve rinsed it out with water, you then need to put your cast iron pan back on the stove to evaporate all the water, which prevents cast iron rusting.
Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is extremely easy to clean, you simply soak it in water after using it, and then give it a scrub with soap. So as you can see, ceramic requires a lot less effort to clean the cast iron, which is a make or break deal for some cooks.
Ease of use
Cast Iron: Cast iron pans are more difficult to use, due to the slow temperature change they have, if you heat your cast iron pan up to much during cooking, it will be hard to recover from it, so there is a steep learning curve when it comes to cooking in cast iron.
Ceramic: Ceramic is much easier to use, because it changes temperature quite quickly, if you heat it up to much by mistake, you can simply take it off the heat and the temperature will drop and your recipe will not be ruined.
Cast iron: cast iron cookware is prone to rusting, so if you don’t take care of your cast iron properly, you will get a build up of rust quickly, and then you’ll need to go through the stress of cleaning the rust as rust isn’t food safe.
Ceramic: ceramic doesn’t rust at all, as it’s not made from metal, therefor you can soak it during cleaning as long as you want, and you can hang it to dry on your drying rack without worrying about rust.
Cast Iron: Cast iron pans are much more difficult to store. This is simply due to their weight, because they are really heavy, you have to be careful when storing it otherwise you will damage other cookware or even your cupboards.
Ceramic: Because ceramic is light weight, it’s quite easy to store, however ceramic chips very easily, so you have to be careful not to knock it into anything when storing.
Cast Iron: Cast iron is considered to be one of the most durable cookware, after all you can tell a lot about how durable something is by how long it lasts. Cast iron cookware has lasted 100s of years in some families, which shows how incredibly durable it is. If you care for cast iron properly, you’ll never need a new cast iron pan.
Ceramic: Ceramic cookware is not so durable. In-fact it’s very prone to chipping, and if it chips, it becomes unsafe. So ceramic cookware with good care typically lasts around 5 years. If you are clumsy, expect 1-2 years.
Is cast iron or ceramic better for you?
Cast iron comes with the benefits of adding flavour to foods due to both it’s reactiveness and searing ability, it’s durable cookware that will last a lifetime. However, it does require a lot more skill and care, so it’s not well suited for the inexperienced. Keeping that in mind, you’ll probably end up with a cast iron pan one day, so it could be the right choice to buy one now.
Ceramic: ceramic is more suited to those who don’t have the time to cook or clean, and love their non stick cookware. Ceramic looks beautiful, and it’s easy to use.
Using both of the above conclusions, you should automatically know which cookware to buy. If you have the time to invest in learning and caring for a new pan, then cast iron is the choice for you. However if you love quick cooking, and you don’t have much time on your hands, then ceramic is the better option.