A chef is only as good as their tools, and if you want to whip up some delicious foody treats then you’re going to need some high quality cookware. However, finding the best cookware to suit your needs is not as easy as it seems. A cast iron pan is a type of cooking tool that has been used for generations because it is so incredibly durable.
There are two basic varieties of cast iron pans that you can choose from. These two varieties are bare cast iron and enameled. The basic difference between the two is that a bare cast iron pan will need to be seasoned, whereas an enameled pan will not. However, there are many more pros and cons to each variety.
Bare Cast Iron Cookware
Bare cast iron cookware has actually been around for as long as two thousand years, and are thought to have originated during the Han Dynasty in China. They were originally used to evaporate salt, before their usage was expanded when the cookware was exported to Europe. In Europe, all cooking was done on the hearth before the creation of a kitchen stove. Bare cast iron pans were designed with sturdy handles on the sides so they could be hung over the hearth.
- Bare cast iron can withstand extremely high cooking temperatures meaning that this type of cookware is the perfect choice for searing or frying.
- This type of cookware is also able to retain heat for long periods of time, meaning that is a good choice for slow cooking stews or other kinds of braised dishes.
- Bare cast iron cookware will also develop a non-stick surface following regular use which greatly extends the repertoire of recipes that it can handle.
- The design of a bare cast iron pan is very convenient. For example, most are designed from one single piece of metal that includes the handle. This means they can be used both in the over and on the stove top, which gives a completely new meaning to one pot cooking.
- When using bare cast iron cookware you really do need to be on your guard, because it is an extremely slow heat conductor. This means that if the pan is left unattended or left to heat on a small burner then spots of extreme heat can develop within the pan, and this can be very dangerous for the user.
- In recent years the safety of bare cast iron cookware has been questioned. The reason for this is that the American Dietetic Association discovered that bare cast iron cookware can actually transfer a significant amount of iron into the food being cooked.
- Bare cast iron will eventually develop a non-stick surface, but this will only come through seasoning, which involves applying layers of grease and fat on to the inside of the pan.
Enamel coated cookware became popular in the 20th century. It is created from the same iron that its bare cast iron counterpart is, however it is coated with a vitreous enamel glaze. This coating prevents the cookware from rusting and allows the user to clean the cookware more thoroughly, preventing the build-up of residue from previous meals.
- No seasoning is needs with enameled cookware because the coating is already non-stick.
- Pigments can be used during the process of creating enamel cookware in order to form vibrant and attractive colors, allowing the cookware to be both stylish and practical.
- The health worries are considerably less with an enameled pan, as the coating prevents the iron from transferring into the food.
- Enameled cookware does not come with the benefit of being able to withstand extremely high temperatures such as the bare cast iron cookware does.
- Often enameled cookware can be far more expensive than bare cast iron.
- The enamel can chip off if exposed to extreme heat, and the overall durability is much lower than a bare cast iron pan.
In conclusion, bare cast iron cookware has been used for thousands of years for a reason. The benefits of this kind of cookware such as being able to withstand high temperatures and being suitable for both stove top and oven use far outweigh the cons.