High quality cast iron is one of the most versatile cooking tools you can own in your kitchen. Cast iron cookware is always among the gold standards for kitchen equipment. Cast iron cookware is well worth investing in to have a few of them on hand. Cast iron has always been extremely popular among beginner home chefs to the professionals in restaurants.
For a piece of equipment that has been around for almost as long as people have been cooking, cast iron has seen a resurgence of proportions in the last 10 years. The Cookware Manufacturer’s Association reports more than a 255 percent increase in sales over the last decade!
People are wanting to know what cast iron pan to buy, what they are made of, and which cookware is made in the USA.
What’s the difference between enameled and regular cast iron cookware?
Before we get into it, let’s break down the two types of cast irons:
- Bare cast iron – Bare cast iron has no coating and often requires preparation and time to be “seasoned” properly to become non-stick. This cookware has been around for thousands of years. With regular use, it absorbs flavours over time and adds complex and unique flavours to your dishes. It is hardy, extremely durable, and heavy. Cast iron does not have issues with open fire or high oven temperatures. However, it is not invincible. Rust is common when cast iron is not cared for properly, and the cast iron can break down when exposed to dramatic temperature changes (running cold water over a hot pot). It is usually more affordable than enameled cast iron.
- Enameled cast iron – This is the upgraded version of classic cast iron. It has a translucent enamel glaze applied to the surface which creates a natural non-stick surface. It does not require seasoning and will not retain strong aromas (like garlic or onion) like bare cast iron does. It will not rust; it is easier to clean than bare cast iron and you can use as much soap as needed to get it squeaky clean. Most are microwavable and dishwasher safe. They are excellent for slow cooking and drawing out flavours from the food. However, it does have temperature limitations and it is not recommended for use over an open fire as the enamel can crack.
Worth The Investment
The great perk to owning cast iron cookware is that if you take good care of it, you can pass it down through generations.
But not all cast iron has been created equal. With the surge of availability and popularity in cast iron, it can be hard to weed through the name brands. If you are contemplating purchasing cast iron cookware, two of your best options are Le Creuset and Lodge.
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The Comparison – Cooking Performance
This is the most important quality because design and colour do not equal well cooked food. When it comes to cooking with cast iron, remember that this type of cookware does take longer to heat up. Many people make the mistake of turning the heat on higher than needed instead of allowing the cast iron to heat up slowly.
- Le Creuset
Le Creuset products consistently heat up well, even at lower temperature with ideal heat distribution and heat retention. Their Dutch Oven lids lock in heat and moisture with a locking recessed-edge design.
Le Creuset’s new Signature skillets have a helper handle that adds comfort and control for easier lifting and moving from stovetop to oven or table. A huge added bonus it the durable black enamel finish requires no seasoning! Their large, flat diameter is the ideal size for steaks, burgers, pancakes, or cornbread.
The cast iron used is pure, never from recycled products, and it’s lighter than most other cast irons on the market, which is a huge plus if you are using this type of cookware daily.
Lodge has been making their cookware since 1896, and is the oldest and longest running cast iron manufacturer in the United States. They have always been a family owned foundry, so they definitely know a thing or two about professional-level cookware.
The best element with Lodge is that they have manufactured pre-seasoned cookware (an industry first!). This means you can use it right out of the box! Their skillets will give you very little sticking right from the start.
They also have large handles which are easier to hold on to while using oven mitts. Their main handle is short, so it will fit in whatever side oven you have. Lodge products heat well with no uneven spots but can take a little longer to heat up than Le Creuset. The lid securely keeps in moisture ensuring simmering meat in the oven will not dry out.
What Type Of Cast Iron Should You Buy?
One of each! While we are only half-joking, a high quality 10-inch skillet is a classic tool needed in every kitchen. It can be used on all cooking surfaces (including grills and campfires) and is oven safe. You can sauté, sear, fry, and bake to your heart’s content! An enameled Dutch Oven is ideal for braises, stews, sauces, and breads.
Le Creuset and Lodge have both been the world’s top quality for almost a century. If you love to cook, the investment in both these tools will be well worth the investment.
We would absolutely love to give a simple answer for “what cast iron is the best on the market”, or “what cast iron skillet should I buy”, but it does come down to personal preference and your budget!
We offer a large variety of only top quality bare cast iron and enameled cast iron products…. too many to list here! If you are looking for professional and affordable equipment, visit Bear Country Kitchen and we will provide you with the best cookware available!