Iron is a chemical substance that is more commonly available on earth. It makes up 5% of the earth’s crust. it is mostly used in manufacturing steel, engineering and other industries which are primarily operating in the manufacturing sector. Iron ores are abundant in the earth’s crust, whereas metallic iron is rare. The basic difference between regular iron and cast iron is that regular iron is a pure iron available as a single element whereas cast iron is alloyed iron which is alloyed with other metals such as silicon or carbon.
The major drawback of using iron is that it is easily prone to rust. Therefore most of them prefer cast iron than regular iron in machines, cookware, equipment, etc. to increase the life span of these appliances. Are you still confused about which one to choose, either cast or regular iron? Which is better?
What is Traditional Cast Iron?
Cast iron is nothing but alloy or carbon and iron with carbon composition being more than 2%. It has low melting point. Cast iron is brittle in nature except malleable cast iron. Cast iron has become an engineering material and has so many applications due to its machinability, castability, low melting point, wear resistance and fluidity. When it comes to cookware cast iron cookware are those which are made from meting iron into single metal piece.
How is Cast Iron Made?
Iron is rarely found in pure form it is usually found in combination with others elements. Only meteorites have iron in pure form. Iron that is extracted from iron ores is converted into different types of iron. Initially it is processed in a blast furnace to produce pig iron. Cast iron begins its life as pig iron which is remelted and combined with a large amount of scrap iron and sometimes with steel. Contaminants are removed from the melted iron and are now ready for casting.
Casting is nothing but the process of pouring the melted iron into a mold to give it a proper shape. After the iron is cast it is left to solidify. If this process is done incorrectly then, the iron is again used as scrap iron which will again take its life as pig iron so it is important to ensure that proper solidification happens. Other problems during casting can include contamination of iron, gas porosity i.e. nothing but forming of air bubbles in iron, and fluidity of metals. Therefore casting of iron is an art and must be done with proper care.
Types of Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware
Many companies use spray oil to coat cast iron and bake them at high temperatures to season the iron which gives a dark black finish on seasoned cast iron cookware. There are many different types of seasoned cast iron cookware that is available in market. They are:
It is also known as skillet is a flat bottomed pan used for frying, searing, and browning foods. It is usually 20-30 cm in diameter and does not have lids. A pan with similar characteristics but less flared and with lid is called a sauce pan.
It is a thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid usually made of seasoned cast iron. It has been used a cooking vessels for more than 100 of years. Also referred to as casserole dishes.
Griddle is a cooking device with flat cooking surface. It is both a residential and commercial cooking appliance. It can be made of cast iron, non-stick materials, chrome steel or carbon steel.
It is a cookware specially designed to cook waffles. It has two metal cooking plates which will cook waffles both the sides like a honey comb pattern.
Flat top grills
A flat top grill is similar to that of griddle but different in function because it provides heat in circular motion than straight like griddle. These were historically used to cook corn dough and later used for many other purposes.
Deep fryers are cooking appliances that are used of frying dishes. The temperature usually ranges between 350 – 375ºF. Mostly used in commercial kitchens where the food is cooked by immersing them in hot oil.
The Good and Bad Traits of Cast Iron Pans
Good traits of cast iron pans are
- They are similar to nonstick pans when they are properly cast.
- They are cooktop compatible- i.e. you can use them on the stove and oven.
- Great thermal density- it can hold heat for a long time
- Durable -Long lasting than other cookware.
- Versatile-it can best used for making any number for dishes.
Bad traits of cast iron pans are
- Its handle gets hot super fast therefore one must be careful while using it.
- It needs to be seasoned regularly.
- It is heavy than usual cooking appliances.
What is Enameled Cast Iron?
Enameled cast iron is a cast iron that has a coat of enamel applied on its surface. The coating of enamel over the cast iron prevents rusting. It also adds on to benefits such as eliminating the need of seasoning, and it is ideal of slow cooking which will draw its flavors.
How is Enameled Cast Iron Made?
Enameled cast iron has similar steps to that of cast iron. All the process till solidification of iron is same. Once it is done then the cast iron is coated with a glaze of enamel. When it comes to making of cookware, the cookware is made with cast iron and is finally coated with enamel at last.
Types of Cookware Made With Enameled Cast Iron
Cookwares like pans, cooking pots, skillet, frying pan, sauce pan, sauté pans, bake ware and griddle can be made with enameled iron. But Dutch ovens are preferably made with cast iron rather than enameled cast iron. Nowadays with much innovation a variety of cookwares are available in markets.
Regular vs Enameled Cast Iron: Different Tools, Different Uses.
Both of them have got different uses. While cast iron is used for steaks, bacon, eggs, chops and casseroles, enamel cast iron cook wares are used for stews, stocks, sauces and braising. The best part of enameled cookware is that it is easy to clean.
How Do I Clean Bear Cast Iron?
Cleaning of bare cast iron is just like an ordinary cleaning which involves washing scrubbing and drying them. But when it has lost its seasoning it should be done again. If the food gets struck in the vessel use salt and oil mixture to loosen them and remove them from the pan.
How Do I Clean Enamel?
Enamel cookwares are easy to clean and maintain. But they require careful handling because they are prone to scratches and are more fragile in nature. They are dish washer safe and can be cleaned using a dish washer if you have one. But if you don’t have dish washer then you can use soap preferably liquid and a soft scrub that will not scratch your cook ware to clean your enameled cookware.
How Do I Cook With Cast Iron?
If you have purchased cast iron cookware recently and using it for first time then here is how you should use it. Wash the cookware with soap and scrub let it dry. Now heat the pan for 5 minutes and let it to cool. Now apply any cooking oil of your choice and heat it again for 5 minutes. Repeat this step for 4 – 5 times for best results. Now your pan is ready to cook food that you want. While cooking in cast iron avoid acidic foods like tomatoes which will leave lingering flavors on food. Also foods that have super assertive flavors like fish should not be cooked in cast iron cookware.
Is Enameled Cast Iron Heavier Than Normal Cast Iron?
All iron cookwares are heavier than normal cookwares that are made of steel, but have excellent quality. Many feel that enameled cast is lighter than normal cast iron but the fact is that they are heavier than normal iron due to cladding.
How Do You Maintain Enamel-clad Cast Iron?
Since enameled cast iron is fragile and prone to scratches they need to be handled with care. Use them like you use Teflon. Use soft scrub or dish washer for clean and dry them completely before storing.
Does Bare Cast Iron Add to My Diet?
Yes using bare cast iron for cooking increases the iron content in your food. Compared to other cookware iron cookware can increase up to 16% iron in your food.
Like every coin has got two sides everything has got its own advantages and disadvantages. While traditional iron pan are best suited for open flame cooking enamel cooking appliances are perfect for cooking weekend brunches. When it comes to eggs and bacon nothing can beat the tradition iron whereas as stew and stocks are perfect partners of enamel cookware. While cast iron is easy to handle enamel is easy to clean. Therefore choosing right fit for your kitchen solely depends on your needs and your food habits. Pick your right cookwares and enjoy your meal. Eat healthy stay healthy!