Cast Iron has advantages that I can’t dismiss when it comes to cooking. Dutch ovens in particular are popular in enameled cast iron, but also in ceramic. How do these two cookware types compare? Here’s what to know to help you decide…
If you were to buy a Dutch Oven or similar pot, what’s best to get, ceramic or cast iron?
Read on for the details…
About ceramic cookware
Pure ceramic cookware is made from clay, molded and then fired in high heat furnaces. I explain more in my article on how ceramic cookware is made.
To avoid confusion: This article is about pure (100%) ceramic cookware, compared to cast iron.
Examples of 100% ceramic cookware brands:
- Emile Henry
About cast iron cookware
Cast iron cookware is made of an iron and steel alloy.
Iron (Fe) has an atomic number of 26 with a relative atomic mass of 55.845. Like copper, it is one of the ‘transition metals’ in the periodic table (Gray, 2012).
History: It is thought that iron in cookware started way back in China around 220 AD. It’s been around an awful long time, so it is truly tried and tested as a cookware material.
By the 16th century the casting of iron in cookware became widespread.
Cookware made of cast iron include these designs:
- Cast iron (unfinished but could come pre-seasoned) — mostly skillets, griddles, but also Dutch ovens
- Enameled cast iron (cast iron coated with a thin layer of enamel) — mostly Dutch Ovens
How ceramic and cast Iron cookware differ
You can go on Amazon and get a straight out cast iron skillet that’s far less expensive than a 100% ceramic skillet. Cast iron is cheap! But, expect to pay more for the enameled cast iron. Still, you should find enameled units that are cheaper in price than pure ceramic.
Ceramic is lighter that cast iron. For example, an Emile Henry 5.5 qt ceramic Dutch oven weighs 8.8 pounds. The weight of Crock-Pot’s 5 qt enameled Dutch oven is 12.25 pounds.
Ceramic won’t rust. Unfinished cast iron cookware will rust on the surface unless it is seasoned. Enameled cast iron won’t rust, except where the enamel has chipped or worn away.
Ceramic can crack if dropped or mishandled, including thermal shock. Enameled cast iron can chip from knocks if not stored correctly or from other mishandling.
It’s a good idea to hand wash both cast iron and ceramic and then hand dry. Putting cast iron through the dishwasher will remove the protective surface coating, and you’ll need to re-season it for best results. Similar with the enameled type, you risk damage from knocks in the dishwasher.
How they are similar
Both materials can be disposed at facilities for recycling cookwares.
Both heat slow compared to aluminum or copper, although cast iron is slightly higher in thermal conductivity (see table). Once pre-heated, they retain heat exceptionally well. Plus, you can use the highest heat setting for cooking without concern with both types.
|Material||Watts per metre-kelvin|
|Stainless Steel (100%)||45|
|Cast Iron (unfinished)||47–80#|
You can get a similar variety of cookware pieces in both ranges.
Both will last for ever with care.
How ceramic cookware is better
For me ceramic, adds a natural wholesome feel to the kitchen. And, you don’t have to season it!
There are no metals in 100% ceramic cookware that can leach into your food. Ceramic won’t taint food with a metallic taste. You might get that with cast iron when cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes.
See also: My article on nickel-free stainless steel.
Pure ceramic cookware can also be used in the microwave, a regular hot oven, and for storing left-overs in the refrigerator. As well as for serving food at the table. Cast iron, just like copper and aluminum cookware, should never be used to store food.
What’s better about Cast Iron cookware
The biggest advantages of using cast iron is it’s tough and it’s cheap. It’s practical to use on the barbecue grate or over an open fire as well as on the kitchen stove.
When seasoned properly, it’s nonstick.
Why choose cast iron?
Cast iron is tough and inexpensive. Choose cast iron if don’t mind a heavy pan. You’ll get a good solid cooking vessel that will last you for ever. That will take the highest heat you need.
Apart from seasoning, it is low maintenance cookware. And…cooking in cast iron gives you a source of iron.
Examples of brands of cast iron cookware for your kitchen:
- Lodge cast iron skillets, griddles, pans, and Dutch ovens
- Crock-Pot Artisan enameled Dutch ovens
- Le Creuset enameled cookware
- Made In enameled Dutch ovens