I like my cast iron, though it’s not the only thing I use. And after going a couple of rounds with some folk about this somewhere else, I decided it’s worth making a blog post.
Cast iron is not the right choice for everyone.
The first really big problem is that it eats time. If you (and anyone/everyone living with you) work late or have a large stack of after-work activities, cast iron is a bad choice. To get the non-stick effect from seasoned cast iron, you have to pre-heat the metal. (Usually, but often enough we’ll leave that statement as true.) Then you do the cooking, and then you need to clean it NOW. Now I’ve washed some of my cast iron in soapy water, but when I do I immediately rinse THOROUGHLY, dry it, and lightly reseason it. That last means a little grease and 20 minutes or so in the oven. I can’t tuck it away to soak, I can’t use a dishwasher and forget it. Cast iron adds half an hour to my total time in comparison to stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and so forth.
The second and third big problems are related to a big plus. Cast iron holds heat REALLY well, giving me a consistent temp even as I toss more ingredients into the mix. It does so by being heavy. No, let me restate that: cast iron is HEAVY. Arthritic wrists, weak grips, carpal tunnel syndromes… yeah, you’re getting the point. The weight can be too much for some people.
But I said there were two problems in the heat retention. The second is, well, heat retention. This comes into play in tight cooking areas, such as you find in small efficiency and starter apartments. While the pan cools it has to set somewhere. While it’s cooling it’s a hazard. Heck, I’m practiced and have room and I still burn myself once ever few months when I grab a handle thinking it’ll have cooled “by now”.
I really like my cast iron. That said, I shake my head at those who insist it’s the best choice for everyone. Choose wisely.