Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel: Which Is Best for Your Kitchen?

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Cast Iron and steel are both irons allowed. However, the main difference between them is that cast iron contains at least 2-4% carbon and stainless steel contains less than 2% carbon.

Cast Iron also needs frequent seasoning and adds a rich flavor to most dishes. Stainless steel on the other hand is great for cooking everyday dishes with little cleanup or extra chore.

Personally, I use cast iron for steaks and burgers. I use Stainless steel for anything else.

I like and enjoy how easy it is to clean a stainless-steel pan. I like how much easier it is to see whether or not your butter is about to burn. I like being able to pick up, shake, shimmy, and generally move the pan.

Cast Iron still has the hearts of many, no doubt. But as I grow as a cook, a lot of my love for cast iron is almost nothing.

Anything outside of getting a heavy sear, quick, cast iron isn’t all that great. I guess this is the reason why you don’t see them dominating restaurant kitchens.

What is the Difference Between Cast Iron and Steel?

Cast Iron is usually non-stick (or at least sort of non-stick). A lot of iron pans tend to hold most heat than stainless pans because they weigh more, making them better for high-power searing. However, if your range is beefy enough and/or you have a heavy enough stainless-steel pan, this advantage goes away.

But there are some areas where stainless has a huge advantage. To care for cast iron the proper way, you don’t need to scrub it too clean so you’d get a smooth carbonized surface with a good cure.

What does this mean? This means that you’re leaving some residual flavors on the pan. Not much, but if you chose something strongly flavored like curry, fish, etc. it will make unpleasant flavors in other things you cook in it.

Cast Iron is also a bit reactive to acids. Cooking a tomato-based meal in it will eliminate some seasoning and leach out some iron. It isn’t dangerous to humans but it can discolor your sauce, flavor it a bit, and damage your pan’s seasoning.

Stainless steel also lets proteins adhere to it, and still let go when they brown more. I must admit, there’s some skill to be learned in using stainless steel, but essentially done right your food will not stick but you will leave behind a fond, enabling you to make pan sauces.

Attempting to make many types of pan sauces in a cast iron pan will result in you essentially deglazing away your seasoning, resulting in gross sauces and a pan that needs re-seasoning.

And my favorite feature of my stainless pans: mine are dishwasher safe.

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Sink

The main difference between cast iron and stainless-steel sink is that cast-iron sinks are heavier than steel ones, and they are coated with porcelain enamel that can chip.

I have used both, and hands down, I prefer SS because the cast iron (white) always suffers marks when metal rubs against it.

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However, I think cast iron is prettier when kept up – which takes more effort than SS. A lot of people don’t like it because of that.

Another reason I picked the SS over the cast iron is that I am a bit clumsy and always buy SS because I tend to break things. SS has a sort of bounce to it. It doesn’t look dirty even when it is.

It’ll take all kinds of abuse and recover nicely. I’m just not careful enough or clean enough to keep a cast iron sink looking its best, but it was the high mortality rate of coffee carafes that really converted me.

And as Jane points out, you do get more usable sink space because the material is so much thinner. It can make a difference if you’re dealing with a smaller kitchen or sink area.

Is There Any Difference Between Cast Steel and Mild Steel?

Yes, indeed! The main difference between these two sheets of steel is the concentration of carbon. In mild steel, carbon concentration is low nearly 0.15 to 0.3%. Whereas in cast iron it is higher than 2.11%.

In simple English – This carbon concentration increases ductility in mild steel and makes harder and brittle cast iron.

Cast Steel boasts more carbon than mild steel! Cast steel has more brittleness to it. Mild steel is not effective at handling heavy loads as Cast steel. But, cast steel cannot be welded with ease but has a very high resistance to corrosion!

These are the known differences between Cast Steel and Mild Steel! Hope it helps!

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Grates

I prefer cast iron since they hold the heat and or sear better. However, they do need to be replaced occasionally. Stainless steel, on the other hand, will last longer and is easier to clean.

For me, Cast iron is better to cook on than stainless. It gets way hotter and holds heat longer.

Once they’re seasoned, cast iron will stay fairly non-stick and lasts forever as long as you clean them with each use – grill brush when they’re hot  (I do it after coals are ready, before I cook) and hit it with a rag with a bit of canola oil now and again.

Granite Vs Stainless Steel Sink

A stainless sink is better than granite because SS will take much more abuse without failure than any other sink material out there.

Yes, it will bear the battle mark and scare, but having a battle scar is far better than having a catastrophic failure such as when boiling water causes a composite material sink to crack, deform or blister.

Worse yet is when hot grease/oil causes severe surface damage or catastrophic failure. Of course, these things could mostly be avoided, but accidents and forgetfulness happen.

Personally, I like porcelain and concreate sinks, but these are the heavyweights on the market and are very resistant to thermal shock because purely of their high mass. Impact loading is always a concern and potential for failure, but within reason, they’re plenty durable and based upon my observations, more durable than composite materials.

SO, which is better?

I think it comes down to lifestyle. If you keep clean hygiene and are very careful, the plastic-based sink should serve you well. However, over time, there will be scratches evident and those areas will darken and show more wear.

I am a big fan of stainless and cast-iron sinks. If you want a sink that can last the life of the house that is where to look. I think you can keep a stainless sink looking new for the life of the house. It can be buffed to new.

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I used to like cast iron but one of the major drawbacks with that sink type is it suffers chips once you drop something in the sink. Also, the iron underneath will slowly begin to rust and this condition is hard to deal with.

Stainless steel is beautiful and with proper care can go a longer service life. As a contractor some years ago I did a kitchen remodel for a friend and installed a sink by Blanco that was made of a composite material. It takes regular abuse and still looks new.

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Steak

For steak cooking, stainless steel does not hold heat much (material is thinner too), meaning when you put your steak on, the temperature drops quickly and then jump back. During this time your steak’s sear is getting overcooked while not imparting heat to the interior.

Cast iron, being much thicker, holds on to heat, meaning when you throw that steak on the pan’s temp doesn’t change too much. So, if you’re getting heat into the steak at the same time searing.

The way I cook my steak, all yummy and rare:

  • Set my cast iron super-hot (water will bead), throw on a steal, No oil.
  • Then immediately reduce to medium/high temperature
  • I allow a nicer crust to form, then flip and let a nice crust form,
  • Next, set the steak on the edges for a nice sear there too.
  • Now, it should be warm in the middle. Done!

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Properties

Generally speaking, cast iron is harder. Since we define hardness as a material’s resistance to localized plastic deformation.

The main difference between cast iron and steel is the carbon impurity atoms’ concentration that you add in the interstitial spaces of an iron crystal.

In steel, this concentration is less than in cast iron.

The rule is – the higher impurity atoms make the deformation (majorly causes by the movement of defects within the material induced by an external force field, known as dislocation motion) difficult and hence increases hardness and decreases ductility.

Good news! There are tricks that you can adopt to decrease hardness and increase ductility even in stubborn cast iron.

A more ductile variety is known as nodular cast iron. Where you somehow manage to make spherical clusters of carbon atoms within an otherwise lower carbon holding matrix.

And it is possible to process steel in such a way (very rapidly cool it from the melt) that it can become harder than this exceptional ductile sibling of cast irons.

Cast iron is both tougher and heavier because of its higher carbon content. Stainless steel on the other hand has a reduced carbon content and is therefore lighter.

In our example, stainless steel is more corrosive than iron. Cast iron is protected from corrosion by a protective layer. However, in the presence of moisture, both of them will ultimately oxidize. As a result, constant care is necessary to keep them from corroding.

Stainless steel beats everything else, despite the fact that cast iron’s usage and benefits have so far outweighed steel’s in terms of ductility and strength.

Steel can endure abrupt contact without deforming, bending, or breaking, making it the poster child for both strength and ductility. It can also sustain severe stresses and strains without cracking.

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Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel

Enameled Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel

Well, it depends on what you want to cook. For soups and stews, an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is better while for someone who cooks a lot of stir-fries, carbon steel or stainless steel is better.

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Truth is, with so much saturation in the market today, there is very little pure stainless cookware sold today. A lot of stainless features a layer of aluminum sandwiched between stainless layers for even heating.

This aluminum layer can be only in the base, or in the base and sides of the pan.

Multiclad stainless heats much more evenly than cast iron.

Restaurants generally use the most cost-effective solution that works. Often this means aluminum cookware.

I use my stainless saute pans the most. saute pans are wide like skillets but have shorter sides than saucepans.

I think having the proper pan is at least as important as having the pan-made “best” material.

Porcelain Coated Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel

There are many varieties and quality levels of stainless out there. So, just saying “stainless” does not mean “good” or “quality”.

As for how quality stainless rods cook compared to the coated cast iron. I own and regularly use them and have discovered that:

I honestly cannot see any difference in performance between my Weber CI grates or my heavy 3/8″ Weber stainless grates. If anything, I give a HUGE advantage to the stainless for ease of use/maintenance.

They clean up very easily with almost no fuss. They also tend to hold heat just as well. In short, other than MAYBE a wider grill makes I see no reason to use CI ones.

Buuuuuuuuuut! I’m referring to QUALITY SS grates, not the skinny little wide-spaced ones Weber includes on most things. IMO those are useless.

Another advantage larger bars offer you is that even given the same “pitch” (bar spacing) the larger diameter provides you with a shallower angle of attack between bars helping you to keep smaller items from falling through.

Now, for beginners, your best bet may be to get the cheaper grill and spring for quality grates from RCP (Dave Santana). Money VERY well spent

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Griddle

Cast iron and carbon steels are smaller, easily manageable, and can be washed and stored better than a larger (but not too large) griddle.

A cast iron is generally thinner, so lighter. The meat will also likely stick a bit more. However, using some good spatulas, shouldn’t be an issue.

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Sump Pump

Metal impellers are superior to cast iron and plastic impellers.

Cast Iron Vs Stainless Steel Vs Nonstick

It doesn’t matter what pan type you pick there is always maintenance and care needed. It depends on you as to whether or not you think it is “extra” work or little or normal.

I don’t think my Cast Iron is additional work. I’ve even soaked for a bit in warm, soapy water because I’ve let something stick. Scrub it, dry it, wipe with oil, and put it away.

It will not rust if wiped dry and oiled. The amount of iron that would leach into your food is minimal and probably even good for you (IMHO ’cause I don’t take supplements). As with normal kitchen routines, do not leave things in the pot longer than necessary with your meal. Especially in acidic foods – pitting can occur.

Stainless Steel, something sticks, scrub it, dry it, put it away.

Non-stick – do not heat on high without food being in it. do not use metal utensils. Wash it, dry it, and put it away. If something is stuck use a non-metal scrubby.

Author: Howard S. Baldwin

My name is Howard S. Baldwin. I am a work-at-home dad to three lovely girls, Jane + Hannah + Beauty. I have been blogging for the last 3 years. I worked for other Home and Lifetsyle blogs, did hundreds of product reviews and buyers’ guides. Prior to that, I was a staff accountant at a big accounting firm. Needless to say, researching and numbers are my passion. My goal is to be an informative source for any topic that relates to DIY life and homemaking.

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