Are Cast Iron Pans Better than Non-Stick Pans? Which Cookware Should I Buy?

Certainly! Both non-stick pans and cast iron skillets have been popular choices in kitchens around the world. Here’s a comprehensive review comparing the two:

Non-Stick Pan:


  1. Ease of Use: The primary advantage of non-stick pans is the ease of cooking foods that are prone to sticking, like eggs or fish. This means less oil or butter is needed, which can result in healthier cooking.
  2. Easy Cleanup: Foods slide right off the surface, making cleanup typically a breeze.
  3. Lightweight: They are generally lighter in weight compared to cast iron, making them easier to handle for everyday cooking.
  4. Even Heating: Many non-stick pans, especially those with a good quality base, can distribute heat evenly.


  1. Durability: The non-stick coating can wear off over time, especially if metal utensils are used. Once the coating starts to wear off, the pan might lose its non-stick properties.
  2. Heat Limitation: Non-stick pans typically can’t withstand very high temperatures, making them unsuitable for some cooking techniques like searing.
  3. Chemical Concerns: Earlier versions of non-stick coatings raised health concerns due to the release of toxic fumes at high temperatures. While newer versions have addressed many of these concerns, some people still prefer to avoid them.

Cast Iron Skillet:


  1. Durability: If cared for properly, a cast iron skillet can last for generations. It’s not uncommon for these pans to be handed down as family heirlooms.
  2. High Heat Cooking: Cast iron excels in high heat, making it perfect for searing, browning, and frying.
  3. Heat Retention: Cast iron retains heat very well. Once it’s hot, it stays hot, which can be an advantage for certain dishes.
  4. Natural Non-Stick: When seasoned properly, cast iron can become virtually non-stick without the need for synthetic coatings.
  5. Adds Iron to Food: Some studies suggest that cooking with cast iron can increase the iron content in food, which might be beneficial for people with iron-deficiency.


  1. Weight: Cast iron is heavy. This can make it cumbersome to handle, especially larger pans.
  2. Maintenance: It requires specific care to maintain its seasoning and prevent rust. This includes avoiding soapy water and drying it thoroughly after each wash.
  3. Heat Distribution: Unlike non-stick pans, cast iron doesn’t always distribute heat evenly. However, once hot, it retains the heat very well.
  4. Initial Preparation: New cast iron skillets need to be seasoned before the first use. However, many come pre-seasoned nowadays.

Comparison Chart:

Feature Non-Stick Pan Cast Iron Pan
Material Typically aluminum with a non-stick coating Cast iron
Coating PTFE (Teflon) or ceramic, among others None, but may be seasoned with oil
Heat Distribution Even, but may not retain heat for long Heats slowly but retains heat well
Maintenance Easy; usually requires gentle cleaning Requires seasoning; can rust if not dried properly
Durability Can wear out, especially if scratched Very durable; can last generations
Cooking Surface Smooth Can be smooth or slightly rough based on age and use
Utensils Plastic or wood recommended to prevent scratches Any utensils, including metal
Oven Safe Typically up to 400°F (some exceptions) Usually oven-safe at all temperatures
Induction Compatible Specific models only Most are compatible
Initial Cost Generally lower Varies, but can be higher
Weight Light to moderate Heavy
Natural Non-Stick No (relies on coating) Yes, when well-seasoned
Flavor Influence None Can impart a slight iron taste, beneficial for iron intake
Reactiveness Non-reactive with foods due to coating Can be reactive, especially with acidic foods
Typical Uses General cooking, especially delicate foods like eggs and fish Searing, frying, baking, and general cooking

Which Should You Buy?

For Everyday, Low-Maintenance Cooking: A non-stick pan might be more suitable if you want something for everyday cooking, especially if you prioritize ease of use and cleaning.

For Searing, Oven Cooking, or Heirloom Quality: If you enjoy searing meats, cooking in the oven, or are looking for something that could potentially last a lifetime, a cast iron skillet could be the right choice.

Why Not Both?: Many home cooks find value in having both types of pans in their kitchen arsenal. They can be used for different purposes, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Lastly, remember that there are also variations within these categories. For instance, enameled cast iron provides some of the benefits of cast iron without the need for seasoning, and there are various types and qualities of non-stick coatings. Always consider what suits your specific needs, preferences, and budget.

Frequently Asked Questions:

FAQ: Which is better for cooking delicate foods like eggs or fish?
Answer: Non-stick pans are typically better for delicate foods. Their smooth, non-stick surface ensures that foods like eggs, pancakes, or fish don’t stick or break apart during cooking.

FAQ: Which has a longer lifespan, non-stick or cast iron?
Answer: Cast iron can last for generations when properly cared for. Non-stick pans, on the other hand, have a limited lifespan, especially depending on the quality of the coating and frequency of use. Eventually, the non-stick coating can wear off or become damaged.

FAQ: How do I care for each type of pan?
Answer: Cast iron skillets require seasoning with oil to maintain their non-stick properties. They should be cleaned with minimal soap (or none at all) and thoroughly dried to prevent rust. Non-stick pans should be cleaned with a soft sponge and mild detergent, and it’s recommended to avoid metal utensils which can scratch the surface.

FAQ: Which is better for searing meat?
Answer: Cast iron is superior for searing meat because it retains heat very well and can withstand extremely high temperatures.

FAQ: Are there any health concerns associated with non-stick pans?
Answer: Some older non-stick pans used PTFE (Teflon) coatings that, when overheated, could release fumes potentially harmful to birds and cause flu-like symptoms in humans. However, many modern non-stick pans use safer materials. It’s always recommended to avoid overheating non-stick pans and to ensure proper ventilation when cooking.

FAQ: Can I use metal utensils with either type?
Answer: For non-stick pans, avoiding metal utensils is generally recommended as they can scratch and damage the surface. With cast iron, metal utensils can be used without much concern.

FAQ: Which one is more versatile for different cooking methods?
Answer: Cast iron is quite versatile and can go from the stovetop to the oven without any issues. Non-stick pans are great for stovetop cooking but may have limitations in the oven, especially depending on the type of handle and the resilience of the non-stick coating to high temperatures.

FAQ: Do I need to season both types of pans?
Answer: Only cast iron typically requires seasoning. Seasoning involves coating the pan with a thin layer of oil and heating it to create a natural non-stick layer. Non-stick pans come with a manufactured non-stick coating and don’t need seasoning.


Choosing between non-stick and cast iron boils down to personal preference and intended use. A non-stick pan might be your best bet if you’re looking for something easy to use daily, especially for quick cooking tasks like frying eggs. On the other hand, if you appreciate durability, versatility, and don’t mind a bit of maintenance, a cast iron skillet can be a rewarding investment that lasts a lifetime.

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