You must have come across two kinds of cookware when you rummaged in your mother’s kitchen: a hardy, thick kadhai with moulded handles that could easily replace a dumbbell for daily exercise; and a smooth thin kadhai with handles attached using rivets. It is not just a difference in outward appearance. The two different kinds of kadhai are made and used for different purposes. While the thick, heavy one is a cast-iron Kadhai, the latter is a pure iron Kadhai.
Some believe that cast iron cookware has to be used carefully, while some are of the opinion that it needs too much maintenance. Again, it is a popular contention amongst cookware enthusiasts that ordinary ironware is not as healthy as compared to cast iron cookware. Some say that you cannot cook any acidic vegetables (forget adding tomatoes to your curry!) in a cast iron cookware. We understand that too many voices drown everything. Let us debunk some myths and evaluate the difference between cast iron cookware and ordinary iron cookware to choose the better pick.
Cast Iron Vs Iron Cookware
Composition and Manufacturing Process of Cast iron and Iron
Cast iron is made from an alloy of carbon, iron, and silicon. 93-96% of the alloy is Iron, while 2-4% is carbon and the rest is silicon. The alloy is poured into moulds to shape them into utensils. This is why cast iron cookware does not contain joints. Cast iron cookware generally have a grainy texture. But, some of them like Indus Valley are nowadays machine polished to have a smoother finish.
Pure Iron utensils are made by beating sheets of iron into shape. They have a seamless and smooth finish. Most of the Iron Kadhais come with handles that are joint using rivets. But you can find some pure Iron Tawas with seamless handles too.
Whether it is cast iron or pure iron cookware, they should not be kept away from moisture because they are prone to rust. With newer cookware, we recommend drying them immediately after washing and then applying a layer of oil. However, with time, they develop a thick layer of seasoning that protects them from rusting. At that point, you can stop oiling and can handle them just like any other cookware.
Related reading: Why Does Food Turn Black In Cast Iron Cookware?
Even heating and Heat Retention
Although everyone believes that cast iron cookware spreads heat evenly throughout the pan, it is not so simple. The thermal conductivity of cast iron cookware is lesser than that of aluminium cookware. It means that when you place the skillet on a burner, you would see very clear hot spots right where the flames are, while the rest of the pan is relatively cool. But, being thick and heavy, they retain the heat for a longer time. This helps achieve perfect sears on your fish and vegetables. The residual heat allows slow cooking and saves fuel too. Be very careful when you pick it up to wash, for it takes a longer time to cool than ordinary iron cookware.
Pure Iron cookware is comparatively thinner. They heat up quickly and conduct heat better too. However, it also loses heat quicker than a cast iron pan. The high conductivity also means you need to be careful not to burn the food. Traditionally, many people use iron Tawa for making Dosa. But, if you are new to using iron cookware, you would be more comfortable with cast iron rather than pure iron.
Related reading: Best Dosa Tawas In India
Many cite cast iron cookware to be the healthier alternative. As cooking is slow and due to the porous nature of cast iron, the iron transfer rate is higher in cast iron cookware. On the other hand, pure iron cookware has a smoother finish, is less porous and cooking is rather quick. So, the iron transfer is rather insignificant.
But note that iron transfer depends to a great extent on the acidity of the food cooked and the seasoning. Newer cast iron cookware imparts higher iron content to food compared to older ones as they are not well-seasoned. You can read more about the myths and facts of the health benefits of cast iron cookware here.
Related reading: How To Clean Cast Iron Tawa
Cast iron cookware is a popular choice as it has better stick resistance when properly seasoned. But, don’t expect it to be like a Teflon pan. You still need to use some oil before cooking.
Pure iron cookware also needs oil. Due to its higher heat conductivity, you may probably need slightly more oil than a cast iron pan. However, the difference is not that noticeable.
Related reading: Indus Valley Cast Iron Tawa Review
Cast-iron cookware based on its design and tensile structure is hardier than ordinary iron cookware. However, it depends on the moulding composition. If a section has not been hardened properly, it would break. Also, being brittle, it will break if you drop it from a height.
Pure Iron cookware is beaten into shape from solid iron sheets. It is quite durable and won’t break if dropped. Comparatively, it has better durability than cast iron.
The maintenance and cleaning methods for cast iron and pure iron are almost the same.
Contrary to popular opinion, cast iron and iron cookware can be cleaned using soap. After cleaning, pat it dry and apply a thin layer of oil to prevent rusting. You can read more about how to season cast iron cookware in our in-depth article. The same method can be used for pure iron cookware as well.
Related reading: Cast Iron vs Stainless Steel Comparison
Which To Choose: Cast Iron or Pure Iron Cookware?
If you are buying a kadhai, it is better to opt for cast iron as they retain heat and allow slow cooking and preserves the nutrients. When it comes to Tawa, both cast iron and pure iron are equally good. However, newbies would have better control over cast iron Tawa.
Iron cookware is comparatively inexpensive than cast iron. But, also their options are rather less. You may have to forage your local market to buy anything worth it. On the other hand, if you want to buy good quality preseasoned cookware, cast iron is the way to go nowadays.