Everyone knows that cast iron is the healthier option. But, even so, most people have at least one nonstick cookware in their kitchen as it offers convenience unlike any other. You shouldn’t really allow anyone to guilt trip you for using nonstick, because if you buy one from a dependable brand and use it correctly, it doesn’t really affect your health. So, who should opt for cast iron Tawa and who should get nonstick ones? How can you use nonstick safely? How do you maintain them? Let us explore in detail.
What is Cast Iron Tawa?
Cast iron, as you may know is an alloy of iron with a carbon content of more than 2%. In molten form, it is poured into casts ( and hence the name) to make various utensils of different sizes and shapes. Cast iron Tawas are generally heavier and used for making dosa, chapati etc. Cast iron pans ( skillets) are a great choice for searing meat, fish etc.
What Is Nonstick Tawa?
Nonstick Tawa, commonly, has a base made of aluminium or hard-anodized aluminium. Brands like Bergner, Stahl etc have nonstick cookware with coating on triply stainless steel as well. The nonstick coating called PTFE ( Polytetrafluoroethylene) is usually made by specialized manufacturers. The cookware manufacturers buy these coating and apply them to the Tawas during the manufacturing process.
Some of the known brands of PTFE are Teflon, ILAG, Greblon etc. The quality and safety specs of the nonstick coating vary from brand to brand. Ideally, you should buy nonstick cookware whose coating is from EU manufacturers as they have stringent safety standards.
Related reading: Should You Season Nonstick Cookware?
When it comes to cooking performance, cast iron and nonstick have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Nonstick, obviously has better stick resistance than cast iron Tawas. No matter how well-seasoned the cast iron Tawa is, you need to apply a thin coating of oil to release food, which is not the case with nonstick Tawas.
As nonstick Tawas have aluminium or triply stainless steel base, they conduct heat more uniformly than cast iron. So, you need to preheat cast iron Tawas on a low flame for several minutes before you can actually use them.
But a strong advantage of cast iron, which overshadows all its downfalls is its high heat retention capacity. Owing to its heavy mass, cast iron is able to retain its heat for a long period. So, when you drop a piece of fish at room temperature in a cast iron Tawa, the Tawa does not lose its temperature quickly, which is not the case with nonstick cookware.
The high heat retention means better searing on food too. When making Dosa in cast iron Tawa, you notice that it has a better texture than what you get on a nonstick Tawa. Similarly, fish, meat and paneer develop a nice browning when fried in cast iron.
Winner: Cast Iron
Cast iron is a comparatively safe metal. Iron gets infused into liquid and slightly acidic food cooked in cast iron cookware, which helps reduce anaemia.
Nonstick cookware, on the other hand, can be harmful if overheated. The nonstick coating disintegrates and emits harmful fumes when heated above 260 degrees Celsius. The manufacturing process of nonstick cookware is said to cause damage to the environment due to the emission of PFAs too.
To reduce any negative impact while cooking, opt for nonstick Tawas with a thick base. Also, it is better to opt for ones with hard-anodized aluminium or triply stainless steel base.
Tawas with a thick base takes a longer time to heat. As a result, the chances of overheating are lesser. In our tests, we have found that a nonstick Tawa with 2.5mm thickness took just 1 minute 40 seconds to reach 260 degrees Celsius, while Tawa with a hard-anodized base with 4.8mm thickness took 3 minutes to touch 260 C.
Winner: Cast Iron
Related reading: 3 Popular Nonstick Cookware Base Materials
Cast iron, if maintained properly, and provided you don’t drop it from a height, can outlive you. Many families pass over cast iron cookware as a family heirloom.
Nonstick cookware obviously do not have such a long lifespan. Most of them flake off after 2-4 years of usage.
Winner: Cast Iron
Ease of Use
Nonstick Tawas are lightweight and require minimal maintenance. As a result, they are pretty easy to use. Cast Iron Tawas however have a deeper learning curve. You need to know how to season it and be diligent enough to practice the maintenance routine. This makes it comparatively a bit more difficult to use than nonstick Tawas.
Both nonstick Tawas and cast iron are better not cleaned in the dishwasher. The coating of nonstick cookware tends to peel off quickly when cleaned in a dishwasher. The seasoning of cast iron Tawas too gets stripped off due to chemicals used in the dishwasher.
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Nonstick Tawas are practically maintenance-free. All you have to do is clean it using a soft sponge and avoid overheating.
Cast iron Tawas, especially when new, requires more maintenance. After cleaning, you should dry it off immediately and apply a thin layer of oil to prevent rusting. Also, you should avoid immersing nonstick cookware in water, as it may lead to rusting.
Dosa Tawa especially needs to be preheated after applying a thin layer of oil before use in order to prevent it from sticking to the Tawa. An oil bottle with a brush would be an immensely useful tool for applying oil to cast iron Tawas.
Nonstick Tawas are a suitable option for those who need maintenance-free, easy-to-use cookware. If used with care, they are safe. However, you may need to change them every 2-4 years or when the coating starts flaking.
A cast-iron Tawa is an apt choice for health-conscious folks who notice even nuanced differences in taste and texture of food. If perfect searing, texture and taste are your main consideration and you are willing to invest a few minutes every day into maintaining your cast iron cookware, then it is definitely the right choice for you.