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Choosing the Best Cast Iron Cookware for Your Kitchen

Wanting the best cast iron cookware is just like anything else in your house. You need to look at what is available, read reviews, test it yourself and then decide what you like best.

When you're looking at cast iron cookware, there will be two different types to consider: bare cast iron and enameled cast iron. Bare cast iron is what you may remember in your grandmother's kitchenÂ… it is heavy, black and shiny when it is properly seasoned.

Enameled cast iron cookware encases the bare iron pan in a shiny colorful coat of enamel. These pans don't need to be seasoned and they can be put in the dishwasher, but you won't find as many different types of pans in this style.

Let's talk about bare cast iron cookware first. This traditional form of cast iron cookware has been around for centuries. It's hard to improve on something that has been excellent from the very beginning. Today, you may want to consider where the best cast iron cookware is made, what it is made out of, and the history of its manufacturer.

The quality of the cookware impacts directly on how well it seasons, how well it heats, how durable it will be and how safe it is to use.

When you look for the best cast iron cookware, you need to look for the following details:
  • Surface texture: A new cast iron pan should feel uniformly rough, kind of like a cat's tongue. It should also feel even. You should not see or feel any chips, cracks, pits or jagged areas. You shouldn't see areas that seem "odd" or are not like the rest of the surface. Do you feel dips or waves on the interior of the pan? If you do, walk away. Fine-grained cast iron is easier to season. Cast iron that is poorly made is harder to season and requires more care even after it's been cured.

    Width of Sides

    If you want your cast iron to conduct heat efficiently and avoid warping and hot spots, the sides should be the same thickness all the way around. If the sides are not even, the pan is more prone to breakage.


    You may think that all cast iron pans are equal in thisÂ… they're made of iron, right? But in reality, it is a combination of iron and steel. The combination is important when you need to consider the evenness of heat distribution and conduction. Discolorations and blotchy spots may indicate a poor mixture which can lead to hot spots or brittleness.

    Where it's Made

    Make sure that the country your cast iron cookware is made in has stringent safety requirements for manufacturing. While importations from some regions are less expensive, they may not meet the same safety and quality requirements.

Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

Used cast iron cookware can be restored in most cases and still has years of use in them. If you are shopping for used pieces, avoid pans that are cracked, warped, pitted or chipped. Avoid pans with paint on them. Rust can be sanded off and the pan can be reseasoned. If you come across a pan with the Griswold logo on it and it is going cheap, buy it. Griswold cast iron cookware is a collector's item.

Manufacturers like Lodge cast iron have been in business for more than a hundred years and are considered high quality with a low price tag. They can be found for sale in stores all across the country and online. All their lines now are either enameled or come preseasoned, so while you are welcome to add a layer of seasoning when the pan comes out of the box, you don't have to.

Enameled cast iron cookware is a little different. The cast iron is inside a colorful coating of enamel. There is no seasoning required, and you can even wash them in the dishwasher. Unlike bare cast iron, you can't use these on the grill or over open flame. They are better suited for the stove top and the oven.

To find the best cast iron cookware in this category, check with the manufacturer to find out how many layers of enamel have been applied. Some apply two, some apply 4 and some may apply more. The more layers there are, the more durable the enamel will be. While chipping of the enamel won't hurt the functionality of your cookware, it won't be as pretty on the serving table and you may need to watch for rust.

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