So… choice of skillet? Should you use cast iron or non-stick? If you ask for my advice I’ll tell you to own both at 10 or 12 inches diameter. But, make sure both are ‘oven proof’ and learn when and how to use each one. Over more than 3 decades cooking up dinner for two, three then four people I’ve owned a lot of different skillets and now primarily use my cast iron. But, there are plenty of times when only my trusty non-stick will do. Aside from being an issue of personal preference, I think it also kind of depends on your level of experience and confidence.
I have owned a 10 inch, cast iron skillet (frypan?) for more than 25 years… it possibly came with me from before my sweetie and I were married so possibly 40+ years, I really can’t remember. But, truth be told, I only started using it regularly around five or six years ago after our girls had grown up a bit and there seemed to be more time for me to take things in the kitchen more seriously. Up to that point I went through a lineup primarily of non-stick skillets and several big 14-16 inch non stick woks. Eventually I settled on the 10 inch non-stick skillet I use now (it happens to be from IKEA) but I use it sparingly compared to my big old cast iron.
Non-stick skillets make up about three quarters of the frying pans sold in North America. They are treated with chemical products that create a synthetic surface and food cooked in the pan will tend to not stick. They’re not perfect but, they’re generally pretty close. Many people are concerned though that the chemicals may in fact leech into food over years of steady use. Decades of studies by disinterested third parties show that, provided you follow recommended heat limits, there’s probably no need to worry. But, those heat limits affect how they’re used and what can be cooked in a non-stick pan.
Actually, a well seasoned cast iron skillet is in fact almost as ‘non-stick’ as any pan coated with any popular non-stick treatment. Regularly ‘seasoning’ your cast iron with the right oil is a good start. Simply using it also creates a reliable layer of oils and fats that bond to the cast iron at higher heats. That further serves to protect it and prevents most foods from sticking to the pan surface.
You do have to be more careful when cleaning a non-stick pan because the finish can be more easily damaged. And, once damaged, there is no way to repair the artificial non-stick finish. As a result, non-stick pans tend to have to be replaced every few years. You can be more forceful cleaning a cast iron pan even using steel wool (although I use a ball of crumpled up tinfoil instead). A cast iron finish can actually improve with age and use and it can usually be repaired if somehow damaged.
If you find this useful or, if you like what you see, don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘follow’.
I have based this post primarily on personal experience but, because I thought it best to provide a level of technical information, I feel the need to cite some more official sources. I’ve read numerous articles and owe a debt to: The Washington Post, The New York Times, Cooks Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, and Consumer Reports in particular.
If you like this post… even if you don’t… please comment, let’s talk about it!
And, ‘like’ the blog so you can come back and see us some time!