There’s something that happens to people when they start to get into food and food preparation. Whether you are a budding chef or just a foodie who wants to try things at home, you take a good long look at the pots and pans you have in your kitchen and you put them to work, experimenting with what works best for different dishes.
Unless your cupboards are well stocked with great cookware, most people have that moment when they realize their current set of cookware isn’t going to go as far as they want it to go. I had my own a-ha moment this past year when I had dinner over at a friend’s house. She’s a chef at a local eatery, and it’s always fun to watch her sauté, sear, and broil. That night she used a pair of gorgeous cast iron fry pans, then switch over to stainless steel pots for sauces.
Normally I wouldn’t pay attention to the intricate details of someone’s cooking, but I was in the market for a new set of pans and I was wondering about the benefits of cast iron vs stainless steel. Both heat up quickly, were easy to clean, and didn’t hold her back by sticking or burning when she was experimenting with cooking methods. When I asked her what she would recommend, stainless steel or cast iron, her answer was ‘both.’
Both types of cookware are great for cooking different things; you just learn to pick the right pan for the right job.
Cast iron pans
Last week I explored the many benefits of cast iron pans, and talked about how they are great for almost everything you want to cook in your kitchen. You can take them from the stove to oven to table, and I love that the latest cast iron pans are coated with enamel so they don’t require the same seasoning your Grandma’s cast iron pans would have. They also don’t potentially leach the harmful chemicals that some non-stick pans can.
But when you want to cook something, what types of recipes would make you reach for cast iron pans? One look through foodie forums and you’ll come up with a bunch of different opinions, but the main consensus is that cast iron is great for cooking with high heat and dishes that go from stovetop to table like stews or meat you’d like to sear or fry.
Enamel-coated cast iron pans like the BergHOFF Neo 12” Cast Iron Fry Pan are also great for frying eggs or searing vegetables because it has an enamel interior coating. All you’ll have to do is build up a patina of oil or give it a quick spray of olive oil and food should slide right off onto your plate.
Stainless steel cookware
Just like there are many benefits to cast iron pots and pans, there are also a ton of reasons why you’d want stainless steel cookware in your kitchen.
Stainless steel is very durable. Take the Zwilling JA Henckels Sol II stainless steel cookware set as an example: it won’t chip, rust, or stain very easily. Because it’s stainless steel, it is very hard to dent or scratch these pots and pans, but if you ever do destroy one, they are completely recyclable.
Stainless steel pots and pans don’t have non-stick coating either, so the flavour of your food is preserved and your favourite dishes will taste just as they should without leaching from the pan.
You can cook with high heat, because stainless steel cookware is designed to ensure even cooking of food. And if you’re someone who likes to hang their pots and pans on a rack in your kitchen, you’ll love hanging your Zwilling JA Henckels Sol II set. It’s easy to maintain and clean: just give it a gentle rub after cleaning and you’ll have shiny, beautiful cookware to display.
The sky is the limit as far as what you can cook in your stainless steel cookware. In contrast to cast iron, stainless steel pots are great for anything acidic including tomato sauce and reductions. Many people also use stainless steel as their go-to pots for potatoes, pasta, and soups, so it really is an everyday type of cookware.
If you ask any chef, he’ll tell you that the different metals you find in cookware are great for different dishes, and that’s why you need both cast iron and stainless steel cookware in your kitchen. It gives you the best of both worlds, and you’d be surprised at how fun cooking is when you have the right tools on hand.
Need an example of some recipes you can cook in cast iron and stainless steel cookware? Here are two that really show the benefits of both types of cookware.
Cast-iron Cowboy Steak from Southern Living
If you’ve ever visited a steak house, you know that the steak you receive is full of flavour and has a delicious crust. You can replicate that flavour at home if you cook your steak in your cast iron pan.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (1 1/2- to 2-lb.) bone-in rib-eye or porterhouse steak (about 2 inches thick)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
8 fresh herb sprigs (such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Preheat grill to 400° to 450° (high) heat. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on grill, covered with grill lid, 15 minutes. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously over steak.
Add oil to skillet. (Oil should smoke.) Using tongs, place steak in skillet, and cook on grill, without grill lid, 10 minutes or until dark brown and crusty. Turn steak on fatty edge in skillet, holding upright with tongs, and cook 2 minutes. Place steak, uncooked side down, in skillet. Cook on grill, covered with grill lid, 8 to 10 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. (We recommend an internal temperature of 120° to 125° for medium-rare; temperature will rise as steak rests.)
Add butter, herbs, and garlic to side of skillet, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until butter foams. Tilt skillet slightly, and spoon butter mixture over steak 20 times (being careful not to splatter). Transfer steak, herbs, and garlic to a platter; let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Slice against the grain.
World’s Best Pasta Sauce
Stainless steel cookware really shines when it comes to pasta sauce. The cookware brings out the flavour of the spices without adding any after taste of its own.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
In a large stainless steel pot over medium to low heat, cook the sausage, beef, onion, and garlic until well browned; drain fat. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Mix in sugar and season with basil, fennel seed, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Ready to get cooking in your kitchen? Take a look at all of the cookware available on Best Buy right now.