Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel Pan – What is the Difference?

Cast Iron vs Stainless Steel Pan: Nothing may be more delicious than a spoonful of crispy potatoes or a perfectly seared tuna steak. If you’re willing to prepare these dishes at your home, you’ll need an excellent frying pan made of the durable, cooking-friendly material.

Cast Iron vs. Stainless Steel Pan

When it comes to searing steak or browning a large amount of meat, there are two types of pans, cast iron and stainless steel pans, out there in the market. But, these pieces of cookware have different features and cooking purposes.

Difference Between Cast Iron Pan and Stainless Steel Pan

Cast Iron vs Stainless Steel Pan - Main Difference
The main difference between Cast Iron and Stainless steel pans is in their construction material. As the name implies, one is made of cast iron, and another one is made of stainless steel. Moreover, cast iron pans are suitable for slow cooking, while stainless steel pans are ideal for everyday cooking.

If you need any of them as per your requirements, you, at first, have to know the differences between them. Due to iron alloys, both stainless steel and cast iron materials contain carbon. But stainless steel has less than 2%, and cast iron has 2 to 4%.

Although modern cast iron pans come with pre-seasoned cooking surfaces, they require seasoning before cooking every time. On the other hand, Stainless steel pans can properly cook a wide variety of meals without seasoning.

Apart from these things, there are a lot more differences between these two types of pans. In this article, we’re going to talk about them so that you can find the right one for your kitchen arsenal according to your requirements.

What is Cast Iron Pan?

Cast Iron Pan

Cast iron pans are durable pieces of cookware made of the molten version of cast iron. These pans usually come with good heat retention, ability to be used at relatively high heat, and availability of many sizes and shapes. If you properly season them, they can be nonstick.

However, modern cast iron pans are the pre-seasoned ones that reduce your valuable time and effort. Besides, cast irons pans are relatively hard to maintain because you cannot wash them in the dishwasher. After every use, you have to clean them properly without using soap.

Cast Iron Pan


  • Made of durable cast iron
  • Comes with excellent heat retention
  • Keeps food warm for a long time
  • Allows a wide variety of cooking methods
  • Ideal for browning and low simmering


  • Reacts to acidic foods, such as tomatoes
  • Relatively heavier than a stainless steel pan
  • Doesn’t allow you to clean it in a dishwasher
  • Heats up slowly and increases the cooking time

What is Stainless Steel Pan?

Stainless Steel Pan

As the name suggests, stainless steel pans are made of stainless steel, but the base usually consists of copper or aluminum core. These corrosion-resistant pans are good heat conductors because the bases are manufactured with other materials.

However, they cannot retain heat for long because stainless steel doesn’t have good heat retention capability. But, these pans are quite easy to maintain, and you don’t have to worry about losing their shapes after using them all day long.

Stainless Steel Pan


  • Made of robust eco-friendly stainless steel
  • Comes with rust and corrosion resistance
  • Offers even heat distribution
  • Doesn’t need seasoning
  • Easy to clean and maintain


  • A bit expensive than a cast iron pan
  • Provides poor heat retention
  • Requires some amount of oil before cooking
  • Might stick food to the cooking surface

Cast Iron Pan vs. Stainless Steel Pan: Which is better Cast Iron or Stainless Steel Pan?

Cast Iron Pan vs. Stainless Steel Pan

When purchasing a new pan, you may not figure out the factors where cast iron and stainless steel pans differ. Hopefully, this well-explained comparison will put an end to your confusion about the differences between cast iron and stainless steel pans.

Material & Durability

In terms of durability, cast iron pans are more durable than stainless steel pans. Iron is more wear and corrosion-resistant than steel and develops a patina to prevent deep corrosion of the metal’s integrity, especially in friction-wearing situations.


Cast iron pans are heavier than stainless steel pans. When a cast iron pan is full of ingredients, it’s quite hard to lift and move. If you have to maintain a busy schedule or deal with a large quantity of food, it’s recommended to use cast iron pans in the kitchen.


Cast iron pans are usually reactive, and therefore, they’re likely to react to acidic ingredients. So, they can largely affect the taste of your meal. On the contrary, stainless steel pans don’t react to such foods. So, they won’t influence the taste of your dish.

Heat Retention & Conduction

In the case of heat retention and conduction, cast iron pans retain massive heat and conduct it for long, although they take a little more time than stainless steel pans. However, stainless steel pans are poor heat conductors, but they heat up quickly for emergency cooking.

Cooking Methods

Cast iron pans are usually used for slow cooking, roasting, and preparing meals that require being transferred from stovetop to oven. Due to high heat retention capability, they’re excellent in searing gourmet steaks with crispy exteriors and juicy interiors.

On the other hand, Stainless steel pans perform various cooking methods, such as sautéing and searing delicate meats. They’re good for cooking acidic dishes, like tomatoes and wine sauces that are not recommended to cook in cast iron pans.

Health & Safety

Both cast iron and stainless steel materials are quite safe for cooking a wide variety of dishes. But, cast iron can transfer some iron content to your food. This is not good for your health. So, many people prefer stainless steel pans.

Ease of Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning cookware, stainless steel pans are quite easy to clean. Most importantly, you can also rinse these pans in a dishwasher. In contrast, cast iron pans are difficult to clean, and you’re not allowed to put them in a dishwasher.

Final Words

Now that you know the differences between cast iron pans and stainless steel pans, you should select the better one for you. We don’t take the side of any particular pan in this debate, but we want to say that both pieces of cookware are excellent for cooking.

FeatureCast Iron PanStainless Steel Pan
DurabilityMore durable, develops a patinaDurable but no patina development
ReactivityReactive to acidic ingredientsNon-reactive to acidic ingredients
Heat PropertiesExcellent heat retention and conductionPoor heat conductor but heats quickly
Cooking MethodsSlow cooking, roasting, searingSautéing, searing, cooking acidic dishes
Health & SafetySafe, but can transfer some ironSafe, preferred by some due to no iron transfer
Ease of CleaningDifficult to clean, not dishwasher-safeEasy to clean, dishwasher-safe

Although stainless steel pans are poor heat conductors, they still provide you with perfectly cooked meals. We recommend you choose cast iron pans only if you’re sure about taking care of them properly. Make sure the cast iron pan is enameled.

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