I’m the executive chef at Emilio’s Ballato in New York City. My name is Connie Chen. I am a home and kitchen reporter for the Insider Reviews team. Yeah, with the cast iron, you can see there’s, like, spots of it, whereas the stainless steel’s, like, slowly the whole layer gets browned.
Anthony: You can see the flour burning on the stainless steel pan much quicker than it does on the cast iron. When you’re cooking anything, you really wanna spread out and distribute that heat throughout the pan so it doesn’t stick and it cooks through. Once the heat hits one spot of the cast iron pan, that’s where it burns, and that’s where the heat absorbs.
And the rest of the areas of the pan could be cold, and that’s not what you want. With a stainless steel pan, what happens is the whole pan absorbs the heat and it spreads out, so it’s consistently hot throughout the pan, and that’s what you want when you’re cooking.
Stainless steel distributes heat much better than cast iron. Connie: Stainless steel itself isn’t actually great at conducting heat. It’s really, like, the aluminum in the center that’s doing the work. So, when you go on, like, the product description and you see “triple ply” or “five ply,” the ply basically refers to the number of layers. Triple ply means that there’s an aluminum core and then the outside is stainless steel.
And then for five ply, they add two extra layers of aluminum in the middle, which is what gives it that great heat distribution. Anthony: I don’t know how many people can lift a cast iron pan in their hand and not struggle. You know, just carrying it around, it’s really heavy. You know, to really sauté vegetables, you want them to cook evenly.
You don’t want it to cook in one spot.
And you also want a lightweight pan, when you can flip the vegetables, you know, without it being too heavy. So, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna flip and season. Flip and season. You wanna season everything evenly, and that’s why you flip the pan. And that’s how you want it.
That’s the color. Perfect. Now we’re gonna go on to the cast iron. I have never done this. Because I know better, you know?
I would never do that, but let’s see what I got. And that’s a little more tough. So, as you can see, when I try to flip it, it doesn’t hit off the side evenly and flip over. It has more of a thicker lip.
Meanwhile, in the stainless steel pan, it’s kind of on an angle.
This is more of a straight lip. I’m a bigger guy, so I can do it, but I could get my wife to try to do it if you want. [laughs] Feel how heavy that thing is. Christy: I can’t even hold it! No.
Anthony: She can’t do it. Connie: Cast iron can be, like, anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds. And then stainless steel, it’s about half that, like, 2 to 4 pounds.
Weight is definitely something I take into consideration. When you really are using a product every day, it becomes very important.
Anthony: So, with the stainless steel pan, I like doing the brown-butter method. [steak sizzling] Little bit of oil in this pan. Look at this. Look at that. That’s what you want, right there.
Now, what I like doing here is I like taking the flavor of the butter and feeding it into the steak. Really cook those juices on the inside. Now we’re gonna flip this steak. As you can see, it’s stuck in this area, and in this area where the direct heat was, look. Look at that crust.
It stuck on this side and not on this side. I’m gonna flip it. Look at the difference between the crust. This one was from the cast iron pan. See the difference in the crust on the one from the stainless steel?
This has more of an even crust. Rather here, in the middle, there’s really no crust.
Everyone has this notion in their head that, like, meats will stick to stainless steel. Once you get a meat to the right temperature, the meat will come off the pan naturally, so if your meat is sticking to the pan on stainless steel, and you say, “Oh, no, I like cast iron better,” just cook it for a longer amount of time. I promise you the meat will naturally come off the pan.
It happens, I promise. If you were to use cast iron for one thing, it’s for searing a steak and for meats, but I also recommend putting the cast iron pan in the oven first to thoroughly heat up the pan.
Honestly, you can cook anything in stainless steel. Cooking steak, sautéing veggies, sautéing pasta, making sauce. Cooking certain things in a cast iron pan will change the color of a sauce, say, if you’re cooking tomato sauce.
It takes that color of the cast iron off the pan. You’ll literally be eating a tomato sauce that’s tasting a little rusty. Connie: If cast iron, you’re cooking with acidic foods, like tomatoes or lemon juice, there is the danger of those ingredients, like, leaching into the cast iron and giving your food a weird taste. But if you just wanna be safe, stainless steel is just, like, for sure, it’s not gonna react with the materials. You’re not gonna get any, like, funky flavors or chemicals.
Anthony: It’s a complete different story between cast iron and stainless steel. You really just want to take a rag, and just once it’s cooled down, really clean it just basically with a rag. If you wanna clean cast iron with soap and water and a Brillo, you’re really taking off all that seasoning, and you have to dry it or it’ll rust, so you have to start over and do the seasoning process over again.
So cleanup definitely is easier with stainless steel rather than cast iron. Connie: For day-to-day maintenance and cleaning, I think stainless steel pans are a lot easier to care for.
There’s not really much of, like, a learning curve at all with it. The best way to clean a stainless steel pan is just with a soft sponge and some mild soap. With cast iron, you need the extra step of making sure it’s dry, covering it with oil. Stainless steel you just wash and then dry on the drying rack. It’s just, like, one less step in your already very busy day.
Anthony: For at-home cooks that don’t have the passion for cooking like I do and have a million sauté pans and cast iron pans and nonstick pans, if you want just one good pan to do multiple things, go with stainless steel.
There is a lot of things that you can do with a stainless steel pan that you can’t do with a cast iron pan. Just unlimited amount of things that you can do in a stainless steel pan. Connie: It’s just very versatile. It’s durable.
It’s easy to care for, so it’s low maintenance. And you can generally find affordable high-quality options.
Read More: The Truth About Caraway Cookware After Using It for 2+ Years (Unbiased Review)