Cast iron and stoneware pots, pans and baking dishes are not interchangeable in the kitchen. Both have properties that benefit the cook, but each comes with a specific set of dos and don'ts. A few pieces of each in the kitchen cupboard make a cook's job easier.
Cast iron lasts decades and is almost impossible to destroy. If cared for properly, a cast iron frying pan is free of rust. Over time, cast iron builds a nonstick surface. A cast iron pan rarely breaks. Stoneware is made of clay with a glaze covering and is lighter than cast iron. It is heat resistant but will crack and chip. A piece of stoneware breaks if dropped onto the floor.
Cast iron can be used on the stovetop, in the oven and on the table. It withstands high heat and retains heat. It takes a cast iron pan longer to warm than a stoneware pan. Oven mitts must be used when handling hot cast iron. Stoneware also withstands high heat but cools quicker than cast iron. When used in the microwave, a stoneware mug or dish becomes too hot to handle with bare hands. Stoneware cannot be used for cooking on top of the stove.
Cast iron must be seasoned prior to its first use. The process involves wiping oil onto the surface of the pan and heating it in the oven until the oil is absorbed. Once completed, seasoning yields a pan that matures with each use. Wipe a cast iron pan with a paper or cloth towel after use. A mild soap can be used occasionally, but scouring is never suggested. Glazed stoneware is easily maintained and can be cleaned by hand or in a dishwasher. Unglazed stoneware should be treated as you would cast iron. Unglazed stoneware should be seasoned prior to its first use, but glazed stoneware can be used immediately.
Cast iron is black. You have no selection of decorator colors in cast iron. Stoneware, if it is unglazed, is terracotta in appearance with a matte finish. A glazing allows all colors and designs to be fired onto the stoneware.
Enameled cast iron has a coating of enamel over the cast iron. It does not need seasoning. It can be used on top of the stove, in the oven and on the table as a serving dish. Enameled cast iron is heavy and shares all the properties of cast iron but is not subject to rust and is easily washed with kitchen soap. Enameled cast iron comes in a variety of colors.
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