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Cast iron or cast aluminum??

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  • nader Feb 17, 2009 08:46 AM
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Hi all,
I recently purchased a reversible griddle-grill from Costco and realized that it is cast aluminum and not cast iron. I know, the weight should have given it away, but it was a long day!

I'd like to know whether anyone has tried the cast aluminum before and whether it is much different from cast iron? It is MUCH more lightweight (and therefore easier to clean) than cast iron and fits the stove perfectly. Some sites I've found point to slight differences in heat distribution and loss, but no other differences otherwise. Is this a good deal, at half the price of cast iron? Or should I go for the cast iron instead? I will, however, be buying a cast iron skillet for corn breads, etc.

In case any one is wondering, the grill/griddle I got is the Nordic Ware Heavy Cast Aluminum reversible griddle/grill.

Thanks for the help!
Nader

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  1. My very quick internet research leads me to believe that this is a non-stick coated aluminum pan? If so, it's not worth the trouble. Aside from all the alarmists that tell you you'll die if the pan gets a teeny bit warm, the non-stick coating doesn't last. I'd say return it.

    You also mention that the aluminum is half the price of cast iron? The reason I word it like that is because your insinuation is that cast iron is expensive. I'm not sure if you've done some internet searching but the Lodge reversible griddle/grill pan that I've found is in the neighborhood of $35 to $45. If that's expensive... well, let's just say it's not expensive.

    Go with cast iron.

    2 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      Disagree totally. It may not be as good, but to me a very useful pan. I have one and use it all the time. I also trust my cast iron but I use them for different cooking. No, they are not alike and shouldn't be used the same, but return it ... No, I think it can be successfully used and you would enjoy it. I have very inexpensive pans which I love equally to my expensive ones and wouldn't trade them for anything. Many have been with me for many years. Price doesn't equate quality to me. If I use it and it is helpful to me, it is worth every cent. To me ... it is the cook that makes the food ... not the equipment.

      I say keep, cook and enjoy, but just my opinion. I have a Target brand stove top grill for 5 years. Love it to death and use it many times each week, wouldn't change a thing.

      1. re: HaagenDazs

        I wrote below that I returned this exact same griddle to Costco as I didn't realize until I got home that it was coated. Afterwards, I went to Walmart and bought a Lodge cast iron griddle for less money. If it weren't coated, it would probably work just fine, but this particular item with the non stick coating will not hold up over a high flame. I would much rather go with cast iron.

      2. A nice heavy cast aluminum griddle is a good thing. No need to return it.

        I used to have one for camping -- it even had a little thermometer built into the handle. After much hard use and abuse, it warped, and I had to replace. (In fairness, a cast iron griddle would have cracked from similar treatment.)

        The aluminum will heat up and cool down a lot faster than cast iron. It is also more susceptible to hot spots. It also has issues with very high temps (warping and melting.) Like cast iron, it needs to be seasoned, but the seasoning is not as critical.

        Cast aluminum is softer than cast iron -- try to stick with plastic and wooden implements. Like iron, aluminum does not like the dishwasher, NOT ONE BiT, but it doesn't mind a nice long soak either.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MikeB3542

          Aluminum
          Plain aluminum cookware is low-cost, light-weight, and thermally responsive – but aluminum is reactive. Foods cooked in aluminum can react with the metal to form aluminum salts associated with impaired visual motor coordination and Alzheimer’s disease; however there is no definite link proven. More than half of all cookware sold today is made of aluminum.

        2. The problem with a cast aluminum griddle (edit, thank you HaagenDazs!) is that it will eventually warp. Your great grandchildren will be able to use your cast iron griddle. You cannot get aluminum as hot as you can a cast iron griddle and not have problems with it. I also don't like aluminum because it is chemically reactive to onions and tomatoes (and other foods). And I don't like any "non-stick" surface except well cured cast iron and well cured carbon steel. I won't even use anodized aluminum.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            I think you meant to say "The problem with a cast ALUMINUM griddle is that it will eventually warp."

            In any case, you're right. I think Mike forgot that this is more than likely a non-stick coated piece of cookware -

            nader can you confirm that?

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              You're right. I edited it. Thanks! (Someday I'll figure out how to proof read.)

            2. re: Caroline1

              While I've seen regular aluminum pans warp, I've never seen it with the much thicker cast aluminum. As I noted below, my mom has used hers for half a century or so. If by "eventually" you mean 60 or 70 years out, I don't have any data to contradict you. But 50 years seems to me like a pretty good track record.

              1. re: Caroline1

                Eventually yes, but I have mine 5 years. Lots of wear and tear, high heat and not. Many uses, no warping besides for the price I paid ... I could buy 5 and not equal 1 quality one that gives me 25 years. I have no problems with mine and it works great. I love non stick for some things. Besides, I do have some of my grandmas cast irons but I use them for some things and this griddle and other pans for different recipes.

                I think hold on to it and enjoy it ...

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Yes, your great grandchildren will be able to use a cast iron griddle!
                  I used my father's grandmother's for several years and loved it. I could not burn eggs onto it if I tried. It was perfectly and beautifully seasoned.
                  Unfortunately, the bad roommate did not know about seasoning and took a steel wool pad (maybe several) to it, scrubbed right down to bare metal. He did many other more costly and dangerous things, but this is one unforgivable that sticks in my head.

                2. Cast aluminum may be the ideal material for a two-burner griddle. My mom has one that she's used for the last 40 or 50 years, and it's a thing of beauty. I have 20-year-old cast iron griddle and a more recent nonstick aluminum griddle, so have some basis for comparison.

                  So long as you keep the heat moderate, the temperature on the surface of any aluminum griddle will be much more even than cast iron. Let the griddle heat up gently and pancakes cooked on the middle will be just as brown as those cooked closer to the burners. Cast iron tends to get hotter over the flames and stay cooler away from them.

                  Don't worry about using metal utensils on a cast aluminum griddle. I much prefer steel pancake turners because they're thinner and more rigid than plastic, and will use them on cast aluminum without hesitation. But don't be working on an individual spot with the point of a table knife. With nonstick coatings, use only plastic and wood.

                  As you noted, aluminum is lighter and easier to work with. It cleans up about the same as cast iron, but you don't have to worry about rust. And it's less brittle (although that's not generally an issue with good cast iron).

                  IMHO, you have the ideal griddle. Treat it well and it will last you forever.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    I would agree.My hand me down pre WWII cast aluminum "guardian service" regalware
                    won't be at half life until I am long gone.
                    NORDIC WARE is a fine producer of kitchen ware

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      You're saying burners so I'm thinking gas is what you have? I have a Lodge, rectangular, two burner, cast iron griddle and have used it on gas and electric. On gas it gets pretty evenly heated, it seemed, after a gradual heat-up, whereas on the electric coils, heat seems pretty concentrated over the coils. I can't turn the heat to high on the electric stove I now have, yet it never gets hot enough at the corners. I don't know about aluminum.
                      I think the properties of the materials cause aluminum to be a better conductor, transferring heat quickly, but once heated, cast iron holds heat better. Which makes me wonder if aluminum would be inferior on a small electric coil? I've boiled water on a coil, in a stainless pan, and you could see the circular shape of the coil in the bubbles forming as the water was about to boil.

                      1. re: Scargod

                        I admit electric here. Sometimes I do get hot spots or cooler, but never been a problem. Would love a top grade gas stove and expensive pans, but I can't afford it. I make do with what I have. It has worked for 5 almost 6 years and expect it to last many more.

                        1. re: Scargod

                          They're all burners in my book, regardless of the fuel source. An electric stove may not have a flame, but put your hand on it and what does it do? 'Nuff said.

                          Anyway, I have gas now, but have had electric (old-fashioned coil burners, none of this fancy flat-top stuff) in the past. IMHO aluminum disburses heat more evenly regardless of the heat source. So it's ideal for making pancakes, cooking bacon, and other low- to moderate-heat applications. On the other hand, it doesn't have the thermal mass of cast iron, so it isn't as good for things that require high heat, like searing steaks.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Totally agree, I use my cast iron for steaks, burger, chops, roasts and usually transfer to the oven. Love my cast iron for that. hash fritattas, lots of stuff. yep pancakes, quick grilled sanwiches and maybe chuck quick chicken breasts I don't mind stove top.

                            Each has their best feature don't they..

                        2. re: alanbarnes

                          I have a two burner cast aluminum griddle that my mom picked up at a thrift shop for, maybe $2 - and I LOVE it.

                          It was probably 20 years old when she bought it, I've had it for over 5 years, use it for french toast, pancakes, steaks, grilling vegetables, and it is a complete workhorse.

                          It is not coated but has been used enough that, if you just use non-stick spray, food does not stick. It heats evenly and it's light enough that I'm willing to wrangle it and and, cuz it's aluminum, I don't have to worry about it rusting.

                          From what I can tell, it was made in wisconsin, for restaurant use. But this home cook is happy to have it.

                        3. I like my cast iron, because it gives me big muscles and after use I don't need to go to the gym. The frequent use has also added more iron to my wife's diet and reduced her PMS.
                          Aluminium (Brit spell) reminds me of beer cans and the power of suggestion makes me drink beer, then I get drunk, get in trouble w/ my wife and have to go to the gym to work off the beer gut.
                          Cast iron all the way; no brainer.
                          Speaking of no brainer doesn't cooking w/ aluminum been linked to Alzhiemer's or have I forgotten?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            Very cute. You've been drinking again, haven't you? Also, cast iron is harder for wifey to pick up and swing! Quick, order a cast iron rolling pin!

                            1. re: Scargod

                              Ain't even had a cuppa Joe! Had middle eastern last night, lottsa lamb.
                              Heading to Valley of fire today & guys night out at the Skyline tonight; good bye liver.
                              Speaking of very cute, what's with the new avatar?

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Just some of my cooking art. Dog ate Pancake Rabbit. I drank Joe. My favorite cup, with the Flying Dogs, reminds me of the Stray Dog Cantina in the Taos Ski Valley.
                                Just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention...

                            2. re: Passadumkeg

                              The aluminum/alzheimer's connection has been debunked.

                              http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease...

                              Sadly probably after folks gave away their cast aluminum cookware : (

                            3. I also bought one of these griddles, before I realized it wasn't cast iron. I'm returning it. I want cast iron. Why settle? I do a lot of heavy duty cooking, indoor and out. I want one I can put on the BBQ as well as the stove. Cast iron all the way. Plus, it naturally produces a wonderful product. I have Cuisinart, Calphalon and Le Creuset sets, and always go back to my cast iron for perfection.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Terrilynnr

                                Why settle? Cast aluminum isn't "settling", it's very good stuff. We use ours on the grill, and have taken it camping, and also used it indoors on a gas cooktop. It's fine. No warping; it heats quickly and spreads heat more evenly than cast iron can. What's not to like?

                                I understand that your personal preference is for cast iron, but I think you're disparaging a product you don't know much about.

                                1. re: DuffyH

                                  If you read the very first comment above you will see that it is a question regarding the cast aluminum griddle from Costco, that is made to look like cast iron, and has a non stick coating on it. I actually purchased one thinking it was cast iron.

                                  I have never seen a non stick coating that would hold up over the fire of a BBQ. I would never want to eat off a non stick coating once its been over a flame. And yes, it is my personal preference that cast iron is a better product.

                                  I went to Walmart after returning the aluminum griddle to Costco, and bought a Lodge griddle for less money. Can't beat Lodge for cast iron.

                                  1. re: Terrilynnr

                                    Hi Terrilynnr,

                                    I did read the OP first. There wasn't any mention of a nonstick coating, so I was left with the impression it was bare cast aluminum (as a great many of these griddles are) and responded based on that.

                                    I agree that a nonstick coating would render it useless for all but stovetop cooking.