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May 29, 2010 11:08 AM

Nonstick or Porcelain covered cast iron pan?

So I killed/overseasoned my gimmicky Orgreenics pan, so we need something to replace it. Part of me says get a cheap nonstick pan and get used to replacing it every few months. I was piqued by a recent thread on carbon steel pans, which have appeal. Also an option I saw in the store today was a cast iron pan covered in white porcelain -- seemed like it'd be good.

Main uses are breakfast goods -- eggs, hash browns, pancakes, chorizo, as well as some dinner frying like potstickers or an occasional sausage and stir fry.

I see nonstick as cheap, can't use cooking spray, hand wash, disposable, but bad for the environment.

I see carbon steel as hand wash, needing periodic seasoning, not as effective as non-stick, but much more durable and able to use sturdier metal utensils. I' d assume cooking spray is bad here as well.

The porcelain is an unknown. I don't own any leCreuset and haven't tried this type of cookware before, much less in a fry pan. I'm thinking cooking spray is OK, may even be ideal for porcelain. I think I'd still have to hand wash but the porcelain should get nice and hot and still stay smooth.

Any thoughts? Any corrections to my limited knowledge of fry pans?

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  1. Stomsf,

    How are you buddy? Many people believe a nonstick pan is necessary for the very delicate of egg dishes. Personally, I seem to able to do egg frying on my cast iron pan. The real advantage of teflon nonstick pans in my opinion is that they remain very nonstick without the use of oil. For everything else, you can use a cast iron pan, a carbon steel pan or an enameled cast iron pan. In my opinion, if we are talking about a frying pan, you really have two choices and not three. Take the enameled porcelain pan off the list. My reasoning is that enameled cast iron pans cannot be heated too fast and cannot be heated too hot. So it places some limitations on what you can cook. Neverthless, many people love their enameled Dutch Oven because the limitations I mentioned do not affect a Dutch Oven.

    There are a few differences between a bare cast iron pan and a carbon steel pan. For one, a cast iron pan is almost always heavier, so if you like to flip and toss your food, the cast iron one will not do. The cast iron pan does offer much better heat retention and heat capacity, so it will be great for large volume food like a large piece of steak. A large piece of steak will suck a lot of thermal heat from the cookware when it makes first contact, so it can cool a thin carbon steel pan down too fast and ruin the the cooking. You may start to simmer your steak instead of searing it.

    Both cookware require seasoning.

    For what you described, I think a carbon steel pan is better.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I didn't know this about enameled cast iron. We use ours for just about everything and although the finish doesn't look pristine, it still feels intact, works well, and is easy to clean. How do you tell if your enameled iron has been ruined by high/fast heat?

      1. re: sonia darrow


        You will know. You will find cracked enameled surface, like this dude:

        Sometime the hairline fractures will heal themselves back, which happened to me, but many times not. When the enameled surface starts to chip off, then it is a definitely a goner.

        I think your enameled cast iron cookware is fine, as long as you don't heat it way too hot and fast. Otherwise, the enameled surface will fracture. My opinion.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Hmm. Mine looks slightly crackly, like in the picture at that link, but without the little black pits. Maybe they healed back then. There's never been any chipping.

    2. Is the ability to use cooking spray essential? I use it to grease baking pans but not for cooking because the residue can ruin things and the smell is offputting. You can use just a little bit of oil and spread it evenly with your hand (or a paper towel, if the pan is hot). You haven't listed the option of uncoated cast iron, which is very suitable for the uses you mentioned. Seasoning is not all that hard to do. Buying a used pan is even better, and as long as you dry it well there's no rust. A few minutes on a hot burner or in the oven will assure thorough drying. LeCreuset and its less-expensive counterparts are enamel-coated, not porcelain. The enamel does discolor eventually, and scratches if you have a heavy hand with metal utensils. Any form of cast iron gets, and stays, very hot so you have to get used to using lower heat than you would for the same foods in other pans, and allow for residual cooking if you leave food in it once it's off the burner.

      3 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        I second greygarious on the fact that you cannot use metal utensils on an enameled cookware.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thanks to you both for responding. No, cooking spray is not required, just convenient and easy when in a hurry.

          I may try to stop by a Restaurant Supply store today to look at the cast iron pans they have -- do I season it like I would a wok? Salt and everything? I saw on a previous post someone said the guidance on a carbon steel pan is to boil potato skins.... sounds odd but if it works it works.

          1. re: stomsf


            Cast iron pan seasoning should be easier than wok because of the flatter cooking surface. The salt method works, but many other methods work as well, including the "oil the surface and stick into oven upside down" method. As for the potato skin method, I think that is a recommended method by DeBuyer. I am not sure about the reason.

      2. Although I have a rather large collection of cast iron, copper and stainless steel pans, in my opinion one good non-stick pan is very handy indeed. I use a Greenpan which has a different coating than teflon or so I'm told. I can only attest of the quality of this pan, which is able to withstand high heat and should be quite durable based on its performance. I have used mine extensively for over 6 months now without any noticeable signs of wear. Heat it up, use only a little oil, and this pan works like a charm, especially for eggs and other breakfast stuff. Like all pans, this one should be hand washed though. Hope this helps.

        1. You might also want to consider a Silit Silargan frying pan. The material is ceramic-coated stainless steel. IME, it cooks a lot like Le Creuset enameled cast iron, but is pretty much indestructible and can take high temperatures.

          1. replace nonstick every few months? Sure they are somewhat disposable compared to something like LC, but I've had my $25 12 inch fry pan for probably 3 or 4 years and it's still ok. Maybe it will be gone in another couple years. But no way do I need to replace them every few months. I find it indispensible for some things. I cut a recipe for bibimbap (a "fried rice" kind of dish) out of the newspaper. It calls for "non-stick or cast iron". After trying it both ways I crossed out cast iron on my copy of the recipe :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: DGresh

              Yeah, but it depends on the temperature and the nonstick pans. Some nonstick pans are better made than others, but most importantly the temperature. My nonstick saucepan lasted for a long time while my nonstick wok didn't. Some people heat up their nonstick pan to the point oil starts to smoke and all. In addition, people dispose their pans at different points of their life. Some dispose their pans at the first sign of wear. Some throw theirs when they are full of scars.