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When a recipe calls for serious frying, braising, or roasting, or when you just want to get a nice sear on something from the butcher’s counter, reach for an iron pan. Slow to heat and cool, iron pans heat evenly and hold heat well, making them perfect for slow-cooking dishes, such as stews, ribs, ham, and other thick cuts of meat. However, before you reach for a random iron pan, note that two types of iron pans exist: cast iron and spun iron. And you need to know how to use a cast iron pan vs a spun iron pan.
Cast iron stands out for being durable and naturally non-stick. However, if you love cast iron but don’t love the often cumbersome weight or surface imperfections, treat yourself to spun iron cookware. Spun iron pans combine the benefits of carbon steel and cast iron cookware. Their lighter weight and smooth cook surface improve maneuverability.
Let’s take a look at how to use a cast iron pan as well as a spun iron pan. No matter which option you choose, you can take joy in the fact that both are easy to take care of and provide unique benefits.
The raw materials of cast and spun iron are similar to that of carbon-steel pans, but variations in the amount of carbon and the manufacturing processes make quite a difference. Cast iron and spun iron cookware are made from 97-98% iron and 2-3% carbon. As you strive to master how to use a cast iron pan vs a spun iron pan, note that this high level of carbon makes the iron brittle, so the pans must be thick to avoid cracking when heating and cooling. The result, in the case of cast iron, is a pan that is comparatively much heavier. The casting process creates the classic dimpled surface of cast iron and results in pots, griddles, and pans that are never truly flat on the bottom.
Meanwhile, the sleek appearance, flat bottom, and relative thinness of spun iron pans is achieved through a process that starts with black iron slabs. Our spun iron pans are sourced from Netherton Foundry, a family-owned business in Shropshire, UK, home of Europe’s Industrial Revolution. Each hand-made piece is unique and is created from black iron slabs made from 80% recycled material.
Don't be intimidated by cooking with iron cookware. It has remained popular for the past 25 centuries because it is easy to care for and use. Iron pans can be used on any range top, including induction, over an open flame, and in the oven.
As you learn how to use a cast iron pan, note that they must be heated and cooled slowly to avoid cracking, and one should never place cold food on a hot pan or allow food to cool in the pan because it may be hard to remove without damaging the surface. Cast iron cookware also requires seasoning (oiling) to prevent rust and to preserve and enhance the naturally non-stick surface. Most pans come pre-seasoned with a protective coat of oil that must be replaced after each use. Netherton suggests natural organic flax oil for re-seasoning cast iron cookware.
Because of their weight, flat bottom, and smooth surface, spun iron pans compare well with carbon-steel pans and offer some distinct advantages. Carbon steel is approximately 99% iron with only 1% carbon. As a result, the steel is much lighter, stronger, and more pliable than black iron.
Spun iron pans get top marks for ease of care and use and should be a part of your cookware collection. They are a non-toxic alternative to artificially coated pans that can leach harmful chemicals when scratched and lose their non-stick surface. Spun iron is also a viable alternative to traditional cast iron and carbon steel pans, offering the convenience of both with greater versatility. If you have never used one before, start with a loaf pan or our customized baking sheet, and watch your creations bake evenly without sticking. Or, consider using the spun iron “prospector” pan to prepare the perfect paella, socarrat included. Once you have cooked with spun iron, the results will make you a devotee.
At Garrett Wade, we are a proud provider of quality kitchen gear, including several spun iron pans. If you have additional questions about how to use a cast iron pan vs spun iron, we’d be glad to answer them and assist you in choosing the right pans for your needs. Contact us to learn more about these pans and our other products, and order today!