Originally Posted by CStanford
Clean a well-seasoned and well-used bare CI pan with your normal protocol. Take a clean tri-ply stainless pan or whatever sort of stainless you have. Pour a large tumbler of clean tap water into both pans. Leave pans cold and let the water sit in each pan for an hour or so. Pour water out of each pan back into its own tumbler. Look closely at the water, smell the water.
Which glass of water would you rather drink?
Don't even do this and put any heat on the pans. You'll wretch at one of the glasses of water if you do. I'll let you guess which one. If you're thinking the grease from bacon you fried five years ago is somehow helping your food taste better then you won't think so anymore.
The problem with mineral pans, or thin SS pans is that they develop hot spots where the flame touches the pan. Yes, they do heat more quickly than CI. That being said, thinner CI pans such as Griswold pans also had hot spots. Cast iron is a poor heat conductor. Thicker CI must be pre-heated long enough to let the heat spread more evenly in the pan. But the same is true of aluminum and copper pans, as they give up their heat as easily as they absorb it from the cooking source. When cold food is added, it quickly cools the metal of thinner pans, and the spots that are touching the heat source remain the hottest points. On a commercial stove, the flame pattern is designed to touch as much of the pan surface as possible. This just isn't the same with home burners. The other reason people love CI is that it is very durable, and easy to care for. It never needs to be tinned.
I have a high-carbon steel, flat-bottomed wok that is a great cooking tool, and is as non-stick as are my CI pans. But the wok suffers much more from hot spots that does my Wagner and Lodge CI pans. For light duty cooking, such as frying an egg, or making an English Muffin, my Griswold CI pans work very well. My SS pan with the encapsulated bottom is also a very useful pan, and is nearly as easy to care for as are my CI pans. But things stick to it more readily, even when I'm doing everything right.
Unless aluminum pans are seasoned properly, or coated in some kind of non-stick, be it ceramic, or teflon, foods stick, and react quickly to the metal, especially foods that are acidic or alkali.
The largest drawback to CI is its weight. I can't imagine trying to manhandle a CI pan to flip foods, using the pan. Plus, CI isn't constructed in the proper shapes to do such things.
The restaurant environment is set up for fast production. The home kitchen usually isn't. I can make things in my kitchen that would be difficult to replicate in a restaurant kitchen. But there are foods that a restaurant kitchen can do that I can't, as I don't have all of the same tools or appliances.
Comparing CI to other metals used in cooking is simply comparing apples to oranges. Each is good, but has different aspects that make it good.
Remember always that it is the heat that does the work. With a simple stick, strong twine, and a hearth, you can roast a perfect turkey. But it's more easily done in the oven, or on the grill as there is less mess to clean up, and less fussing you have to do with the bird. Pots, pans, burners, ovens, are simply tools that allow us to use the heat more efficiently. Arguing about which pan is the best is to me, just silly. Each kind has a function, and will cook food, albeit with a little different technique than the other.
Trust me, I can make really good food in most of the various types of pots and pans out there. And I can seriously destroy what could have been a great meal by inattention, or improper use of the pot or pan.
Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North