Cast-iron cookware has been around for a long time, making it a very traditional type of cookware. It comes in different variations, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. One way to categorize cast-iron cookware is by weight.
Cast-iron cookware comes in two weight classes: standard and lightweight. Standard cast iron is generally heavier, retains heat longer, and is is more durable than its lightweight counterpart. However, lightweight cast iron cookware as its name implies is a lot lighter (up to 50%), retaining some of the good qualities of regular cast iron while being much more maneuverable in the kitchen.
Lightweight vs Regular Cast-Iron Cookware- Fight!
Personally, when I hear the phrase “cast iron,” I think of knights with swords and shields. Add “cookware” to the words, and I’ve got an image of myself brandishing a pan like a weapon in my head. Although we won’t be slaying dragons with cast-iron cookware anytime soon, we do cook with it, and lighter is generally better right?
You’ll find standard cast iron cookware in virtually every restaurant you make a wrong turn and accidentally venture into. They are extremely durable and a hoarder of heat for even cooking. But what about lightweight cast iron cookware? Are they really just a lighter version of the regular one, with all the cherries on top?
How They Are Made
In a nutshell, lightweight cast iron cookware are simply cast iron cookware with thinner walls, resulting in a much lighter product. The molds for the two cookware are usually different; while regular cast iron molds use sand molds, lightweight cast iron use metal molds that can produce much thinner walls. Often times, the vessel is further milled to be even thinner.
Pros and Cons of Light Weight Cast Iron Compared to Regular Cast Iron
On the fence about which type of cast iron cookware to get? Here are the main pros and cons of lightweight cast iron cookware compared to its heavier sibling:
Pros of Lightweight Cast Iron:
- Much Lighter (duh!): Well yes. They are generally much lighter, up to 60% compared to traditional cast iron cookware. Consider the KINDEN Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet with the Lodge L8SK3 10.25 inch Cast Iron Skillet. Almost identical in size, the former however weighs just 2.5 pounds, while the later, a hefty 5.7 pounds. Weight matters especially for the elderly, people with wrist issues, or for certain styles of cooking such as stir fry.
- Faster heat ups and cool downs: Due to the thinner walls, lightweight cast iron heats up and cools down a lot faster than you-know-what. A regular cast iron pan takes around 10 minutes just to preheat fully- I don’t know about you, but that’s 8 minutes too long for me on most days after I get home and want to start cooking immediately.
Cons of Lightweight Cast Iron:
- Less Durable: Traditional cast iron cookware are so durable that it’s not uncommon to see them being passed down from generation to generation. Due to the razor thin walls of lightweight cast iron however, they are more likely to crack or even break after a few years. As such, regular cast iron cookware is superior for high heat cooking.
- Prone to uneven cooking: Lightweight cast iron cookware are relatively prone to uneven cooking due to their thinner walls. As heat comes and goes much faster, some areas of the pan may be cooler than other spots, resulting in foods that may be burnt around the edges.
- Poorer heat retention: Once again, due to the thinner walls, lightweight cast iron cookware don’t retain heat as well as the regular version. Better heat retention translates into less energy required to keep the cookware at a certain temperature. BTW, if you’re curious how cast-iron cookware retains heat so well compared to other materials, it’s because of cast-iron’s high thermal inertia. That’s science talk for it gets extremely hot!
Top Picks For The Best Lightweight Cast-iron Cookware
Now that you know the good and bad that come with lightweight cast iron, here are two of my favorite lightweight cast-iron cookware on Amazon.
The KINDEN Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet is an Amazon’s Choice product for a reason. For just under $35, you get a versatile tool that provides the value of expensive cookware at a much lower price. It also comes pre-seasoned and will stay nonstick for a long time.
With only 2.5 pounds of weight, you can saute and stir-fry with quicker movements compared to using traditional cast-iron cookware. One user even said that the lighter weight was easier on her aging and injured wrist.
Cool Handle: Skillets made of cast-iron retain heat very well. But if the material is entirely cast-iron, doesn’t that mean the handle gets hot, too? Don’t worry because you don’t need several layers of pot holders to handle the KINDEN Lightweight Cast Iron Skillet. Because the handle is hollow stainless steel, it stays cool when you are using it on the stove top.
Multifaceted: You can use the cast iron skillet with a campfire, gas, stove, grill, and oven. You don’t need multiple pots and pans for different recipes because of how flexible the skillet is. I love how I can flip eggs and cook steaks using one skillet!
Easy to Clean: You can efficiently clean the skillet by rinsing it under hot water once it has cooled down. One user even lauds that clean up is so much easier compared to cleaning their ceramic cooktop.
Just the Right Size: The skillet is 10.43” in size. It is not too big and not too small, so I bet Goldilocks would love it. You can handle it easily whether in an oven or on an induction stove without taking too much space. Users will be able to manage meals for two to three people with ease.
It sounds great, right? Nothing is perfect though. One owner complained that his pan rusted within a week. You need to take good care of cast iron skillets. If you aren’t careful, it can get rusted. Nevertheless, restoring rusty skillets is possible, so don’t return yours just yet!
Another Amazon’s Choice, the IKO Lightweight Kosher Cast Iron Pan is lighter at 1.95 pounds and costs under $35. It’s also only 10”, so it can comfortably fit in ovens. This cast iron pan is oven-safe up to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to other lightweight cast-iron cookware that can only withstand lower heat.
One user loved it so much; they said it was the ideal skillet with how it combined the non-stick and heavy duty qualities of traditional cast iron with a much lighter, thinner frame.
Healthy Seasoning: The pot is pre-seasoned with soybean oil, creating a smooth nonstick surface over the slightly ridged pan. The more health-conscious crowd love how IKO used a vegetable-based oil. Will this make cooking fries in it less guilt-inducing? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll still have them anyway!
Durable: This pan is heavy duty. While regular non-stick pans wear out after a few years, this will stand the test of time. One user gave this pan a four-star rating because of how impressed he was with the quality.
Practical: Because you can use it over so many surfaces, the pan is an all-around cooking vessel that is great for everyday use. At 10”, it is easy to handle. You can bring it to camping trips and use it over an open fire.
Because of how it was manufactured, there are marks inside the pan. Although it is usually a non-issue, one user complained that the surface was so rough, it shredded the paper towel she used while seasoning. This problem is easily fixed by scrubbing it with a stainless steel chain mail cleaner. This way, the surface smoothens up a bit. You can re-season it so that the oil will fill in all the ridges.
The initial coat of seasoning does not always come out well. Unlike Teflon coatings which you can’t reapply, all you need to do is season it again yourself, and it will work correctly.
Lightweight Cast-iron Cookware Care
Now that you are a proud owner of soon-to-be-heirloom lightweight cast-iron cookware, how do you take care of it?
Just like any cookware, you need to wash lightweight cast-iron cookware after each use. However, water is all you need!. If the lightweight cast iron pot or pan is still hot, run it under some hot water and use a wooden spatula to break up any debris. That’s it! If the cookware has already cooled down, use cold water instead. This helps prevent any quick changes in temperature that can crack the cookware. Here’s a nice video showing how all this is done:
For more stubborn spots, try kosher salt and vegetable oil. If you burnt your food, there are ways to make removal easier. Once you get the food unstuck, all you need to do is rinse.
One last thing- don’t use cast-iron for food storage. You might be able to serve food in it, but don’t treat it like Tupperware or else your cookware will rust.
Seasoning Your Lightweight Cast-iron Cookware
Whether you’re using lightweight cast-iron cookware for the first or the umpteenth time, don’t forget to season. You probably don’t want your food sticking to your cast-iron pots and pans.
It’s pretty easy, and I usually get it done in 4 quick steps:
- Scrub your lightweight cast-iron cookware down with mild soap, hot water, and steel wool. And when I say all, I MEAN all. Scrubbing should include the sides, bottom, and handle.
- Dry it with a towel after rinsing and place it on top of a stove top or inside an oven. This way, you get to dry your cookware entirely so it won’t rust.
- Once it’s dry, spread a small drop of oil around your cookware using a towel. The oil should cover the entire surface of your cookware. Don’t put too much oil though, because things can get pretty sticky.
- Put it inside your oven upside-down. Let it bake for one hour and leave it to cool off. It needs to be at the highest temperature so that the oil will bond with your cookware. Once you finish, your cast-iron cookware is ready to use.
If that wasn’t clear enough, here’s a video that demonstrates how to season cast-iron cookware.
Is Light Cast Iron Cookware Worth Buying?
Although cast-iron cookware is not as light as feathers, maneuvering with lightweight cast-iron cookware requires relatively less upper body strength. Unfortunately, lighter weight means it’s more fragile and prone to cracking. The good thing is as long as you maintain it well, it can still last a long time.
Lightweight versions might not be a complete alternative for heavier cast-iron cookware, but it is still one of the best cookware choices out there. Your cookware will be able to retain more heat than other types with the bonus of agility. This way, it brings value while being comfortable to use. As a cooking vessel, it’s a worthy investment and does the job it’s meant to do.
Now excuse me, I’m off to slay some steaks with my cast-iron pan.