Cast Iron vs Ceramic Cookware

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If you’re trying to get a real, unbiased take on cast iron vs. ceramic cookware, let me just say how much I feel for you. 

You might be deciding which type of cookware to put on your wedding registry. Or maybe you’re trying to thin out your bursting-at-the-seams collection of skillets, sauciers, and everything in between.

Whatever angle you’re stepping into this from, you’ve probably noticed something: almost every article that breaks down the pros and cons of cast iron vs. ceramic is from a company trying to sell you one or the other. 

Like doing research on dietary supplements or home improvement, making the choice between cast iron and ceramic cookware is a process of separating fact from agenda. So if you just want someone to give it to you straight, then you’ve come to the right place!

I don’t have an agenda – I’m just a girlie who really, REALLY likes cookware.Close all those other tabs, and let’s jump into the only guide to cast iron vs ceramic that you’ll ever need!

What Is Ceramic Cookware?

“Ceramic” might bring to mind kitschy figurines or the mug your kid painted and gave you for Christmas that one year, but ceramic cookware is a whole different animal. 

Ceramic cookware isn’t 100% ceramic, although that does exist (think clay pots or stoneware). Most of the time, ceramic cookware refers to metal cookware treated with a ceramic coating.

The ceramic coating rivals the non-stick power of Teflon, with a much less environmentally and physiologically fraught origin story. It’s a great alternative if you love the convenience of non-stick skillets but don’t want the baggage that comes with them. 

Of course, “ceramic cookware” encompasses more than just skillets. There are as many varieties of ceramic cookware as there are any other material. That includes stockpots, saucepans, dutch ovens, roasting pans, griddles, steamers…basically if it exists as a cookware piece, it’s been done in ceramic.

Alva ceramic skillet

What Is Cast Iron Cookware?

Ceramic-coated cookware is a relative newcomer to the kitchen scene, but cast iron cookware is 2600 years of human history in action.

Specific techniques and applications have changed over time, but the basic process of forging cast iron remains relatively unchanged: heat iron ore until it changes into a liquid, pour the molten iron into a mold, and voila!

Cast iron can either be uncoated – in its raw form – or enameled. Enamel-coated cast iron is treated with a powdered glass that’s applied and bonded to its surfaces with more heat. This improves its performance in a few different ways that we’ll discuss in more detail later. 

Although cast iron might be one of the oldest types of cookware (aside from clay pots and lead-coated cookware, which…..yikes), it’s still very much at home in the modern kitchen

There was a period where it fell out of favor shortly after the advent of Teflon. 

But thanks to its powerful heat retention, durability (with proper care), and natural non-stick properties, along with more awareness about the dangers of Teflon, cast iron is back on the upswing. 

Lodge branded cast iron skillet handle.

Is Cast Iron The Same As Ceramic?

Cast iron and ceramic cookware are indeed different – very much so!

Enameled cast iron and ceramic pans both come in a variety of bright colors and look very similar in photos, I’ll give you that. However, if you were to pick both of them up, you’d know immediately that they aren’t the same. 

Let’s explore some of the key differences!

Ceramic vs Cast Iron: At A Glance

 Ceramic CookwareCast Iron Cookware
Weight1-9 lbs5-13 lbs
Average Thickness3mm3.5mm
Typical UsesStir-frying, sauteing, boilingSearing, roasting, grilling, deep frying, outdoor cooking, slow cooking
Heat ResponsivenessHeats evenly and quickly, but does not retain heat wellRetains heat well, but does not heat evenly and quickly
Food ReactivityNon-reactive to any foodsCorrodes with acidic or watery foods if uncoated
Non-stick PropertiesSmooth surface allows for easy release of foodEnameled cast iron cookware is non-stick. Uncoated cast iron is non-stick if properly seasoned
Dishwasher Safe?Hand-washing recommended for maximum longevity, but not requiredHand-washing required. Don’t even think about putting it in your dishwasher
Oven Safe?If handles are metal, usually yes – but check your cookware’s specifications. If handles are plastic, no.Usually, yes – but it doesn’t hurt to double-check.
Lifespan1-5 years depending on careA lifetime if properly cared for
Cost$$ for lower-end brands; $$$$ for high-end brands$-$$$ if uncoated; $$-$$$$ if enameled

Cast Iron vs. Ceramic: Performance

If you’re anything like me, every other cookware feature comes secondary to one thing: how does it perform?

Knowing that cookware can adapt to my adventurous and sometimes experimental kitchen endeavors is priority #1 for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. 

So let’s just dive right into the thick of it and talk about how cast iron and ceramic cookware compare in action.

Heat Reactivity

Heat reactivity basically has 3 different components: Responsiveness, evenness, and retention. 

When it comes to heat responsiveness, ceramic cookware comes out pretty far ahead of cast iron. While they’re both about the same thickness, ceramic cookware is usually made of stainless steel with an aluminum core.

Heat responsiveness is one of the biggest downsides of cast iron. It takes its sweet time to get hot.

Even heat is also important – you don’t want to be playing a game of find-the-hot-spot while you’re cooking. Once again, the winner here is ceramic cookware. Cast iron isn’t very good at conducting heat, so you might encounter some issues with sauteing or stir-frying.

Finally, there’s heat retention. 

Good heat retention is important if you’re deep-frying, slow-cooking, or cooking over an open fire. You’ll want to be able to maintain the same temperature for a long period. Cast iron takes the edge here, hands down.

However, depending on how forgetful you are or how little high-heat cooking you do, heat retention may not be an advantage. If you accidentally overheat your pan, then you’ll have to wait for it to cool back down again before you start cheffing it up.

Lodge branded cast iron skillet helper handle.

Food Reactivity

If you’re prepared to keep a mental list of what you can and can’t cook in a particular pan and have alternatives, then food reactivity probably won’t matter much to you. But if you have limited space, a penchant for particular foods, or just don’t have the mental bandwidth to not just plop down a pan and get cooking, you’ll want to consider it.

Ceramic cookware isn’t known to react with any particular foods. It can pretty much do it all, from pasta sauces to pancakes.

And, to be fair, so can enameled cast iron – it’s uncoated natural cast iron that you need to be a little more cautious of. Since the food has direct contact with the corrosion-prone metal, you’ll have to avoid anything acidic or watery. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a rust bucket for a cast iron skillet.

Non-stick Properties

Good news- both ceramic and cast iron cookware (enameled and uncoated) are non-stick!

Cast iron without enamel’s non-stick powers comes with a few caveats, though.

First, the cast iron must be properly seasoned. If not, not only will it not be non-stick, it can rust and become brittle. However, some cast iron cookware manufacturers pre-season their pots and pans, which the price tag usually reflects.

Second, I think it’s important to have realistic expectations. 

Will your food shred apart when you try to move it or flip it like it would with the wrong technique on stainless steel? No.

But will it come off completely effortlessly? Also no. 

The surface of uncoated cast iron just isn’t as baby-butt smooth as ceramic and enameled cast iron. If you opt for uncoated cast iron, like Lodge skillets, be prepared to deal with a little bit of cling. 

Detail of ceramic skillet coating

Cast Iron vs Ceramic: Weight

There’s no way around it – cast iron is heavier than ceramic cookware.

However, the difference between their respective weights narrows as their price point increases.

Cheap ceramic cookware is very light. But depending on the piece, high-end ceramic cookware could be a pound or two shy of its cast iron counterpart. The handles on high-quality ceramic cookware are made from stainless steel or a similar material, which adds to the weight significantly.

Don’t take that as me discouraging you from higher-end ceramic cookware, though! I’m mainly noting that distinction because many people are put off by the weight of cast iron, and don’t consider there may not be as big of a difference as they think. 

Cast Iron vs Ceramic: Care And Keeping

Cast iron is notorious for its relatively demanding upkeep…but is it really that bad? 

Cast iron requires a little more effort than ceramic cookware, no doubt about it. But as you’ll see, if you put in a little bit of work, you’ll be rewarded.

Let’s talk about the care and keeping of cast iron and ceramic cookware: what that entails, their limitations, and their lifespans.

Maintenance Needs

Ceramic cookware is pretty undemanding in terms of maintenance. So much so that “maintenance” probably isn’t even the right word for it. Just keep it clean, and you’ll be fine.

Enameled cast iron is pretty much the same, save for some mindfulness about dinging it on the edge of a counter. The enamel chips easily with force.

Uncoated cast iron takes more dedication. Not only do you need to season it before you use it for the first time, but you also need to season it after every use. You can’t let it air dry or soak, either. To do so would equal a rusty pan.

detail of ceramic skillet

Dishwasher Safety

I think a lot of cooking enthusiasts would rather eat their shoes, laces and all, than run their uncoated cast iron skillet through a dishwasher. 

It’s a kitchen faux pas akin to cutting up vegetables on the same cutting board you used to dress chicken. In this case, you won’t give everyone salmonella – but you will have a rusty, brittle mess on your hands.

Ceramic and enameled cast iron pots and pans are technically dishwasher safe….emphasis on the “technically”. 

Nothing horrible will happen if you run them through the dishwasher every once in a while, but almost every manufacturer recommends hand-washing. Habitual dishwasher cleaning wears down the coating and compromises its integrity.

Utensil Considerations

Neither cast iron nor ceramic cookware has any advantage in this department. 

You can damage either of them by using harsh scrubbers, forks, or any other sharp, abrasive utensil. 

Uncoated cast iron has a little bit more tolerance for metal utensils on the cooking side of things since you don’t have a coating to mind as you do with enameled cast iron or ceramic. But when it comes to cleaning, you’ll want to exercise caution. Moisture can get trapped in surface scratches and cause rusting. 


Natural cast iron pots and pans are like a treasured friendship: take good care of them, and they’ll last a lifetime. Even if you let your cast iron rust, you can bring it back from the dead with a little bit of love and elbow grease.

Ceramic pots and pans, on the other hand? They’re like iPhone batteries. If you get 5 years out of them, count yourself lucky. With time, their coating starts to degrade and chip. At that point, they’re no longer safe to use. 

Sadly, the same goes for enameled cast iron. You can expect them to last longer than 5 years, though. My mom is still rocking with the same blue Le Creuset Dutch oven she got as a gift 18 years ago. But the minute the enamel starts to chip, it’s going to be time for Big Blue to cross the rainbow bridge.

detail of cast iron skillet

Cast Iron vs Ceramic: Health

Both cast iron and ceramic cookware are non-toxic choices for your kitchen provided they come from reputable manufacturers. 

It’s especially important to vet your cookware brand if you opt for ceramic cookware.

I say this because the demand for healthy alternatives to Teflon exploded in recent years, which ushered in a lot of new brands with shady intentions looking to capitalize on that. 

That cheap “ceramic” skillet on Amazon may seem like a great deal, but it’s possible that its coating contains Teflon. A lot of “off-brand” cookware is deceptively branded and produced overseas in countries with little to no environmental regulations or accountability.

If non-toxic materials are something you value highly in your cookware and you’re leaning towards ceramic pots and pans, exercise caution and spring for something from a transparent, well-known brand. 

detail of enameled cast iron pot

Cast Iron vs. Ceramic: Cost

The cost of both cast iron and ceramic cookware varies wildly. 

Uncoated cast iron is the cheapest of what I would consider quality cookware. It might be finicky, but it’s the least expensive way to cook like a pro. And it makes a killer steak

Ceramic pans can be very inexpensive, but as we touched on in the last section, if it’s “ceramic” and cheap, it might not actually be ceramic at all. Reliable, mid-to-high-quality ceramic pans can actually be quite expensive. Expect to pay about $30-50 for a pan from a mid-range trustworthy company. 

Enameled cast iron is also pricey. At least, the ones that you can expect to get a lot of mileage out of are. Look at the Amazon reviews for cheaper options, and you’ll see a chorus of “This chipped after I used it twice!”. If you want a reliable piece, you’ll have to spring for something pretty pricey.  

Cast Iron vs. Ceramic: Appearance

This one is for all my ~aesthetic~ home cooks out there. If you’re concerned about your cookware matching your kitchen decor or looking perf for your Instagram feed, you’ll be happy to know you don’t need to sacrifice style. 

Sure, uncoated cast iron is pretty bland-looking. Even though food photographers do an amazing job of making them look all homey and cottagecore, the reality is a little bit less glamorous. 

But with enameled cast iron and ceramic cookware, the world is your colorful oyster. From pastels to bold brights to elevated neutrals, there are pieces to match every kitchen. 

side by side of Cast Iron vs Ceramic skillets

What Is Better: Cast Iron Or Ceramic?

If I had to choose between cast iron or ceramic cookware, I’ll be honest…I don’t think I could. 

I have both cast iron and ceramic pieces in my cooking arsenal because they’re great for different things.

For sauteing or frying eggs, I love using my ceramic pan. But for skillet chocolate chip cookies or steak or a campfire breakfast, there’s nothing like natural cast iron. And if I want to make coq au vin for dinner with the in-laws? I’m busting out my enameled cast iron Dutch oven. 

All of them have their time and place. Which one is better comes down to you: your cooking habits, preferences, budget, time restraints, kitchen storage, and individual preferences. 

About Author

Tia Goodnight

Hey! I'm Tia, and I started this site to bring you the best information on all things kitchen so you can enjoy and elevate your everyday life.

I love trying new techniques and tools, living for the thrill of pulling off a new skill. On weekends you'll find me at the local farmer's markets or hosting friends and family for an evening of yard or card games and delicious food.

If you're looking for honest, real-world advice on all things kitchen and cooking, you're in the right place!