If you ask the average person what the difference is between a cast iron skillet and a frying pan, they could not tell you.
If you look up the definition of the word “skillet” in the dictionary, it states it is a “frying pan.” So, that only adds to the confusion.
Before we talk about the differences between the two, let’s talk about the similarities.
Skillets and frying pans are both metal pans that you use to cook and fry food on your stovetop.
If you’ve ever cooked fried eggs or steaks on a metal pan before, then you’ve likely used either a skillet or frying pan.
However, veteran chefs understand there are different ways to cook food on a stove to influence the taste of it.
Aside from frying food, you can also braise and sauté food on the stove as well.
Specific types of pans are better for doing each of these, but which ones?
The main difference between a cast iron skillet and a frying pan is the depth of each pan.
A cast-iron skillet is a much deeper pan than a traditional frying pan. It makes the skillet better for cooking meats and braising sauces because the meat retains the juices as it gets cooked.
Also, most frying pans are made of stainless steel or anodized aluminium rather than iron.
What is a Cast Iron Skillet?
A cast-iron skillet is a deeper frying pan made from cast iron material. It is known for its durability, non-stick properties, and ability to retain heat.
If you apply seasoning to the cast iron, you can prevent rust from forming on it.
Let’s explore the pros and cons so you can get a better understanding of it.
As the name indicates, a cast iron skillet is made of cast iron material.
It is a much better material than stainless steel because it does not cause food to stick to it.
When your stove heats the cast iron, it will create a non-stick surface for your food to get cooked on.
It also helps to season the cast iron surface before cooking.
You won’t need to use any special non-stick cooking sprays to achieve the non-stick effect.
This is a good thing because non-stick cooking sprays are often loaded with synthetic ingredients and fatty oils.
With a cast-iron skillet, you won’t have to worry about consuming any of that.
As you cook food in the skillet, the cast iron will retain much of the heat from the stove.
A lot of chefs like to serve their food from a skillet because it ensures the food will stay warm until it is eaten.
You can do the same thing at your house if you cook food for your family in a skillet.
The food retains some of the iron elements from the skillet, which means your body will consume more iron when you eat food from the skillet like this.
The body needs a certain amount of iron intake per day because it allows the blood to flow better.
And in case you ever need to bake something on the cast iron skillet, then it is okay to put the skillet in the oven.
The cast iron can withstand the extreme temperatures of the oven just fine.
This will save you the trouble of having to switch to a traditional baking dish, which is often made of aluminium and gets very sticky.
You might think that cast-iron skillets are more expensive than stainless-steel frying pans, but they are actually not.
It is cheaper to purchase a cast-iron skillet in most stores. Therefore, you get a better cooking pan for a lower price.
Cast iron skillets have their downsides too. Because of their ability to retain heat, the handles often get very hot as well.
The reason is that the handle is made from the same piece of iron as the rest of the pan.
This causes heat from the pan to get passed on through to the handle.
To avoid getting burned by the hot handle, you’re forced to wear gloves if you want to hold it.
But it is easy to forget to wear gloves if you’re an amateur cook in the kitchen.
That is why a lot of amateurs burn themselves accidentally. Do not let this happen to you.
You should also realize that iron weighs more than stainless steel.
If you need to carry around the cast-iron skillet by its handle to serve your guests, then it can put a lot of strain on your hands and wrists.
Plus, you have to contend with the extreme heat of the handle too.
It is better to leave the skillet on the stove so that you don’t have to deal with these issues.
Cast-iron attracts rust more than stainless steel. Try to avoid using water in the skillet during the cooking process.
Of course, you can use water to clean the skillet, but make sure you dry off the skillet immediately afterwards.
When to Use?
Whenever you want to cook a juicy steak or braise some delicious thick sauces, a cast-iron skillet is the best pan to use.
The juices get cooked into the meat to deliver a much heartier taste.
What is a Frying Pan?
A frying pan is a stainless-steel pan with a flat-bottomed surface.
It has very low sides around the circumference of it, unlike the cast-iron skillet which has higher sides.
You can cook a lot of tasty dishes with a frying pan in a short amount of time. That is why they’re used so much.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of a frying pan.
Stainless-steel is a thinner material than cast-iron.
This allows heat from the stove to pass through the surface much faster and cook your food within a shorter timeframe.
Frying pans tend to be wider and more spacious than skillets, so it is easier to spread your food and sauces around in the pan.
Frying pans have rust resistance and scratch resistance because of its stainless-steel material.
Even if you purchase an aluminium frying pan, you’ll still have these qualities as well.
All of the scraping and poking that you do with forks and knives won’t mark up your frying pan like they would a skillet.
Another huge benefit is the handle won’t normally retain heat from the pan because the handle is a separate attachment made from a different material.
That means you won’t burn your hand by trying to pick up the pan.
The weight of stainless-steel is much lighter than cast-iron, so it won’t strain your wrists too much to carry it around.
Since food cooks much faster on a stainless-steel frying pan, you cannot walk away from it for very long.
Instead, you must stand around and watch your food constantly.
If you’re cooking meat, then you’ll have to flip it over every two minutes with a spatula. Otherwise, your food will burn up quickly.
Stainless-steel frying pans do not conduct heat the same way as skillets.
The heat does not get evenly distributed across the pan, so you’re forced to stir the food or move it around as it cooks. That can be annoying too.
When to Use?
If you need to cook a meal on the stove quickly, then a frying pan is perfect to use.
You can cook hamburgers, eggs, bacon, and a whole range of other things on a frying pan.
If you’re not trying to cook a gourmet meal, but rather something fast for you to eat, then a frying pan is the best choice.
Cast Iron Skillet vs. Frying Pan: What is the Difference?
As I stated earlier, the main difference between a cast iron skillet and a frying pan lies in their depth.
But there are a few more things to talk about when we need to differentiate between the two.
Do you want a deeper pan for braising sauces and cooking steaks? If so, then you should choose the cast-iron skillet.
The sides are much higher, and the pan is shorter, so the juices and sauces get trapped in the food.
The skillet even comes with a lid so that the juices and grease from the food won’t splatter all over your walls as it cooks.
Frying pans don’t give you this luxury. They don’t come with a lid, so grease and juices are likely to splatter at your face and onto the walls.
Frying pans are great for frying and browning your foods, though.
You’ll have more space on a frying pan surface to cook a lot more foods at the same time. The stainless-steel material does not get stained, scratched or rusted, so there are less maintenance and care required.
Overall, you can use either a cast-iron skillet or frying pan for grilling, roasting, frying, and stewing.
Only a professional chef knows how to use a skillet or frying pan to their advantage when cooking certain foods.
For the average layperson, they will be more concerned about the maintenance of the pan.
Frying pans are popular choices because they’re resistant to abrasions and they’re easier to clean.
That is what the average person cares about the most.