Old world meets high-tech in a comparison of cast-iron versus hard-anodized cookware. Cast iron has been in kitchens for a couple of hundred years, with skillets and pots so durable they can be handed down through generations. Hard-anodized cookware has not been around long enough to have cast iron's reputation, but this nonstick cookware does have its good points.
Cast-iron cookware manufacturing has remained the same for centuries. Molten iron is poured into sand molds, where it cools and solidifies. The sandy crust is blasted off, and rough edges are removed and smoothed. The result is heavy-duty cookware that lasts, heats evenly and can handle very high temperatures.
Hard-anodized cookware is aluminum cookware that has been submerged into an acid bath and then subjected to electrical charges that oxidize the surface, hardening the aluminum. This process makes light-weight aluminum harder than stainless steel and creates a nonstick surface that resists corrosion and abrasion. This same process is used to harden parts in race cars and to protect the surfaces of satellites.
Cast-iron cookware is heavy. Larger skillets often have a second handle to make picking up the heavy skillet filled with food easier. Although hard-anodized cookware is a chemically processed, hardened aluminum, it is still aluminum and lighter than cast iron.
Both cast-iron and hard-anodized cookware conduct heat well and distribute heat evenly. However, lesser quality cast iron may have hot spots because of impurities in the iron used in production. Both types of cookware can handle high temperatures. Hard-anodized cookware has a nonstick surface that is not a coating but actually part of the pan. Cast-iron cookware is not naturally nonstick but has nonstick properties once it is seasoned.
Because of the nonstick properties of hard-anodized cookware and of well-seasoned cast-iron cookware, cleanup is simple for both. Cast iron can be wiped clean with a paper towel or cloth after most cooking. Stubborn, burnt-on foods are scrubbed away with a pastelike mixture of oil and coarse salt. Cast iron also needs occasional reseasoning. Hand wash hard-anodized cookware in warm water with a mild detergent. Make a paste of baking soda and water for stubborn spots. Neither type of cookware can be washed in the dishwasher.