Cast iron is a pain (there, I said it). Here are two lighter, cool-handle alternatives

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Cast iron has benefits, but there are a few more user-friendly options that achieve similar results.

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There isn’t a cookware surface with a more enthusiastic fan than cast iron and I totally get it. cast iron does something like majority of Other cooking ingredients—in particular, cannot provide a firestorm of surface heat for food. This high heat will give a steak or cornbread an excellent sear, which can be difficult to achieve with both stainless steel, nonstick and many of the rest.


But cast iron has obvious drawbacks. It’s overwhelming and while many of us are looking for integrated exercise shortcuts, it’s no fun tossing heavy cast iron around the kitchen when you’re hungry and short on time. (Seriously, most people need two hands to lift a 10-inch cast-iron skillet without hurting the wrist.)

This weight also creates challenges for cleaning and storing cast iron. And if that wasn’t bad enough, cast-iron pans are mostly forged from one solid piece of metal, so their handles get hot. This usually means a separate handle cover for carrying essential oven mitts or cast-iron cookware.

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A natural question is whether there are lightweight cast-iron pans or pans made from cooking ingredients that act like cast iron but weigh less. the answer is yes. Lighter pans that cook more evenly exist and are worth considering if you want to give your arms a break.

I recently tried two cast iron options: a Featherweight Cast-Iron Skillet from Japanese Crafter Vermicular And Made In Hearty Blue Carbon Steel Frying Pan –Also billed as a lighter alternative to cast iron but with similar properties

I cooked a bunch of meals with both and then ran two official tests with my cast-iron skillet with a lighter pan to see how they compared. First, I cooked a classic burger over medium-high heat. Alton Brown’s Cast-Iron Burger Recipe To see the discovery that each will deliver. To test the nonstick properties, I fried an egg using low heat to see how completely the egg would rise from the surface. while no one cooks Correct Like cast iron, I was impressed by both. These days I find myself reaching for these lighter “cast iron versions” far more often than the hot and heavy stuff.

raw burger

I cooked a burger on each of the three pans to test the sizzling power.

What’s so great about cast iron, anyway?

One of the biggest attractions to cast iron cooking is its ability to provide incredible surface heat to foods without completely sticking to the pan (as is the case with stainless steel). If this happens, most of the beautiful and delicious crust will be left on the griddle and not the skin of a burger, steak, or chicken. Cast iron is also known to develop a weathered surface over time with use, a flavor that will find its way into the foods you cook. It is also very durable and any kind of heat or blunt force will not do much damage to a well made cast iron pan.

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As always, the cast iron gave the burger an excellent sear but stuck to some scrambled eggs.

Vermicular Light Cast-Iron Frying Pan

This Japanese-made cast iron skillet is relatively new to the market, but Vermicular has put forth an impressive piece of cookware. Weighing in at just 2.4 pounds, the fry pan’s cooking surface is 1.5 millimeters thick and features a thin enamel coating that keeps food from sticking. Because of this, you’ll have to be gentler with this pan than with traditional cast iron. That means don’t dig in with metal utensils or scrub with heavy soap to clean it. Good News? It is still cast iron and so when used properly, you will get remarkably similar results.

In addition to its light weight, the Vermicular Cast-Iron Frying Pan has a soft and lovely wooden stay-cool handle that makes it a pleasure to pilot. But it also means that this piece of cookware can never be put in the oven. Skillet cornbread aficionados, take note.


At just 2.4 pounds, Vermicular’s cast iron pan is one of the lightest on the market.

Shape: 10.2 inches

Weight: 2.4 pounds

how does it cookVermicular: Vermicular does much that a thicker cast iron pan will do and it heats up much faster because of its thinner base. I’ve gotten great Sears on my cast-iron regulars — scallops, chicken, potatoes — and the burger I cooked here was no different (see picture below). In the second test, the egg mostly lifted from the pan, but there was more stuff stuck here than inside the made in pan. It’s very similar to my cast-iron skillet.

Need to be experienced: No.


Vermicular light cast-iron skillet sears burgers well. It caught the most eggs out of the three but nothing a hot washcloth could handle.

Care: Unlike cast-iron, you don’t want to scrub this pan with a hard scrubber or steel wool. Warm water and, when needed, a little soap will go a long way. I have no trouble cleaning this skillet, even after a brutal sear. The pan will change color over time (mine already has) but that shouldn’t (and shouldn’t) affect the cooking ability of the pan.

Cost: One vermicular frying pan is $160 and another $40 if you add the lid. There’s also a darker version that’s a few centimeters smaller in diameter at $155.

Decision: I love this pan. While you have to be gentle with it compared to standard cast iron and it can’t go in the oven, it almost even sears food, has a good release and, at 2.4 pounds, it’s a pleasure to handle. I love how fast it heats up and it has become my new go-to pan for scallops, seafood, and boneless chicken breasts. It also looks really sleek, especially if you spring for a lid.

Made in Blue Carbon Steel Skillet

This is another cooking material that is often in conversation with cast iron. It is often dubbed a hybrid of cast iron and stainless steel and, in my experience, is an accurate description. Whereas vermicular pans are treated with an enamel coating, blue carbon steel is heat-treated through a process called blue ironing.

The attraction with blue carbon is that it’s fairly light (though not as light as a vermicular pan) but still provides brutal surface heat for steaks, skin-on chicken and high-heat vegetables. Plus, like cast-iron, if properly cared for (no scrubbing or heavy doses of soap, for example), it will build up a slick patina, giving it a nonstick-like release.

This skillet also has a steel handle that is bolted on so that it does not heat up with the base. No matter how hot the cooking surface is, you can hold the handle bare-handed.


It’s technically a 12-inch pan but I’ve included specs for a 10-inch which is the more popular size.

Shape: 10 inches

Weight: 3.4 pounds

How it cooks: Of the three pans I tested for this article, the Made in Blue Carbon Steel turned out to be the fastest. This gave my burger a very clear sear. I used a little bit of cooking oil for my scrambled eggs and turned the cooking temperature down a lot. When finished, the egg is almost completely free of the pan as is the case with Teflon or other nonstick surfaces. this was good. Very good.


Made in Carbon Steel gave Burger a great discovery on a cast iron equivalent. The egg also lifts easily from the pan, leaving behind almost nothing similar to Teflon or other nonstick surfaces.

Need to be experienced: Yes. It is suggested that you season this pan like a cast iron skillet. Seasoning it twice a year will help create a nonstick patina and a flavor base that transfers to food. For an extra $20, Made In will send you one that’s already been seasoned once to start.

Care: Like cast iron, you’ll want to avoid using harsh soaps and chemicals that can affect seasoning. Simply wipe the surface with a paper towel, rag or sponge. Made In provides some of the warm water—but never let it get wet. I don’t have many examples where that method doesn’t do the trick, but if necessary, a Some Soap and some mild sponge work won’t spoil the pan.

Cost: This blue carbon skillet will set you a big jump to $65 for an 8-inch, $69 for a 10-inch, and $89 for a 12-inch pan.

Decision: Oddly enough, this blue carbon steel number is closer to that of traditional cast iron. Actual Cast iron vermicular. This skillet is the one to get if you want to cook real cast iron style without all the weight. The Vermicular Pan is a full pound lighter, but Made In’s blue carbon steel pan is thick enough and there’s no enamel coating to worry about damage.

While both pans would be dynamic additions to any cookware collection, blue carbon steel is the best choice for heavy cast iron.

Reading more: How to Perfectly Season Your Cast-Iron Pan

Other mild cast iron frying pan options:

Marquette Castings makes a light cast iron pan. It’s a bit thicker than the Vermicular and weighs twice as much—5 pounds. It also costs $250 which is way more than dropping it on a single pan.

Lodge is probably the best-known cast iron producer in America and they also have a light cast iron collection called blacklock. NS 10 inch skillet ($60) weighs 3.8 pounds, which is more than both pans we tested, but still significantly less than the brand’s traditional cast-iron cookware.

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