Cast iron cookware is so versatile. You can use it over a campfire to heat up chili or use it in the oven to bake bread.
Using cast iron on a gas stove is a no-brainer, but can you use cast iron on an electric stove? Yes, you absolutely can! Whether you have electric coil burners or a smooth glass cooktop, cast iron pots and pans can handle your favorite recipes. Temperature control with an electric stove isn’t as easy as with gas, so it may take an adjustment period to master cast iron cooking.
Cooking with cast iron produces mouthwatering dishes. From the perfect sear on a steak to the simmer of a hot, filling soup. However, many cooks are intimidated by cast iron. Cooking with cast iron has a learning curve, but once you do it a few times, you’ll surely love the results.
Read on to learn about cooking with cast iron on an electric stove.
What is cast iron?
Cast iron is an iron alloy composed of carbon, silicon, and manganese. It was embraced by the Chinese as early as the 6th century BC and became a staple in the U.S. during the 17th century. Surprisingly, cast iron in its original form, either white or gray, is a brittle metal, but prolonged heating at high temperatures increases its strength. So much so that it is considered a structural metal and is used in the erection of buildings.
Cast iron pots and pans have been used for centuries. Since cast iron is very moldable, it can easily be poured into molds and forged to form everything from dutch ovens to skillets to cornbread muffin pans. Today’s largest cast iron cookware manufacturer is the Lodge Cast Iron company. Chances are you have one of these pans in your collection or have at least watched your grandparents use them.
How is electric different than gas when cooking?
Electric stoves are quite different than gas stoves. Maybe you’ve always cooked on gas but moved into a new house with all electric appliances.
Using cast iron pots and pans on electric stoves is different than gas because of the time required to heat them. Cooking this way isn’t difficult, but does require adjustments.
Let’s look at the differences:
1. Heating element vs. open flame
One noticeable difference between the two types of appliances is that electric has heating elements in each burner while gas has open flames.
2. Less responsive vs. highly responsive
Electric burners need time to heat up to the desired temperature. Since gas burners use an open flame, they are highly responsive to temperature changes and are ready to cook as soon as you turn them on.
3. Element versatility vs. technique versatility
Whether your electric stovetop has open coil burners or it’s a smooth top, the burners typically come in different sizes. This gives you versatility when cooking with different size pots and pans. On the flip side, gas stoves offer different cooking techniques, like charbroiling, because of their open flames.
How to use cast iron on electric burners
If you are cooking with cast iron cookware for the first time, make sure to read the pan instructions before using it. Many cast iron pans come pre-seasoned; if not, you must do this before fixing your meal. Seasoning is simply the addition of oil and heat to prepare the surface. It reduces the chances of your food sticking. Learn more about seasoning cast iron here.
Once your pan is prepared and placed on the electric stove burner, preheat before adding anything.
1. Choose the correct size burner
To heat your pan as evenly as possible, make sure to match the burner size with the pan size. You want the heating element to touch the pan’s surface area as much as possible.
Old cast iron pans often had a machining ring on the bottom to slightly elevate the pan and keep it flat. Modern cast iron can also have this feature, but using a flat-bottomed pan on an electric stove isn’t necessary. Just note that pans without the ring may wobble a bit on the eye.
2. Preheat your pan
Since electric burners take longer to heat up, you want to preheat your cast iron pan for a few minutes before adding anything to the pan. Never put a cool cast iron pan onto a hot stove! This can crack or warp your cookware.
3. Add oils and food
Once your pan has preheated, it is time to add oil or butter and your food.
4. Lower the temperature
With a gas stove, temperature changes are instantaneous as you adjust the flame. Electric stoves take time to adjust to temperature changes, and cast iron retains heat. It is best to lower the cooking temperature by a few degrees soon after it reaches the desired heat level to avoid overcooking or burning your food.
5. Remove pan promptly
Once your food is done, remove the pan promptly from the eye, so it doesn’t continue to cook while the elements cool down.
Can you use cast iron on a glass top stove?
Many cooks have heard the myth that cast iron should never be used on a glass cooktop. I personally love my cast iron cookware and have used it on a glass, electric cooking surface for 7 years with no issues.
Yes, you can use cast iron on a glass cooktop, but you must do so with extra special care. Cast iron is heavy and often rough in texture. If you aren’t careful, the pot or pan could scratch or do damage to your glass cooktop.
Glass stovetops are appealing because they exhibit a modern design. While the smooth surface makes cleaning easier than traditional coil tops, the surface can become easily scratched.
Even though cast iron cookware is known for its sturdiness and reliability, it can stain, scratch, or warp the stove surface. These concerns must be addressed when using cast iron cookware on glass cooktops.
Fortunately, you can use a few hacks to decrease the likelihood of damage.
How to avoid glass top stove damage when using cast iron
Want to start a lively debate at your next dinner party? Display your cast iron skillet on top of your glass stove. You might get a simple question, “Can you use a cast iron skillet on a glass top stove?”, or you might get reprimanded harshly. My answer is always the same. As long as you are careful, go for it!
Taking a few simple precautions when using cast iron on glass will eliminate damage. Always wash before heating, preheat pans before cooking, and avoid sliding the pan or using a heavy hand. You might even try a heat diffuser.
Here’s how to mitigate any damage:
1. Wash before heating
Washing the outside of your cast iron is essential before cooking on glass. Oil and grease residue can accumulate on the bottom of your cookware and carbonize once it’s placed on heat. As a result, stubborn black stains will be left behind, marring your cooktop. Not sure how to wash your cast iron correctly? Visit this post for tips.
Removing the cast iron promptly after cooking will also help guard against residue being left behind.
2. Heat before cooking
Glass is a poor conductor of heat, so it will take a little longer to warm up. Similarly, cast iron cookware will take longer to heat up on a glass stove than it would on a gas stove.
3. Handle gently
Cast iron cookware is heavy, and the handles can get extremely hot. Avoid banging or sliding cookware over the stovetop as it can potentially scratch or chip the glass surface. Wear oven mitts when moving the pan to avoid burns and dropping. Also, avoid placing a hot lid on top of your stove to rest. There have been many reports of shattered cooktops!
4. Use a heat diffuser
A heat diffuser is a round, flat plate that can be placed between your pan and stove eye. It acts as a buffer between surfaces reducing scratches, plus it helps distribute heat evenly. Diffusers can be made of copper, stainless, or other metals. Think of them as a heating mat for your burners.
Heat diffusers will help protect your glass stovetop from heavy and rough items, such as your cast iron cookware. Never place a diffuser alone on a heated cooktop. Make sure to place the pan on top before heating.
Summary of “Can you use cast iron on an electric stove?”
With a few simple precautions and adjustments, cast iron can be used successfully on an electric stove. On a glasstop stove, Take special care not to slide or drop cast iron cookware on the stove surface, which can lead to unsightly scratches or chips.
Cooking on an electric stove is different than cooking on a gas stove, so make temperature changes as needed. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be cooking in cast iron like a boss!
Can you use cast iron on a glass-top stove or glass cooktop?
Yes, you can use cast iron on a glass-top stove or glass cooktop. Just make sure to wash the bottom of the pan before placing it on the eye, and avoid sliding or dropping the cast iron onto the surface to prevent damage.
Do I need a flat-bottom cast iron pan to use on a glass-top stove?
You can use a flat-bottom cast iron pan on a glass-top stove, but it is not necessary. Some pans are outfitted with a machining ring on the bottom to make them flat. However, you can use pans without this feature.
Can you use a cast iron pan on an electric stove?
Yes, you can use a cast iron pan on an electric stove as long as you do so carefully. Since electric stoves cook differently than gas, and cast iron retains heat, you will need to make temperature adjustments during the cooking process.