Using a cast-iron skillet is one of the most popular ways to do stovetop cooking. If you are someone who cooks a lot at home, the likelihood is high that you already own one of these. Cast-iron skillets are widely used because they distribute heat evenly on their seasoned surface which can provide crispness without stickiness. Unfortunately, for cooks with glass-top stoves, using a cast-iron skillet may not be an option.
What Is a Glass-Top Stove?
Most homes in the United States are equipped with a gas stovetop, which are considered to be the most desirable for serious home cooks because they give a cook the ability to control the levels of heat necessary for serious cooking. Gas stovetops or ranges are the most common in rental apartments, but over the past 10 to 15 years, there have been innovations making electrical stovetops more popular. One of the most popular versions of the electric stovetop is the glass-top stove.
A glass-top stove is a variety of electrical stovetop that features a flat cooking surface made of glass, with burners that make specific areas of the stovetop get hot. People who have glass-top stoves like their sleek modern look and don't mind that the heat conducted by the stovetop is significantly more limited than on a traditional gas range. But glass-top stoves can come with a unique set of difficulties, including limiting your cooking abilities with certain tools.
Though cast-iron skillets have been around for generations, they have recently become more popular. The nonstick Teflon pans that were popular in the 80s and 90s for their ease of cleaning have fallen out of favor recently. Cast-iron skillets conduct heat better, are sturdy and solid, and don't have any of the troubling chemicals that so many nonstick coatings have. Cast-iron skillets are slightly more difficult to clean because they can't be used with soap, but once a home cook seasons the skillet successfully, it should become easier to clean.
Concerns for Using Electric Stoves
Cast-iron skillets are notoriously heavy, and glass stovetops are extremely delicate. Beyond the fears about cracking or damaging the glass with a heavy skillet, a cast-iron skillet presents a host of difficulties you might not have considered.
Any debris or residue that has built up on the bottom of the skillet can be reheated during the cooking process. Because the surface of the cooktop comes into close contact with the cast-iron, it is very easy for any residue to get hot and stain the cooktop. There is also the additional worry of cracking the glass cooktop or scratching the glass with the skillet, leaving unsightly marks or damaging the integrity of the cooktop.
Beyond the concerns about damage, glass-top stoves are notoriously slow to heat up. Additionally, they tend to give off less heat, even at their maximum level, than their gas counterparts. This means you need to have a different cooking strategy when you are cooking with a glass-top stove, no matter what material your pans are made of.
Can You Use Cast-Iron on a Glass-Top Stove?
Fortunately, the answer to this question is yes, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Unlike a gas range, a glass stovetop is significantly more delicate. If you are used to sliding pans back and forth over the burners while cooking, you will need to break that habit with your new glass stovetop. Sliding your cast-iron skillet across the stovetop can damage it. Instead, use an aggressive stirring method to move around the contents of the pan.
You will also need to take care when heating your cast-iron skillet on the glass stovetop. Don't go from zero to 10. Instead, begin with the heat on a lower temperature and slowly increase it until the skillet becomes warm; then slowly increase the heat.
To avoid staining or causing further damage to the stovetop, use soap and water only on the bottom exterior of the pan before and after each use. Also, take care to remove the skillet to a trivet the minute you are finished cooking. Leaving the hot cast-iron skillet on the glass stovetop can cause irreversible damage to the glass.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites.