I will start by saying that I love cast iron!
As a professional offshore cook, I use these pans most because they are virtually indestructible and add beautiful depth and flavor to any dish I cook.
Second, I am new to nitriding cast iron, but will soon buy one.
Why? Because these pans take my beloved cast iron to the next level by making them completely rust-proof, permanently non-stick, and lighter in weight.
Let’s dive in and see what nitriding cast iron has to offer.
What is Cast Iron?
Cast iron cookware is a porous material that will last a lifetime if properly maintained. Adding oil to the surface and baking it to protect the cast iron from rust and making it non-stick will prolong its life.
A properly seasoned cast iron pan is versatile and can be used on any cooking surface, which is why many cooks prefer them.
The pores open up when heated, which allows the seasoning to infuse the food with additional flavor and reabsorb the oil, which makes it non-stick.
These pores also make cast iron superior in heat distribution and retention.
For a chef’s perspective on cast iron, check out Seasoned vs. Unseasoned Cast Iron.
What is Hard Nitriding Cast Iron?
Hard nitrating is a heat treatment process that infuses nitrogen into cast iron to increase its corrosion resistance and durability.
The treatment makes the cast iron scratch resistant and permanently non-stick.
The process involves applying nitrogen-rich gas like ammonia, or a solid like sodium cyanide, to the metal.
The metal is then placed in a specialized furnace and heated to 1,000°F, producing a hard coating on the cast iron.
Difference Between Hard Nitriding & Traditional Cast Iron
Traditional Cast Iron
Traditional cast iron is versatile and can be used on the stovetop, the oven, and for outdoor cooking.
They offer excellent heat retention and distribution and can handle heat as high as 600°F.
Cleaning traditional cast iron is straightforward unless the food has been scorched to the surface or rust has set in. Scrape the food bits off and lightly scrub using a brillo pad, water, and salt.
After you clean a cast iron, you'll want to re-season it with a light base of cooking oil to prevent rust and to add to a non-stick coating.
If cast iron isn’t re-seasoned occasionally, the pan will become rusty, and food will stick to the surface.
Hard Nitriding Cast Iron
Hard nitriding cast iron is cast iron that has been through heat treatment of 1,000°F, and nitrogen has been diffused onto the surface.
This produces a thin, hard surface that permanently protects the cast iron.
The infused nitrogen makes these pans permanently non-stick and rust-resistant, which is the key difference between the cast iron variations.
Nitrided cast iron is also lighter than traditional cast iron and only requires the initial seasoning due to the hard coating.
Traditional cast iron cannot be scoured because the abrasiveness will rub away the coat of seasoning.
However, this isn’t a concern with nitrided cast iron because the nitrogen provides the non-stick coating, not cooking oil, and is abrasive resistant.
For more details on cleaning and maintaining cast iron, see How To Clean a Cast Iron.
Where Can I Buy Nitriding Cast Iron Pans?
Nitrided cast iron isn’t as popular as traditional cast iron (yet), but there are some affordable options.
Retailers like Walmart advertise a really good deal, and several online options are also available.
I found online stores like Lehman's, Pots and Pans, and Sarchi Cookware that offer a variety of sizes for a reasonable price comparable to traditional cast iron prices.
Brandani is another reputable Italian manufacturer, and their nitrided collection has good reviews.
How Do You Clean Nitriding Cast Iron Pans?
All cast iron should be cleaned by hand, and there are various ways to do this.
The key is to avoiding using soap, which can strip away the seasoning.
Boiling water and scraping cast iron with a wooden or plastic spatula is the best way to clean cast iron.
The best method for cleaning nitrided cast iron is with chainmail. Amazon has an excellent option with a handle that makes cleaning this type of pan a breeze.
Since the seasoning is provided by nitrogen instead of cooking oil, you won’t rub off the coating.
These pans are virtually indestructible, so the chainmail won’t scratch or chip away the protective coating.
Typically, you would reapply seasoning to a cast iron pan after cleaning it, but the seasoning on nitrided cast iron is permanent.
Although hard nitrate cast iron comes pre-seasoned, a light coat will improve the non-stick properties slightly, but is not necessary.
What’s the Best Way to Cook with Nitriding Cast Iron Pans?
The most common method for cooking on nitrided cast iron is the stovetop.
However, if your pans do not have wooden or silicone handles, they can go in the oven, on the grill, or over an open flame.
Cast iron is the most versatile cookware in the kitchen because of its ability to withstand high heat and cook on any medium.
Hard nitrided cast iron is no different, other than the seasoning process.
Can I Cook Anything in Nitriding Cast Iron Pans?
Once the pan is pre-seasoned, you can cook virtually anything in them, though delicate fish tends to stick to cast iron.
Many people avoid cooking acidic foods in cast iron because the acid can react with the metal and leave an off-flavor, but I cook spaghetti in my dutch oven often and have never noticed this.
Are Nitriding Cast Iron Pans Safe to Cook With?
According to Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, cast iron is the safest cookware to cook with.
Nitriding cast iron is even safer because of its scratch-resistant coating, which means the metal won’t chip off into the food.
Nitrogen is an inert gas that comprises 78% of the air we breathe and is safe to infuse into cast iron.
Once the pans are treated, they won’t rust, chip, or scratch, making them safe and healthy to cook on.
Will the Finish on Nitriding Cast Iron Pans Wear Off?
The finish on the nitriding cast iron is permanent and will not come off.
I have done much research and have yet to find a single complaint.
The nitrogen infusion provides a thin hardness that seals the pan, which offers superior protection and durability.
Nitriding cast iron is cast iron infused with nitrogen and heated to 1,000°F to provide a deep layer of protection that lasts a lifetime.
This protection makes the pan scratch-resistant, rust-proof, and permanently non-stick.
There are many benefits to nitriding cast iron, including health benefits and ease of use due to its lightweight.
Since the pans are scratch resistant, the coating will not flake off into food, and they are easy to clean because of their non-stick properties.
The price range is comparable to traditional cast iron, which is an exceptional value for the quality of these pans.