I taught about Dutch oven cooking to a group of campers in one of our stake parks once, and the discussion turned to aluminum vs. cast iron. I talked about the problems and virtues of each kind and the subject of Alzheimer’s came up. One of the class members raised her hand, she said she worked at a mid-west university, and according to the studies they’d done, there is a connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s
Since this was a class on Dutch oven, I tried to get back to the point. I didn’t get the particulars or her references. Before I could change the subject, she told us of a study they did on cadavers. I don’t want to show my ignorance here, but suffice it say, she believed there is a connection.
I don’t know if I’ll die quicker using aluminum or not. I do know, since childhood, I’ve been exposed to whatever aluminum would do to me. From aluminum soda cans, to the drinking glasses my Grandmother used. According to my class member, some people are susceptible and some aren’t. I could also die in a crosswalk when a car runs me over.
I’ll let you decide the risks. Let me tell you about the differences.
Cast iron is what most people think about when talking about Dutch ovens. It is a great source of iron for the diet. It heats slowly and provides even heat. Flavors seem to come from the air to make your food taste better. On the other hand, aluminum can be cleaned easier, it doesn’t need to be seasoned, and it’s lightweight. It heats up quicker and cools down faster, therefore food can burn easier.
Cast iron can be carried anywhere, but it’s heavy. Properly cared for, cast iron can last forever, the same with aluminum. Now manufacturers are putting a hard anodized coating on aluminum pots, and they say the health risks are gone.
The big difference, and the most important to some, is the cost. Aluminum costs more than cast iron, and anodized aluminum costs even more. If you are packing into the backcountry or running a river, aluminum may be just what you want. If you drive your car to camp or never leave your backyard, cast iron could be what you need.
I have both, but just like I use different cast iron Dutch ovens for different purposes, I have specific purposes for my aluminum ovens. I use a 10-inch aluminum oven for baking pies. In competition, we often needed to take the pie out of the oven and get it cooled quickly. Aluminum was great for that because as I said above, it heats faster and cools quicker. The hard part is getting used to managing the heat source. You have to keep an eye out for burning, but cast iron can be more forgiving.
There, you have my condensed version. The point is, you decide. If you’re used to cast iron, aluminum may take some practice, and vise-a-versa.