There is a huge difference. And it is ABSOLUTELY a great idea to have at least one or two pieces. I noticed it most with searing/braising meat, so I can see how a guy would definitely want a whole set of these. They are heavy, which is especially noticeable if you buy a Dutch/French oven and make stove top to oven meals. And they get very hot to the touch, unlike nonstick pans. You really should get to know your cooking styles and go-to habits before you invest in converting over entirely to cast iron though.
My husband and I used to buy those boxed 8-12 piece sets of nonstick cooking pans of varying degrees of quality. It started when we first were making our life together and it just seemed easiest to pick an “everything in one box” kit. In a few years, they would wear out. And we kept replacing them, repeating the process. We then switched to the more expensive brands and picked individual pieces and they still didn’t seem to have a ton of life.
I was gifted a Le Creuset dutch oven as a wedding present and that was IT for me. No more nonstick pans in my life. I loved it so much I now have 9 pieces from the brand. One of them actually came from a second-hand store similar to a Salvation Army/Good Will and was $10. Whoever had it must have decided it was heavy and dirty. I cleaned it up and it is like new. Several other pieces I picked up at a Le Creuset Outlet on sale, and they were about 40% off the list price on their website or Williams-Sonoma. So you can actually pick up a piece of Le Creuset for less than you think! But my collection went definitely out of hand in excess of what a normal human would use. You only need one or two staple pieces. Seriously.
I think you should try one or two cast iron pans. If you are in the USA, you can buy the Lodge brand. The PP that said they have “texture” these days is right, so it is best if you can touch them to pick one out because they can be hit or miss in quality. Marshalls/TJMaxx/Homegoods in the US carries the Lodge brand for a bit cheaper than Amazon and other places. I would suggest starting out with a slightly deep 12″ or 10″ skillet, and a grill style pan (the kind with “grill mark” lines in them). That way you can get to know the seasoning process and experiment with how they cook meat and react to your cooking surface. You will also get a better idea of whether or not they are too heavy for every day use for you. The Dutch ovens filled with food become surprisingly heavy. And, your Darling Husband can play around with cooking techniques.
For me, the seasoned cast iron pans were too much work. So we went with those two cast iron pans by Lodge for him (at around $20 a piece), and the Le Creuset enameled pans for me so that I still have a version of a “nonstick” pan that didn’t have the seasoning and maintenance involved. For Le Creuset or something enameled, my favorite go-to pans are my braiser and a Dutch oven. It is true that you do not need many pieces. The Le Creuset pans are nice in the sense that they really do serve multiple purposes and you sort of get to know their best uses.
Lodge “for men” for your husband to try (if he doesn’t already have a brand and pan type he wants to start with):
Lodge L8SGP3 Cast Iron Square Grill Pan, Pre-Seasoned, 10.5-inch
Lodge LCS3 Cast Iron Chef’s Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 10-inch
Le Creuset if you like nonstick:
It looks like Lodge and several other brands have versions of enameled cast iron as well, but I can’t speak to how well they work. And some people are cast iron “purists” and think that the enameled pans defeat the purpose of having a cast iron pan.
To me, they wildly improved my cooking of meat especially and that alone was enough for my husband to jump on board with supporting a pretty large collection. I could not get a sear on a piece of meat and had trouble cooking things in our first apartment because it had an electric stovetop from the 1970s. I definitely felt like a better cook with better pans. A good pan and a good knife in your kitchen really makes a world of difference in your cooking skills and your feelings about the task of making a meal. Try one first, then make the switch later if you like them!