Why I Love Cast Iron Cookware
There is something about cast iron cookware. I love it. It reminds me of my mom. I have an an extra large skillet, a standard size skillet, a small skillet, an aebleskiver pan, a pannenkoken pan, several dutch ovens, and a two sided griddle. I would like to add a few other things to my collection as well. In fact, when I remodel my very dated, and old kitchen, that is literally falling apart, my plan is to have one wall where I can hang my cast iron collection in all it's glory, not to mention easy access. Far different from modern cookware, cast iron cookware has been around a long time, over 2,000 years in fact. Modern technology has brought many important advances, but there is something enduring and beautiful about low technology products like a hand carved wooden bowl, or a beautiful earthenware pot.
What else is so great about it? Many years ago, I read a warning on some non-stick cookware. It read something to the effect of this: do not cook with this pan in the same room as a pet bird, as the fumes can be harmful to your feathered friend. Really? If it can be harmful to my feathered friend, what about me? That was years before all the new fangled thermolon, non-PFOA or PTFE, ceramic and green cookware of today. I have a theory, if something has been in use for over 1,000 years, it's probably more healthy than our modern and more complex stuff. I'm not saying that everything our ancestors did was healthy, but the advent of convenience foods and convenience type products has generally not been beneficial for our health.
Here Are A Few Reasons Why I Love
Cast Iron Cookware
It has great heat retention. Once it is hot, it stays hot.
It safely heats to high heat, unlike modern non-stick cookware.
Because it has great heat retention, and is good at high heat, it is wonderful for stir fries, searing meat, and frying potatoes.
It can go from stove to oven.
It is extremely durable. In fact, vintage cast iron is highly sought after by many collectors. Some people are lucky enough to have cast iron cookware from their great grandmothers. It's something that can be passed down through generations. Can I just say, I love that! Maybe my kids will have my cast iron pans someday.
It's great for baking.
It works well for roast meats, and stews.
It makes lovely fried eggs. I vividly remember my mom frying us eggs, then washing the pan, heating it on the stove and giving it a coating of oil. She is still cooking away in her cast iron pans for anyone lucky enough to be around for her home cooked meals.
Seasoned and well maintained, cast iron pans have a longer lasting non-stick surface than any modern non-stick pan. How many times have you replaced a non-stick pan? I've never had to replace any of my cast iron pans.
They are more economical than other pans. You can buy them once, never replace them and pass them on to your children, and grandchildren. See below for how to get cast iron cookware for a steal!
It's sustainable which is very important to me. If I can use it for my life time, my kids can use it and their kids, that is a big win for me and our environment.
Even though there are products on the market today that claim to be safer than the teflon of the past, I like to stick with something that is simple and has stood the test of time.
I can use metal utensils - I like to use a metal fish spatula for flipping vegetables in my stir fry. That being said, don't over-do it. If you scrub your cast iron down with steel wood, or any other metal object, it will damage the surface.
I can stack my cast iron cookware without worrying about damaging the surface, unlike other non-stick cookware.
Even if I neglect it, I don't have to replace it. I get a do-over. I can restore and re-season it.
The more I use it, the better it gets!
Some Other Thoughts
Cast iron pans do have the potential of emitting some iron. But please note, any metal cookware can leach metal, even stainless steel, so let's keep things in perspective. Any leached metal is usually in trace amounts, if at all, and no need for concern. Having said that, I would recommend avoiding aluminum, and sticking to cast iron and stainless steel. Moreover, most women can benefit from bio-available iron in their diet.
It's wise to keep all your metal cookware in good condition. If you're still concerned about cast iron leaching iron, take note to keep your pan well seasoned. A well seasoned pan has a layer of polymerized oil, so food comes in contact with that instead of a bare metal pan. This means it's less likely to emit iron. In addition, cooking highly acidic ingredients such as a tomato sauce, or very liquidy ingredients can increase the potential of iron being emitted into food. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless you have a known blood disorder such as hemocromatosis, (too much iron in the blood) in which event you may need to avoid cast iron, as well as food and supplements containing high amounts of iron.
You don't need to get fancy, brand name, cast iron cookware. Cast iron cookware can often be found at thrift stores and garage sales. Collectors might be quick to snatch up the vintage stuff, but you don't need vintage stuff to cook a great meal. It doesn't matter if it's rusty and terrible looking, usually the worse it looks, the cheaper the price, but as long as it's not cracked, it's good to go. You can clean it up, get it seasoned and in great shape with a little effort.
Ask around, often people have cast iron cookware that they don't use. Some people buy it, don't know how to use or maintain it, or they neglect it and don't know how to restore it. They may be willing to part with it.
If you have purchased new pre-seasoned cast iron cookware, give it a wash and then follow instructions for drying under maintaining. An extra seasoning, never hurt anything either.
If you have purchased new and un-seasoned cast iron cookware, give it a wash, follow instructions for drying under maintaining and then proceed with seasoning instructions.
Please read here for instructions on maintaining, restoring and seasoning.
This link is to an excellent and very informative article,
even for seasoned cast iron users.