If you own, inherited, or happen to come across some cast iron cook ware — you may want to move it to your stovetop ASAP.
My grandparents had quite a collection and I was the lucky grandchild who hit the jackpot.
Between the hand-me-downs and the miscellaneous pots gathered from the pawn shop, I have managed to assemble an impressive assortment of cast iron cookware. I have small skillets, large skillets, pans perfect for making cornbread, pans perfect for frying, dutch ovens and even a cast iron fish fryer complete with its own cast iron stand.
I love them all.
I first started using cast iron over a decade ago when one of my best friends had a scary episode and ended up in the emergency room with anemia. As part of her recovery her doctor recommended that she start cooking with cast iron cookware. This would provide more iron in her diet.
This makes me want to jump on a giant rabbit trail about silver spoons, colloidal silver and fighting infections with utensils & cookware. I can be a holistic, naturalistic, tincture-making nut in addition to everything else I do around here.
Back to cast iron.
Here's 8 reasons to use cast iron:
#1 It's oldI am enamoured with anything old fashioned. I can't help it. If my great-grandparents had one. I probably want one.
Cast iron skillets grow more "seasoned" as they are used. In fact, it is important to season a new cast iron skillet before you use it. "Seasoning" can also bring an old, rusty, neglected cast iron pan back to life.
#2 It's coolCast iron is black. It's shiny. It looks great hanging from ceilings and pot racks. It makes anyone who normally cooks on "Department-Store-Ware" look upon your dishware and wonder what century you're living in.
#3 It's healthyNot only does it increase the amount of iron in your diet; you also will not have to worry about Teflon toxicity. Many non-stick surfaces arguably have some unfortunate side-effects. You can avoid these by using cast iron cookware.
You won't have to worry about any toxic chemicals leeching into your food from your pan.
You won't have to worry about toxic fumes being emitted if the pan is over heated.
Equally nice, is that you don't have to stress over whether you are using the right spatula, correct spoon or if your child is using the wrong utensil in the wrong pan.
With cast iron you can scrape, bang and whisk without being concerned you may be serving up perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) with your meal.
#4 It's naturally non-stick
(for homemade pancakes go here)
If you are reading this "non-stick" business and chuckling because everything you have attempted to cook in a cast iron skillet has stuck like glue — you could be using the wrong cast iron. What? I know, I'm sorry. They are not all created equal. The stuff they are selling in Walmart today and calling "cast iron" is not necessarily the same stuff that your grandmother used.
I have found that cast iron made by "Weber" seems to be excellent. Flea markets and antique stores usually have Weber Iron Ware hidden among their treasures. Just flip the pan over and look for the name on the bottom.
Not all of my cast iron is Weber, but all of it is old. I can tell pretty quickly if a cast iron pan is going to perform well by looking at the cooking surface of the pan. It should be smooth and shiny. You can see that mine is loved and far from perfect — but it's smooth and nothing sticks in it.
Another tip for making sure your food doesn't stick on your cast iron skillet is to get it hot before placing the food. If I drop eggs in a cool skillet they will stick every time. If the pan is hot, the food shouldn't stick.
#5 Cooks evenlyI don't know if it's the fact that it's made out of iron or if it's the thickness of the pan or both, but my cast iron pans cook evenly and beautifully. The food on the outer rims of the pan cook as well as the food in the center.
#6 It's versatileReally, it's amazing. I can brown my potatoes on the stove top and shove the entire pan directly into the oven to finish them off. I can cook with it on our grill. I can even set my cast iron pans directly in hot embers over an open fire. They will go with you just about anywhere. I have even been known to take my favorite cast iron skillet with me on vacations.
#7 It's simple to clean
Cleaning a cast iron skillet is simple. No matter how messy they get, the process is basically the same. Depending on the level of messiness, sometimes I just wipe the pan out with a cloth or paper towel while it is still warm (careful — don't burn yourself).
If the pan is really messy I will add a little coarse salt to the pan (for abrasion), heat it a bit on the stovetop and scrub it out with a paper towel. If the salt still isn't enough you can use a stainless steel scrubbing pad should do the trick. It is rare that I ever have to use the sink to clean my cast iron pan.
If the salt and steel, scrubbing pad aren't doing the trick — you can dunk the pan in water and use soap. Just be sure to dry it and oil it immediately or it will rust.You always want your cast iron cookware to be oiled (to prevent rusting).
# 8 It's virtually indestructibleMy poor skillets should be dead. I cook with them all day long. I let my kids drag them outside to cook over little fires. They are used and practically abused. They can take a beating.
All my cast iron ware is older than I am. As long as it is properly cared for, I suspect it will outlive me.