Why Cook with Cast Iron?
One of the main reasons why people choose a cast iron skillet for their cooking tasks is because cast iron cookware can be used for almost anything. Whether you want to sear potatoes, bake a cake or stir-fry vegetables, one cast iron frying pan is all you need. However, because cast iron cooking can be a lot of fun, especially for someone new to the idea, you may find yourself with more than just a single pan. Here are some other reasons why you may consider cooking with cast iron:
No Fear of Scratching
Cast iron doesn’t scratch, so you can use virtual any cooking utensil on it without worrying about damaging the pan. Unlike most non-stick pans on which you need to use rubber spatulas or special spoons to cook the food, you can use metal spatulas, rakes, shovels or nearly anything on cast iron. It truly is virtually indestructible.
Ever wonder how Grandma’s cast iron skillet still looks the same as when she used it decades and decades ago? One of the wonders of cast iron is that it doesn’t warp over time when repeatedly exposed to high temperatures. Many traditional pots and pans can lose their shape, as exposure to heat and use over time molds the shape of the pan, yet cast iron continues to look exactly the same.
Cast iron skillets hold flavor for longer. In fact, while some people may be grossed out the remnants from Grandma’s meal may still be in the crevices of the pan from a luncheon held 35 years ago, it is for this reason that cast iron enthusiasts adore the cookware. Many maintain that the flavors are held within the pan itself, so when you cook something new, you are still adding a little bit of the flavors that were there previously. For better or worse, cooking with cast iron can ensure a different flavor experience each and every time.
Cast iron skillets are ideal heat conductors. They have high heat retention, and those who swear by cast iron maintain that the food heats more evenly when compared to traditional pots and pans. The versatility of a cast iron skillet is unrivaled; you can use it on a stove, on a barbecue grill or even in your oven. Cast iron can be preheated to temperatures that will brown meat and will withstand higher oven temperatures than what is considered safe for traditional non-stick pans. Because cast iron skillets hold heat for longer periods of time and heat up more quickly, you actually save a little bit of money in electric or gas heating costs, whichever applies to your home.
Great for Baking
One of the main reasons people enjoy cooking with cast iron is that it is versatile – you can use these pans for baking, stir-frying, searing and boiling. In fact, before the slow cooker ever existed, grandmothers around the world used cast iron Dutch ovens for all of their cooking. Dutch ovens, used for hundreds of years, are notorious for cooking if you want an even temperature. Moreover, a Dutch oven can go from stovetop to oven without missing a beat. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
If you do not currently own a cast iron frying pan, it is well-worth your time and money to invest in the cookware. You can often find sales on the Internet, and most stores carrying cast iron skillets that are pre-seasoned and ready to use. You can typically expect to spend about $30 on a cast iron skillet, depending on the size, while you may be looking at over $100 for the same-sized stainless steel pain.
Remember that cast iron can last for three generations or longer. Ever have a family fight or know of someone who desperately wanted Grandma’s pans after she passed? Anyone who is anyone in the cooking world knows and appreciates the importance of a good cast iron skillet. If you don’t know of anyone in the family who is passing one down anytime soon, you can find vintage cast iron pans at a local flea market, thrift store, online auction site, and garage sales. While you may worry that because these have already been used, they are disgusting and not worth the dollar you might spend, cleaning cast iron is relatively simple.
More Iron in Food
Although cast iron doesn’t leak chemicals into your food, it can allow iron to saturate whatever it is that you are cooking, and that is truly a benefit for those who are iron-deficient and looking for natural ways to boost their levels of the nutrient. Iron deficiency is fairly common across the globe, particularly in women. As many as one in 10 American women do not receive adequate amounts of iron; if you are looking for a different way to add iron into your diet other than taking a vitamin or supplement, cooking food, especially an acidic food like tomato sauce, in a cast iron frying pan can increase the iron content by as much as 20 times.
Use Less Oils
Did you know that cast iron frying pans are also healthier than non-stick pans? The lovely sheen that you see in the skillet is the sign of a well-used and well-seasoned pan, which translates into non-stick as well. Fortunately, however, you will not need to use heaping amounts of oil to sear chicken or brown crispy potatoes while cooking with cast iron. In fact, if you use cast iron skillets regularly, you often don’t need to add any extra ingredients before you begin to cook. Check out the Definitive Guide to Seasoning Cast Iron.
If you are extremely health-conscious or at least somewhat concerned about living a healthy lifestyle, then keep in mind that when you use cast-iron skillets, you avoid all of the harmful chemicals and toxins that are prevalent in non-stick pans. The repellent Teflon coating that keeps foods from sticking contains perfluorocarbons (PFCs), a chemical that has been associated with developmental problems, cancer and liver damage. These chemicals are released as the pans are heated or when the surface gets scratched, and we subsequently ingest the fumes into our bodies.
Easy to Clean
Cast iron skillets are great in the kitchen and extremely versatile, but what about cleaning? Even for the most troublesome spots and caked on grease, oatmeal can do the trick, believe it or not. While all you really need is a scraper to clean cast iron, if that isn’t working, you can sprinkle some oats on it and add a little water. The paste will absorb the leftover grease without stripping the pan of iron. However, if you are one that holds fast to the notion that the leftover flavors simply add to the next meal, cleaning a cast iron skillet truly is a breeze.
While cast iron may seem like an old-fashioned choice, this reliable cookware should be a staple in your modern kitchen. Please don’t throw away that old pan that has been passed down to you from generations. As long as it has no significant cracks or nicks, you can clean, season and use the pan for every single one of your cooking needs. And, if all else fails and you need a great middle-of-the-night weapon against an intruder, you can’t go wrong with a single cast iron skillet.