Cast iron. Really, do I need to say anymore? I mean, before there was aluminum, before copper, before stainless steel, and before Teflon, there was cast iron. Most of the dishes you remember your grandmother preparing were made in it. And though cast iron pans became nearly obsolete for a generation, they are making a huge comeback! Let's take a look at what makes cast iron an essential part of your kitchen.
- First of all, cast iron is a great conductor of heat. They do take a little while to heat up, but once they are hot, they retain that heat beautifully making for a nice, even cooking surface for your culinary masterpieces!
- Secondly, cast iron is wonderful for starting on your stovetop and transitioning into the oven. For example, you can get a nice sear on your pork chops, and then simply finish them off in the oven.
- Thirdly, cast iron is a beautiful way to connect to the past. I say this because most of us inherited pieces from our mothers and grand mothers. Or, you remember that skillet covered with bacon grease that she used to make everything, and everything turned out great. Perhaps you didn't inherit pieces. Perhaps you purchased pieces on your own. You still will find yourself standing over the stove, thinking about how they used to cook in the pioneer days, or about cooking with your grandma in her kitchen. Yes, cast iron connects us to the past like few pieces in our modern day world can.
- Fourthly, it is non-reactive with your food. What does that mean? Well, when we use things like non-stick cookware with Teflon, it seeps toxic chemicals into our food. Over time, that can take it's toll on our bodies. The only thing you are getting from your cast iron pans is iron, a mineral the your body needs anyway.
- And lastly, as Greg Bryson in the Cast Iron Cooking Facebook group says..."Because Cast Iron is easier to say & spell than Polytetrafluoroethylene" 'Nuff said!
I know what you are thinking right now. "All of that may be true, but I heard..." Well, let's take a look at some of he myths of cast iron cookware.
YOU CAN'T COOK WITH THEM ON FLAT SURFACE COOK-TOPS:
- All of us have heard this at one time or another, and while you have to be careful, you can use cast iron on your flat surface ranges. I know many people who use cast iron on theirs daily. There are a couple things to keep in mind though. One, you need to be gentle when you are placing CI on your stove-top. Secondly, you need to heed sliding it around on your cook-top. This way your are less likely to get scratches.
YOU CAN'T USE TOMATO PRODUCTS IN THEM:
- While it has been said that Cast Iron leaves a metallic flavor in your tomato based dished, I have never noticed it. I am sure it happens from time to time, but in that instance I recommend using enamel coated cast iron.
EVERYTHING STICKS TO THEM:
- Okay, here is the thing. Cast Iron DOES require a little love. You have to care for and season it properly, but...If you love your Cast Iron it will love you back. I can honestly say that my Cast Iron is as stick resistant as any Teflon I have used.
With that being said, let's look at care...
Here is a great video to show you how to initially season your cast iron pans. I will say this, in the video they use vegetable oil. I personally prefer Crisco. I have found that vegetable oil can burn and leave a film on your pan and your food. Often times people will use bacon grease or lard for this as well.
Now let's look at everyday care....
For a well seasoned pan, it can be as simple as wiping it out with a towel, but for those tougher jobs, here is how you clean them on a daily basis.
Put your pan under hot water.
Use a non metallic scrubber to scrub those tough bits off of your pan.
Next, dry your pan off with a towel, and place over heat to dry it out completely.
Once the pan is dry, you will need to get a little Crisco and...
Rub it all over your pan while it is still hot.
Allow your pan to cool completely and put away.
You know that your pan is well seasoned and ready for use when it has this nice, black, glossy finish to it.
Out of all the cookware in my kitchen, I definitely use my cast iron the most! The reason that is has stood the test of time is because it is the best thing to cook with. Yes, cast iron does require some love, but again I say, if you love it, it will love you back! The best part about cast iron is, for cookware it is relatively inexpensive. The pan pictured above I purchased for $20, new, at Target, but you can pick up used pieces much cheaper and easily restore them. Or, better yet, ask someone in your family to hook you up! Bottom line, cast iron IS a kitchen essential. So save those pennies, shop around, and get one today!
I hope this helps you all out, and as always...
Happy Reading, Happy Eating, and Happy Living,
~The Kitchen Wife~