5 Reasons You Should Be Cooking With Cast Iron
In recent years there has been some debate about the best type of cookware to use in your kitchen. Between safety concerns over Teflon coatings and aluminum pans, many people are turning to stainless steel or copper cookware. In my kitchen, however, I’m finding more and more that the old way of cooking may just be the best way!
I first began cooking with cast iron when I moved into a house which had a set of cast skillets left behind by the previous owner. I used these as a backup when I had let the dirty dishes get away from me a bit. In a very short amount of time, though, I came to find that these old-school skillets could do a lot of things more modern cookware could not. Their perfectly even and stable heat is an ideal way to put a perfect sear on a steak, and with practice, I learned to make some of the most perfect pancakes you’ve ever seen! This inspired me to do a little research into some of the wonderful abilities and benefits of cast iron, and I now use nothing else in my home.
Here are 5 reasons you, and everybody, should consider cooking with cast iron:
Granted, my first set of skillets was free, and to be honest, I initially could see why someone left them behind when they moved. My first use of cast iron in the kitchen ended with a skillet sitting in a sink of tepid dish water overnight, where it oxidized and got a little nasty. But once I did a few minutes of research and learned how to clean and maintain these pans properly, I realized that these stout skillets are worth much more than their purchase price.
Cast iron cookware is cheap to purchase initially, even at the retail level. I recently saw a 5-piece starter set of cast iron cookware on Amazon for about $90.00. Individually, even high-end cast skillets can be purchased new for less than $20.00. The savvy shopper, however, can find cast cookware even cheaper. I actually found an enamel-coated cast iron skillet with a lid for $3.00 at a neighbor’s yard sale recently. Not bad for a pan that will last me the rest of my life!
That brings me to my second point of why cast iron cookware is worth having and using in your kitchen. These heavy-duty pots and pans are made to last a lifetime! My mother has a set of cast iron cookware that she got from her mother about 20 years ago, and honestly, they are in the exact same condition they have been in since that time, and probably since the 1960’s when initially purchased by my grandparents. That lifespan is a far cry from some of the coated pans I’ve had over the years which tend to scratch and break down within just a few years.
5 Reasons You Should Be Cooking With Cast Iron
Health – Chemical-Free Cooking
There are three main reasons that cast iron cookware is a healthy alternative to other cooking methods. First and foremost, cast iron cookware allows you to avoid the harmful chemicals that are found in nonstick and aluminum pans. Nonstick coatings contain perfluorocarbons or PFC’s
that can be released as fumes when the pans reach high heat. PFC’s have been linked to a number of health risks including developmental difficulties in children, liver damage, early menopause, and even cancer. On the other hand, cast-iron cookware, having no such coating, can reach super high heat levels without worry of fumes or harsh chemicals. Furthermore, the heat will stay even across the entire surface of the pan, which can also go directly into an oven with no safety concerns (other than the handle also being hot… don’t forget your pot holders!)
Health – Less Oil Required
A properly seasoned cast-iron skillet has a nice sheen that makes it virtually nonstick for many foods. Aside from helping to preserve the integrity of the pan, this seasoning means that you won’t need to use nearly as much oil in cast iron cookware as you would in other pans, and obviously, cutting down on oils and fats in cooking is never a bad thing.
There are a few different methods to clean and season your cast iron cookware so it will be ready for its next use. As previously stated, (and as I learned the hard way), leaving a cast pan in a sink of water will lead to oxidation and rust. That being said, you can scrub your skillets with a stiff brush and water, just be sure to dry thoroughly and lightly oil afterwards to avoid oxidation. The best and simplest method I’ve found to clean and season my cast iron is as follows:
* Cover the bottom of the pan with a healthy layer of kosher salt and add about a half inch of cooking oil. Heat the skillet until the oil gets hot enough to begin smoking then remove from heat. Carefully dump the oil and salt into a bowl and use a ball of paper towels to rub the inside of the pan until it is smooth and clean. Allow to cool before returning to the cupboard.
Health – Bonus Boost of Iron!
While too much iron in your diet is not a good thing, it’s hardly a problem for most people. In fact, it’s estimated that 9.6 % of Americans and 30% of the world’s population are officially anemic. A lack of iron in the diet is a major cause of anemia, which decreases red blood cell and oxygen levels in the body. Women are especially susceptible to iron deficiency, and could therefore benefit the most from cooking with cast, particularly during pregnancy.
While cast iron cookware doesn’t release harmful chemicals into the air or into your food, it does add trace amounts of iron. In fact, the iron content in certain acidic foods like tomato-based sauces can be boosted about 20 times by simply being cooked in cast! Iron-rich foods like red meat, chicken, and seafood can also be cooked better and more evenly in cast iron than any other cookware in my opinion.
The internet is full of recipes to be cooked in cast, everything from traditional meat and potatoes, to stir fry and paella dishes, even desserts. So the next time you’re in the market for some quality cookware that will last you a lifetime, consider cast, your pocketbook and your health may greatly benefit!
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