Why I Cook with Cast Iron and Why You Should Too

Thursday, January 12, 2017
My husband tends to give me Christmas presents that are practical. That isn't to say that I don't like them. In fact I love them! His gifts are always something that I want, and that I need. He knows my taste and knows what I will be happy with.

This year one of his presents to me was a cast iron pot with a cover that doubles as a pan. I have been eyeing this for sometime, and was ecstatic when I got it! I have slowly been transitioning to cast iron over the past couple of years. The other pans I have been using are a large stainless steel that can go into the oven, and a very small ceramic pan.



A couple of years ago I made the decision to toss out all my non-stick (read: Teflon) pans. I didn't like the fact that my family was ingesting the chemicals from the pans as I cooked the food, but I did love the idea of using little to no oil and having the food not stick to the pan, as well as how easy they were to clean-up. However health won out over ease of use and I decided to try stainless steel after that. The clean-up was easy enough, but the non-stick part was not there unless I used a ton of oil!  I decided I didn't want to add that many calories to the food we ate, so I tried ceramic. It did have non-stick properties at first, but the more I used it, the more the coating started chipping off and I didn't want that in my food either. I am sure some of you would tell me that I didn't use the ceramic pan right, I probably used too high of heat, or used too abrasive of cleaners, but if there is a coating on a pan, no matter what, it will come off at some point.

During this time, I had also started using a 12" cast iron pan. I like the idea of cooking with cast iron, and I like the benefits. It allowed iron to get into our diet in a healthy, non-toxic way. There are no chemicals on the pans, and they can last literally forever.  But there are some tips to using them to get the most benefit out of them.

I thought I would share with you why I am now solely using cast iron and why you should be too. I will also share with you some tips for using cast iron that gets the most benefit out of it.

Yes, you can fry an egg in a cast iron pan and not have it stick!


It Is Naturally Non-Stick
When I first started using cast iron, I would have absolutely disagreed with this statement. Yes, I was told it was non-stick, but my experience proved otherwise. What I didn't realize is that the pan must be well seasoned. Don't expect a brand new pan to be automatically non-stick. You will need to cook with it and build up the seasoning to experience it being non-stick. If the pan was pre-seasoned, then it won't take long for it to get to the non-stick stage.

Tip 1: Be sure and use some type of oil when you first start cooking with a new pan, or even a newly seasoned pan.  You will need to build up the seasoning of the pan and therefore its non-stick quality.

Tip 2: Keeping the temperature at a lower setting on your stove will also help keep food from getting too hot and burning/sticking to the pan.

The lid to the pot, which flipped upside down (as pictures) is now a frying pan!



It Adds Iron to Your Food
As I mentioned earlier, cast iron will naturally add iron to the foods that you cook in the pan. There are many people that are not getting an iron rich diet (think red meat, dark leafy greens, beans).  Not having enough iron in your diet can lead to anemia. While taking a supplement can help, the best way to get nutrients and minerals is through your food. And to think this pan helps with that!  If you are on the anemic side, don't think that you can immediately start cooking with cast iron and stop your supplements, it doesn't quite work that fast. You will need to cook with cast iron on a regular basis to see the benefits of the iron.

Cooks Somewhat Evenly and Retains Heat
I think this is probably my favorite benefit of cast iron. The pans I have used in the past (stainless steel, ceramic, non-stick) have had hot spots and cold spots. I do not have the luxury of having a gas stove and having control over the heat of the burner. With cast iron, I have experienced very few hot and cold spots, once it heats up, it is an even heat. What I have found with my electric stove is that I never want to raise the temperature of the burner more than medium. Once the pan is hot, it stays hot for quite awhile.

Tip 3: Be sure and preheat your pan! This really is a must to have even heating. I always put my pan on the burner and turn the burner to Medium (remember I have an electric stove). Once it is heated up (drop some water in the pan and if it sizzles and dances, it's ready) you can add your food (oil of your choice if you need it.)

My Christmas present this year, and it is fast becoming one of my favorites!


It is Easy to Clean
Ok, you might disagree with me on this, but I have learned the secret to cleaning cast iron. Clean it while it is still hot. Remove the food and add a little water to the pan. Using a soft cloth (I love using the dish cloths that I have crocheted), clean off the food residue. You will not need soap this way, I promise you. Soap can take the seasoning off of the pan. Be sure and dry the pan with a clean soft cloth (lint free) and then I reseason mine. To do this, I add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the still warm pan and rub the oil all over. I then sit it back on the stove  for the oil to absorb into the pan. If you need to season a pan from scratch, this is not the way to do it.

Tip 4: Do not over oil your pan to season it. If you put too much oil on your pan, you will end up with a sticky gooey mess. Don't worry if this has already happened, you can always scrap it off and reason your pan.


You CAN Use a Metal Spatula (and you should!)
On one of my YouTube videos I show how we cook cowboy stew over an open fire in our dutch oven. One of the things that I used was a metal spatula to first cook the hamburger. I immediately received a comment that I shouldn't be using metal. Guess what? You DO want to use metal with cast iron. When you first purchase cast iron pans, they can be bumpy or have an uneven surface. The use of metal on them hones down the cast iron over time and makes it smooth, which helps with the non-stick process and cleaning process.

Tip 5: You do NOT want to use metal on an enamel clad iron pan. That will definitely scratch the surface.

My cheeseburger soup in my enamel clad dutch oven. That spoon in the pot is a ladle and was not used to cook with.


You Can Cook on Any Cook Surface
These pans can be used anywhere! Electric stove, gas stove, wood stove, camp stove, open fire, you name it! So if the zombie apocalypse ever happens? Well you can bet you can still cook a fantastic meal! ;-) I have used mine on my electric stove, a camp stove, and an open fire. Nothing beats chili cooked in a dutch oven over an open fire. It is one of our favorite things to cook.

This is our dutch oven that we use when camping. We use it over an open fire, in coals, and have also used it on a camp stove.


They Last Forever
This is the best part about these pans...they last forever! What I wouldn't give to have a pan that one of my grandmothers had. I have heard from other cast iron lovers that the older the cast iron, the better. There are pans out there that are over 100 years old and are still in service today. The more use they get, the better they become. Of course that is if you take care of them. And I have found that care of these pans can be easier than some of the other pans I have had in the past.

Tip 6: Take well care of your pan by using it as often as possible, keeping it in a dry place so it doesn't rust, seasoning it as needed, and you will have a pan that you can pass on through the generations.

Let me know in the comments below what your experience is with cast iron, and what your favorite cast iron pan is.
  

2 comments:

  1. Oh, I grew up eating food cooked in cast iron and now we cook in cast iron. My favorite is the traditional frying pay style cast iron skillet medium and large. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use my frying pan almost daily. I love it! Yes, it has good memories and hopefully ones that my kids will have as well.

      Delete

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