Food For Thought
Cast your vote for cast iron
By: Leanne Ely
If you feel that cooking in cast iron is more your grandmother’s speed than your own, you might want to rethink that out-dated belief.
I think those old-fashioned cast iron skillets deserve a place in even the most modern of kitchens.
I don’t recommend cooking in non-stick pans because of all the chemicals required to prevent food from sticking. When the surface of those non-stick pans are scratched, you’re ingesting those chemicals—chemicals linked to cancer, early menopause, liver damage and even developmental problems. Even the fumes are harmful when those pans are heated up at high temperatures.
(If you don’t want to worry about food sticking, but you can’t get into the idea of using cast iron, look for ceramic-coated pans.)
Let’s take a look at a few more reasons why cast iron is a good choice.
Heat conduction. Cast iron skillets conduct heat like a dream. You don’t get hot spots you do like with other cookware. Cast iron can also conveniently go from the top of the stove to the oven without any problem – there’s no plastic handle to worry about.
Long lasting. Cast iron—if taken care of—will last a lifetime. In fact, even with daily use, a cast iron skillet is likely to outlive you.
Use less oil. When a cast iron skillet is seasoned properly, it’s essentially non stick. That means you only need a scant amount of oil to cook with.
Fortify your food with iron. The cast iron pan you cook your steak (or eggs, or whatever!) in won’t leech out chemicals, but it will release iron. When you cook tomato sauce in a skillet, or another very acidic food like applesauce, you actually increase the iron content of that food . . . by twenty times! A newer pan leeches more iron, so if increasing your iron count is important, don’t depend on your great-grandmother’s cast iron pan to help you too much.
Now, taking care of your cast iron is important. Here’s how you can extend its life.
How to season a cast iron pan
When you bring your cast iron skillet home, put a thick layer of kosher salt on the bottom of the pan and cover that with about half an inch of cooking oil. Put some heat on under the skillet until the oil starts smoking. Then, discard the contents of the pan and rub the inside of the skillet with some paper towels until it’s nice and smooth. These steps will give you a nonstick surface forever.
How to clean a cast iron pan
Never use soap to wash your cast iron cookware. All you need to use to get your cast iron clean is some elbow grease, hot water and a stiff brush. Let it dry completely before putting it away.
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