No recipes tonight, folks. Actually I made some delicious stir-fry, but I have to make a few minor tweaks to the recipe next time I make it before it is post-worthy. The carrot-to-broccoli ratio was slightly off. Instead, I’d like to mention a few words about one of my favorite kitchen loves: the beloved cast iron skillet. I have spoken to many a person who dislikes cooking with cast iron. Why? It’s heavy and you can’t put it in the dishwasher. These things are true, but I believe once you realize all the benefits to cooking with one and get into the habit, you will not be able to live without it. So here we go:
1. Even heat distribution
Cast iron is great because when you start heating it up, the heat distributes evenly across the entire surface of the pan. You might need grip cover for the handle; however, your meats will turn out perfectly seared. You can achieve perfect temperatures for frying in oil (which you shouldn’t be doing too often, you know). If you have a gas stove, even better – you can get even better temperature control and heat distribution with fire instead of electric. You can take the thing camping and use it over the camp fire. They even have cast iron dutch ovens and pots you can make stews and soups in over a wood burning fireplace. You basically never have to worry about it getting too hot – if it’s the right temperature for your food, the cast iron pan can handle it!
2. Cast iron provides dietary iron
This is a wonderful benefit to cooking with cast iron unless you have hemochromatosis, a genetic condition that causes you to store extra iron. Do not use cast iron if you have this condition; however, many other people are iron deficient or borderline. Your body is excellent at figuring out when your iron stores are low and absorbing more when you need it, although it is possible to overdose, but unlikely just from your cookware. This works especially well if you use an acidic product, like tomatoes, to cook with. That will draw out more iron than a neutral or basic food.
3. The original nonstick pan
Cast iron is great because once it’s well seasoned, you just have to maintain that seasoning and you can cook almost anything on it, including eggs. Can’t say that about stainless steel, and you have to wonder if teflon is ending up in the food you cook like iron does. I prefer to cook with something that I know my body needs anyway rather than risk teflon being the next cancer-causing agent and regreting using it for cooking my whole life. To maintain the seasoning, you just have to rub a little oil – olive, coconut, grapeseed, etc. – onto the surface of the pan after using it and washing it. That’s it! Make sure you don’t use much, if any, soap to scrub the pan out. This might cause you to scrub off all your seasoning.
4. Oven to stove and back again
Sometimes I’m cooking on the stove, and I realize I need to let something simmer a while and I don’t want to be constantly maintaing the right temperature on the stove. That’s the unfortunate thing about an electric stove. With a cast iron pan, I can just pop a top on it, turn the oven on, and put it in straight from the stove. Again, it can go up to any temperature you need, so don’t worry about the oven temp. Can’t say this about teflon, or other pots and pans. A lot of them cap out at 300 degrees.
5. Lasts forever
My favorite cast iron pan I found at a thrift store for $50. This is a hefty price, I have to admit – that thrift store obviously knew what they had. It is a Griswold brand, which apparently is very sought after. They stopped making this particular kind of pan in 1957, so it is at least 50 years old. That’s pretty good for an ol’ skillet. Can’t say that about a nonstick skillet- most of those you have to chuck after 5 years, max.
I hope I have convinced you to at least try a cast iron skillet. They are really fabulous!