Everything you need to know about cast iron cookware! When it comes to cooking, there are lots of choices. Some of them are healthier than others, with cast iron cookware being among the healthiest. (Stainless steel is also among the tops, because these pieces don’t have potentially toxic coatings.)
Cast iron cookware doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to take care of. Who knew? Because I for one have struggled with trying to clean a cast iron skillet “the correct way” and just got angry and refused to use it anymore. So I’m glad that Sebastian Beaton, editor of TwoKitchenJunkies.com, wrote this guest post on the ultimate guide to cast iron cookware. Enjoy!
What can you do with cast iron cookware?
Cast iron cookware is very versatile, so it is better to break it down into the two different types to see what each type is better for. While there is very little difference in what you can cook with each, there are differences in the way and style of cooking.
Bare cast iron cookware
These are the most robust and versatile. They can be used to cook anything and pretty much anywhere. Bare cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned from time to time and so care is needed when cleaning.
If you cook a lot of acidic based foods, such as with tomatoes, you might find yourself having to the season the cast iron cookware more often as it can be stripped away.
Enamel coated cast iron cookware
This is the best all-round in terms of ease of use. You can cook pretty much anything in it. Generally, enameled comes in a variety of colors.
However, enamel coated cast iron cookware can chip and not all enamel coatings are created equal. They are also only good for the kitchen where as bare cast iron is the better option if you are going to be cooking outdoors.
Advantages of cast iron
Cast iron is robust – unlike nonstick or ceramic, there are very few utensils that will leave their mark on cast iron.
If seasoned correctly, you will have a pan or skillet with a very decent nonstick finish on it.
You can use cast iron in the oven, on top of the oven, in the fire, in fact any place you can cook on – including induction cooktops.
Cast iron pans make a great deterrent for unwelcome visitors in your house (see Disney’s Tangled) 😉
They hold their heat well and can be heated to high temps, making them great for steaks etc. where you need a very hot pan before you start cooking.
Disadvantages of Cast iron
Don’t panic, but there are some things that you should be aware of with cast iron.
Cast iron is heavy. If you have weak wrists or an injury that might hinder you lifting heavy item then you should take this into consideration. The smaller pans will be a lot lighter than the bigger ones.
Cast iron is brittle, unlike other metals. Put a hot cast iron pan into cold water and it is likely to crack. Something is also likely to crack if you drop it. Possibly the pan but more likely whatever took the impact of the falling pan.
Glass top stoves will need extra care as these bad boys will make short work of the top if you are careless.
Myths of cast iron cookware
You can’t use soap to wash cast iron – this is just not true , you can use soap. You don’t have to every time but when it is dirty then do so.
You can soak a skillet in water – To be fair water is way more damaging to the seasoning then soap. Cast iron needs to be cleaned and then dried.
Seasoning a pan is a lot of hard work – There will be times when you will need to do this but it is not that difficult. Use these tips to season a cast iron skillet.
Cooking with cast iron will give you your daily amount of iron – This is not true, there will be some leaching of iron but not enough for what your body needs.
Cast iron is ruined if it rusts – Ha, ha this is the best one ever …. No rust will not ruin it, it may just help you get a bargain if you spot a rusty one.
Costs of cast iron cookware
There are a number of things that you should be considering if when looking at the prices and the brands for cast iron:
The long life of cast iron – if taken care of, cast iron can quite easily outlive you. You can use it as often as you want and it will be the same. It is not uncommon for people to inherit skillets and griddles from parents.
Sometimes older is better – If you love second shops and garage sales, just keep an eye out for rusty old cast iron skillets and griddles that are going dirt cheap. The rust can be easily removed and once it has been seasoned it will be as good as new, in fact maybe even better as some of the antique cast iron cookware was made to a superior quality.
Good brands to look for
If you are looking for something that comes with a reasonable price and is good quality then you should look into Lodge brand. They make great small/medium skillets as well as dutch ovens and even skillets. They will last but they are not as well made as some of the other brands.
I recently discovered Smithey Ironware and love using it! The heirloom quality hand forged skillets and pans are beautiful. And they are made in America. I use the Dutch Oven and have been really pleased with how well the food cooks evenly, and doesn’t stick to the pan afterwards.
At the other end of the scale is Le Crueset. While these come with a bit of a hefty price tag they are brilliant and an absolute pleasure to use. They also look fantastic in any kitchen as the come is a wide range of intense colors.
Guest Contributor Bio
Sebastian is the chief editor over at twokitchenjunkies.com. Cooking and gadgets make him happy and he has a passion for sharing what he has learnt from his time in the kitchen.