The old-fashioned method of cooking with cast iron cookware has been around for years, but recently cast iron pans and skillets have seen a resurgence of popularity. People are beginning to realize how easy and thoroughly cast iron can cook their food. They also have heard how healthy using cast iron for cooking is. Below are several benefits of using cast iron cookware plus some cast iron care tips. There are also links to products I recommend from companies I have a referral relationship with. I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.
Cast iron cookware is believed to help to boost your iron intake by leaching iron into your food – and according to my grandpa was the reason why people did not used to get anemia. Today many people don’t get enough iron in a normal diet, cooking with iron-fortifying cast iron is a great idea especially for women, who naturally need more iron-rich foods. Using a pan that actually preserves and fortifies the food you cook in it is an amazing benefit of cast iron cookware. Foods which contain the most acid gain the most iron when cooked in cast iron. For example, a spaghetti sauce that is high in tomato content accumulates more iron than a piece of meat might.
Even Heating And Versatile
Besides being a healthy addition to your kitchen cookware, cast iron pots and pans conduct heat evenly and can go from stovetop to oven with no trouble at all. Cast iron cookware keeps food warm a lot longer than regular pots or pans can so it is possible to enjoy a meal, go back for seconds and not have to re-heat the food.
Another advantage of cast iron cookware is that you can use them in the oven, on the burner, or even on your outdoor grill. You can also use cast iron when you are camping because you can use it on an open flame. I have used cast iron in and on top of a wood burning stove as well. However you use it to cook with, you will always get the same even heating results every time. I do recommend using the special hot pads that are designed for use with cast iron pans.
Once you figure out how easy it is to cook in cast iron pans, they are sure to become the go-to pans in your kitchen.
Washing Cast Iron
Cast iron cookware is not dishwasher safe. You need to wash cast iron by hand, make sure you dry it completely by putting it on your stovetop or in a preheated oven so the water can cook out of the pan and then season it with oil. I have never had to scrub any of my cast iron cookware. At most, I have had to use a special brush made for cast iron cookware to get a few bits of stuck on food off. As long as you take the time to take good care of your cast iron cookware, it will last for generations.
Seasoning Cast Iron
Some other benefits of cooking with cast iron include their natural, non-stick ability. While pans coated with Teflon are also non-stick, they are not very healthy to cook food in, especially at high temperatures not to mention they might release PFCs, which are human carcinogens. Now I never cook with my cast iron pans on high heat, but depending on what you are making, you might.
Cast iron pans must be kept properly seasoned to remain non-stick. Seasoning cast iron pans is simple to do and does not require the harmful chemicals that other non-stick pans use. Simply season them with cooking oil. I prefer to use something natural like peanut oil. Their non-stick ability means they are also easy to clean. Many cast iron pieces state they are pre-seasoned, which means you can get started using it the minute you bring it home, however I highly recommend not doing this. I always pre-season my cast iron cookware before I use it. It is easy to do by simply rubbing oil on the pan and heating it up so the oil absorbs into the cast iron. Companies such as Lodge offer instructions on how to care for and how to season your cast iron cookware in the packaging material that comes with their new pans.
The reason pre-seasoning a pan is so important is this creates the non-stick surface and helps keep the pan from rusting. The gloss that you see on the pan is from the pre-seasoning conditioning. Now with that said, it is a good idea to add a little oil after every use to keep the pans from rusting. I do occasionally seed rust starting to form on some of my less used pans because of the humidity in the air of my home. When I see this, I grab the pan, oil it up and either set it on the stove burner long enough for the oil to. absorb into the pan or I put it into my preheated 350 degree oven and let the oil dry. Using the oven to season cast iron pans often causes smoke.
The way to know if cast iron cookware needs seasoned again is to look at the surface. If it looks dull, go ahead and give it another coat of seasoning. If you notice that food starts sticking to the surface of your cookware, give it more seasoning. A light rubbing of oil over the surface is all that is necessary. You do not want the oil to pool in the pan and it should not feel oily after being heated. In the event that you use too much oil, take a paper towel and wipe the excess out, then re-heat the cookware so the remaining oil absorbs into the pan.
Where To Find Cast Iron Cookware
There is a wide variety of cast iron cookware available for purchase online. Choose from the enamel coated, color-coordinated types or the old-fashioned, black finishes. You can find high-end cast iron cookware with enamel coatings and in various colors to fit every decor. Personally I prefer the plain cast iron because it does not chip, is easy to clean and so far none of my cookware has worn out – even those skillets and pans handed down to me. You will also find cookbooks and recipes online especially for use with cast iron cookware. It is also possible to find cookbooks that tell you how to use your cast iron cookware over an open fire.
Many people chose to pass down their well-seasoned, cast-iron cookware to children or grandchildren. These pots and pans have become cherished family kitchen utensils. I have my mother’s cast iron skillet and my grandfathers 75 gallon bean pot. The more you learn about cast iron cookware and the many benefits of using it to cook easy, healthy meals for your family, the more you will realize why cast iron is passed on from generation to generation. It is no wonder why so many people are eager to start their own tradition of cooking with cast iron. It is never too late to start adding pieces to your cast iron collection and learning how to cook delicious meals in the pans and skillets you do have.
Many times is is easy to find perfectly good cast iron cookware at garage sales or antique stores. You may have to spend some time seasoning them before cooking, but they will pay you back by providing many meals for you and your family. I have found some cast iron baking pans at antique stores that were in great shape, worked well and when not in use, was perfect as wall art in my kitchen.
Recommended Cast Iron Cookware
Even the less expensive cast iron cookware is extremely versatile, chemical-free and will provide you with years of healthy cooking. You can find iron cookware in a variety of sizes such as the Lodge L8SK3 Cast Iron Skillet. This model is 10.25 inches in size, which makes it roomy enough to use to bake, fry or sauté food in large quantities. For those who need a bigger skillet, take a look at the Lodge L10SK3ASHH41B Cast Iron Skillet. Some people might notice a raised spot on the pan on this model. This is not a defect. It is part of the pre-seasoning treatment that Lodge gives their cast iron cookware before selling them. You can use this skillet to fry or grill bake or whatever you want to do with it. The pan is safe to use on induction cooktops. I have a number of Lodge cast iron cookware and am quite happy with them.
For those who plan to cook a large majority of their meals using cast iron pieces, it makes sense to own more than one skillet. Cast iron cook sets like the Universal Housewares Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Piece Skillet Set saves you money while at the same time giving you great quality pieces. With this set, you get a variety of sizes including the 6.25 inch skillet, the 7.825 inch skillet and a large 10 inch skillet. Another option is the Lodge L5HS3 5-Piece Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Cookware Set. It comes with a 10.5-inch round griddle, an 8-inch skillet, a 10.25-inch skillet, a 5-Qt. Dutch oven and a 10.25-inch iron cover.
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