In today’s age of multicolored and Teflon-coated nonstick and stainless-steel cookware, many people have never even owned a cast iron pan. But definitely not the health-conscious people, who still prefer to use cast iron cookware.
Nowadays, more and more health experts are emphasizing using cast iron pans for cooking. After you become aware of the benefits, you’ll definitely want your own set.
Both economical and healthy, cast iron pans can be found in thrift stores, antique markets and neighborhood garage sales for cheap. If you prefer, you can also buy them new from many stores.
Here are the top 10 essential facts about cast iron pans that you must know.
1. Provides Iron
The most important fact about cast iron cookware is that it supplies you with iron every time you cook.
Iron is important for your body in many ways. Its deficiency is linked to anemia, muscle weakness, sleep problems, menstrual pain and many other issues.
Cooking your food in cast iron cookware helps ensure that your body gets enough iron.
However, be careful when cooking highly acidic foods, such as dishes that include tomatoes or lemon juice in your cast iron cookware as it may result in metallic-tasting food. Wait until your cast iron pan is well-seasoned before cooking such foods.
2. Seasoning is Important
Cast iron is a material that can rust easily. To prevent rusting and increase the lifespan of cast iron pans, seasoning is important.
In this case, seasoning means applying a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil to the pan and baking it into the cast iron. This provides a stick-resistant coating to ensure healthy and stick-free cooking.
- Scrub your cast iron skillet thoroughly in hot soapy water and dry it completely.
- Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil on the skillet. Preferably, use flaxseed oil.
- Place it upside down in your oven at 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake it for 1 hour, then allow it to cool in the oven.
You may have to recoat your cast iron and heat a few more times, until the surface it develops a dark, semi-matte surface.
When the finish starts to look dull, season your pan again.
New cast iron pans often come pre-seasoned nowadays, and there is no need to do the seasoning before cooking in them.
3. Clean It While Warm
Just like other cookware, cast iron pans need to be cleaned on a regular basis.
However, do not be tempted to let the pan sit a few hours after cooking before you wash it. Once the pan cools down, the food particles also dry onto the pan. Such food particles are much harder to remove.
You must try to clean your cast iron cookware while it is still warm. Just a quick wipe with a cloth or paper towel is all that you need to clean the pan.
If stubborn foods get stuck to your pan, put some water in it and bring it to a boil. All the food particles will loosen up. You can even use a stiff brush to clean the pan, but make sure the bristles aren’t made of any kind of metal.
At the same time, avoid soaking the pan in water for a long time and dry it thoroughly on a heated stovetop before storing to prevent rusting.
Never put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher.
4. Scrub with Salt
Though it may sound strange, salt is considered the best tool to get rid of grease on your cast iron pans and skillets.
For best results, use coarse kosher salt.
- While the pan is still warm, sprinkle some salt on it and add some water.
- Use a soft sponge to gently scrub the surface to get rid of any stuck-on food or grease.
- Rinse with warm water, then dry it on a heated stove.
You can even apply a very thin layer of oil with a cloth or paper towel prior to storing. This will help prevent rusting, the enemy number one for any cast iron cookware.
5. Can be Used on High Heat
Another interesting fact about this type of cookware is its ability to withstand high temperatures. Also, the heat gets more evenly distributed across the surface as compared to many types of nonstick cookware. It can be used with ease for searing, baking, frying, roasting, sautéing or even making flat breads.
This feature of cast iron cookware makes it a multitasking element for a busy kitchen. It can be used over any heat source –from the stove top to the oven to your charcoal grill–without causing any damage to the surface of the cookware.
In fact, in disaster management programs, cast iron is emphasized as the survival cookware of choice.
6. Emanates No Toxic Fumes
Another important fact about this type of cookware is that when using it, you do not get exposed to harmful toxic fumes, which are not good for your health.
Most of the nonstick as well as aluminum cookware available in the market pose serious health hazards due to the toxic fumes emanated by them when put on heat and the surface gets scratched.
The toxins in many cookware coatings also leech into your food and can cause a lot of health problems, including cancer, digestive disorders and lung problems.
7. It’s Antique
Cast iron cookware is not an event of this decade. In fact, it has been used by our ancestors for thousands of years.
Cast iron pans have been used for more than 2,500 years and most of the museums in the world have some of these antique pieces in their displays.
In fact, records show that cast iron was first made during the 4th century BC in China, and it spread to England in the 12th century. In the United States, cast iron pans became popular only during the 18th century.
8. Works as Nonstick Cookware
A properly seasoned cast iron skillet is naturally stick-free and is much better than the nonstick cookware available in the market.
Over time, the oil used to season cast iron cookware makes a natural nonstick coating on the pans.
Due to this quality, you can cook your food without using much oil. Also, the food cooks beautifully and you can cook and serve restaurant-quality, homemade fish sticks, potato pancakes and French toast to your family and friends for years.
9. Promises Durability
The question of durability does not even arise, as cast iron cookware that is thousands of years old is still in use.
Since it does not scratch, it does not get damaged easily with regular use. Plus, as it is very strong, you do not have to fear breakage, which is common when using glassware items.
With proper re-seasoning and reconditioning, cast iron cookware can last as many years as you want.
You can easily pass your cookware down through your family, generation after generation.
10. Gets Better with Time
Food may stick to your cast iron when using it for the first few times. But don’t get disappointed as with proper seasoning and care, the cookware will only get better with time.
Try to use your pan for cooking as often as possible to help the seasoning get better and ensure its nonstick quality.
You can even restore the beauty of the most rusted skillet. Clean it with warm water and salt, dry it thoroughly and season it again. The pan will look as good as new.
For seasoning a rusted pan, use flaxseed oil, which is a drying oil. It means that it can form a hard film through polymerization and helps create the best patina.