Cast iron cookware may bring up visions of your grandmother’s kitchen but most professional chefs will tell you that grandma knew what she was talking about.
While having one or two pieces of high end, non-stick cookware is always helpful, there are times when you just need a workhorse that can handle anything you throw at it. That’s where cast iron comes in.
Yes, it is heavier and needs to be properly seasoned in order to be used correctly, but hands down it is worth the extra effort.
Not only is a cast iron skillet generally less expensive than most cookware, it can actually help you to cook better. You will be able to better gauge how food is heated and extract levels of flavor out of your food just like the pros do.
It’s a difference that can’t be argued and it is why most home cooks feel that having at least one piece of cast iron is still essential even in today’s new fangled, high tech kitchens.
Cast Iron Can Be Used To Cook Almost Anything
When you consider all of the advantages of cast iron cookware, it’s easy to see why it has remained popular for so long. Contrary to what you might think cast iron pans are actually extremely versatile.
You can sauté, sear, roast and braise meat, deep fry potatoes and even bake cakes with cast iron. And because some of the iron from the pans will leach into your food, cooking with cast iron can actually help to boost your iron intake.
This is particularly important for women, who need more iron on a daily basis and often don’t get enough from their regular diet.
If the non-stick issue is a question for you, you can rest easy because it’s actually not a problem. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet will be naturally non-stick. Compare this to pans that are designed to be non-stick and use synthetic materials to achieve this end.
With a cast iron pan there is no danger of those synthetics ending up in the food you eat. It may take a little time to season your skillet but it will be worth it in the long run.
And that brings us to one of the biggest arguments against cast iron cookware…it’s too time consuming to season it. Truth be told, it’s a much easier process than you’d think. Seasoning simply means building up a hard layer of petrified oil particles which will then fill in the pores of your cast iron and make it non-stick.
When you buy a new cast iron pan you’ll have to perform the initial seasoning but after that, the more you cook with it, the more seasoned it will become on its own.
Don’t Be Scared to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet
Seasoning a new cast iron skillet simply involves washing it thoroughly with soapy water to strip it clean, rubbing it with a very thin layer of food-grade oil, rubbing the oil off with a dry cloth and then putting the pan in the oven upside down with a piece of foil under it to catch any excess grease and heating it for 30 minutes between 450-500 degrees.
After the 30 minutes are up, just turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool naturally with the oven door closed. You can repeat the process several times until the pan is thoroughly seasoned.
With properly seasoned cast iron cookware, you’ll be ready to take on any cooking challenge and be assured of great results. That’s because one of the big advantages to cast iron is its ability to retain heat.
This means that you don’t have to worry so much about whether your food is staying at the right temperature, because your skillet will be doing the work for you. That way even a novice cook can get chef quality results every time.
Of course using a cast iron skillet doesn’t guarantee anything, and because they are significantly heavier than traditional cookware, they can be harder to use, but in the long run they are well worth it.
Especially when you consider how much more affordable cast iron is than some of the higher end, stainless cookware. It will require more care as you can’t just throw it in the dishwasher but the trade off is meals that will hold their heat, retain their nutrients and just have much more flavor.
There’s a reason chefs favor cast iron cookware, so why not make it a part of your kitchen too. You’ll find that preparing chef quality meals is easier than ever and that nothing tastes quite like food cooked in good, old fashioned cast iron.
Don’t make the mistake of passing on it because it’s too high maintenance; remember it’s also low cost and long lasting. And if it can help you produce gourmet quality food, what’s not to like about it?