Mama was right – cast iron’s best

I’ve loved cast iron from the day I set up housekeeping.  But somewhere around 1980, I drifted toward the shiny stainless steel or colorful Le Crueset cookware that cost more than my house note.

Thank goodness I didn’t get rid of my cast iron, although I have lost my sauce pan somewhere between New Orleans and Starkville.

cast

You might be interested in several reasons, you might want to avoid some of the costly cookware that is rolled out every year like new automobiles.  It was written by Kerri-Ann Jennings, associate nutrition editor at EatingWell magazine.

Cast-iron skillets may seem like an old-fashioned choice in the kitchen. But this dependable cookware is a must in the modern kitchen. Cast-iron skillets conduct heat beautifully, go from stovetop to oven with no problem and last for decades. (In fact, my most highly prized piece of cookware is a canary-yellow, enamel-coated cast-iron paella pan from the 1960s that I scored at a stoop sale for $5.) As a registered dietitian and associate nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine, I also know that there are some great health reasons to cook with cast iron.

Healthy reasons to use cast-iron

1. You can cook with less oil when you use a cast-iron pan.
That lovely sheen on cast-iron cookware is the sign of a well-seasoned pan, which renders it virtually nonstick. The health bonus, of course, is that you won’t need to use gads of oil to brown crispy potatoes or sear chicken when cooking in cast-iron. To season your cast-iron skillet, cover the bottom of the pan with a thick layer of kosher salt and a half inch of cooking oil, then heat until the oil starts to smoke. Carefully pour the salt and oil into a bowl, then use a ball of paper towels to rub the inside of the pan until it is smooth. To clean cast iron, never use soap. Simply scrub your skillet with a stiff brush and hot water and dry it completely.

2. Cast iron is a chemical-free alternative to nonstick pans.
Another benefit to using cast-iron pans in place of nonstick pans is that you avoid the harmful chemicals that are found in nonstick pans. The repellent coating that keeps food from sticking to nonstick pots and pans contains PFCs (perfluorocarbons), a chemical that’s linked to liver damage, cancer, developmental problems and, according to one 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, early menopause. PFCs get released—and inhaled—from nonstick pans in the form of fumes when pans are heated on high heat. Likewise, we can ingest them when the surface of the pan gets scratched. Both regular and ceramic-coated cast-iron pans are great alternatives to nonstick pans for this reason.

pizza

3. Cooking with cast iron fortifies your food with iron.
While cast iron doesn’t leach chemicals, it can leach some iron into your food…and that’s a good thing. Iron deficiency is fairly common worldwide, especially among women. In fact, 10% of American women are iron-deficient. Cooking food, especially something acidic like tomato sauce in a cast-iron skillet can increase iron content, by as much as 20 times.

Thanks Ms. Jennings, but you’re preaching to the choir.  I think I’ll browse some garage sales this weekend in hopes of scoring a well-loved cast iron pan.

Here are a few more uses I have discovered:

I had been trying without luck to create a good pizza at home.  In order to achieve a similar level of heat as the restaurant, you can heat a cast iron pan on the stove, invert it and then use it like a pizza stone and cook the pizza under the broiler.  (see photo above)  Who knew!?

Perhaps the main reason to bring back the cast iron – it makes a great weapon if you have a burglar or your boyfriend (husband) misbehaves!

3 thoughts on “Mama was right – cast iron’s best

  1. I have failed in teaching my husband not to use soap on our iron skllets. So, in order to save them fro this mal practi ce, I rush to get the pan off the stove immediately and cllean itewith hot water before he geat his hands on it. Maybe I should go on and hit him with it and be done.
    I do love my skillets and pots, most of which came from my mother and mother-in-law and will continue to try to preserve them for the next generation.

  2. I still have 2 cast iron skillets (one with lid) that belonged to my maternal grandmother. Had several more, but gave them to my daughters. Grandmother began keeping house about 100 years ago, but I don’t know if these were some of her initial purchases. We use them often and always do cornbread in one of them. Am probably guilty of a huge sin…I clean my skillets in the dishwasher. As soon as they finish drying, I put a small amount of cooking oil in each one and wipe the inside good with a paper towel. They don’t seem to loose their “seasoning.”

  3. Thanks for the article. One thing about cast iron fortifying the food. Some say that the iron you get from cast iron is not bio-available. This means it’s not a natural occurring iron like you would find in broccoli or cauliflower.

    If you need extra iron in your diet, try foods that are rich in natural iron. Don’t become dependent on cast iron to do that.

    Robert

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