The niceness of Cast Iron

>> Monday, March 8, 2010

A few years ago, I bought Derek a frying pan for his birthday. (I KNOW! I am astoundingly awesome at gift-buying.) We faithfully used the cheapo pan until the handle fell off about two years after I bought it.

Never one to jump into a decision quickly, Derek took to researching the best kind of frying pan to replace Old Faithful. He very quickly became anti-teflon coating. I got on board that train as well. So that left stainless steel or cast iron. We settled on cast iron.

Why?
1. If it flakes off in your food, it's just iron, which is good for you, rather than weird artificial non-stick surfaces.
2. You don't ever have to wash it. (Seriously, more details below.)
3. It is heavy-duty and should never ever die. If the handle falls off, I get a refund.

Now, you might be thinking, "Cast iron is for camping!" which is exactly what I thought. But, as it turns out, it is perfectly fine to use at home. The camping gods do not mind.

Sidenote: You can get pretty much ANY kind of cookware in the cast-iron form. And some day I hope to replace all of our pots and pans with cast iron. I'm that big of a fan, but for today, I only own my big old stove top pan. (I'd call it a frying pan, but it is not. It's just a jack-of-all-trades pan that I never put in the cupboard. It lives atop my stove 24/7.)

Let's talk #1 on my list first shall we?
So, there is really no way around it. When you cook, the cooking surface can flake off tiny portions into your food. If you use a metal spatula or cooking utensil that scratches the surface, this problem is exacerbated. Teflon is a weird chemically thing that has been found to prevent sticking. So, manufacturers cover every thing with it and declare it a miracle. Well. I don't care for it. I don't want to eat teflon any more than I want to eat lead or mercury. As teflon ages it becomes more and more flaky which guarantees more eating teflon on the consumer's part. EW.

Non-stick is over-rated.

If you allow the cast iron to heat BEFORE you put anything on it, and you use a tiny bit of oil (or water depending on what you're cooking) it is magically just as non-stick as teflon. And if you use a plastic spatula there is virtually no flake-age. If it does sluff off a bit of the top surface, it's iron. Iron in tiny amounts will not kill you or cause cancer. How do you like that?

#2 You don't ever have to wash it.
In fact you shouldn't. Soap and scrubbing destroy the "cure" of a cast-iron pan. When it gets dirty do the following:

From The Diet Coke Diet

1. Rinse in warm/hot water.
From The Diet Coke Diet
2. Rub with a non-scratchy cleaning implement (such as a dish rag, sponge or this fancy doo-dad a nylon soft-scrubber).
From The Diet Coke Diet
From The Diet Coke Diet

DO NOT use soap! YOU DON'T NEED IT!
Why don't you need soap?
Because you heat-dry it. It re-cures the iron keeping it nice and black and clean. The heat kills any/all germs that may remain from your fish fry or whatever.
From The Diet Coke Diet

It is CLEAN and FRESH and ready for use. No soap, no dishwasher, no weird chemicals of any kind. How cool is that?

#3- Heavy duty.
No mamby-pampy cheap frying pan is going to kill an intruder if necessary. But you wield this bad boy, and your attacker is in serious trouble. My pan will never ever die. Ever.

So, if you're in the market for new pots and pans, consider cast-iron. They are eternal, easy to clean, heavy duty and make really nice pancakes. We got ours at Target. You can see in picture of it being rinsed that it is quite large. I think it's 14 inches. It takes up the whole sink. I can cook four fish fillets or 3 chicken breasts all at once in it.

Oh, and if you want to know more check out http://www.cookingincastiron.com/ . These people are INTENSELY in love with their cast iron. I am a fan.

And in closing- there is something very very down-home-pioneer-esque about cooking with cast iron. It feels homey when the pan starts sizzling. I love it.

3 comments:

Amy March 8, 2010 at 5:23 PM  

I'm also a cast iron super fan.

Rocketgirl March 18, 2010 at 10:30 AM  

This is very cool, I love all the points and I needed to know 'em all. But what do you use to make stuff not stick? To get eggs and pancakes to not break apart and such? Merci!

Morgan -Ing March 18, 2010 at 1:13 PM  

First, the key to non-stick-ness is to PREHEAT the pan. It has to be HOT before you put anything on it. And I do use cooking spray if I'm especially worried about something sticking, but even eggs don't stick once it's well-heated.

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