Cast Iron Cooking: Exploring a Better Cooking Option
Most people today tend towards using aluminum or stainless steel pans when cooking, generally coated with some sort of non-stick surface. Because of these other options, the art of cast iron cooking is no longer something that people need to learn. Cast iron has been around for a long time, however, and those who use them on the regular basis rarely go back to their old cookware.
There are many advantages to cooking with cast iron. First of all, though it may take a bit longer to warm up, the surface of a cast iron pan will heat more evenly and consistently than other types of pans. This makes it great for searing and sauces and allows it to be used as a serving dish as well, keeping food warm while people eat.
Second, cast iron is less expensive than other cookware and will last much longer if properly cared for. The same cast iron pans can be used for an entire lifetime and still handed down to one’s grandchildren, as functional and efficient as when they were brand new. Cast iron can rust, however, so making sure to keep them well-seasoned is essential to getting more years of use out of them.
Third, cast iron is healthier to cook with. This may sound strange, but the presence of a good seasoning will make the surface of a pan non-stick, meaning less oil will be needed when cooking in them. Also, cast iron tends to transfer some of its iron content into the foods that get cooked, making them a bit more vitamin-rich.
One of the best things about using cast iron is its versatility. Anything from cakes to meat to stir-fry can be cooked in one of these pans. Since the pans are one solid piece of metal with no combustible parts, they can be used in the oven or broiler as easily as on the stove top. A single cast iron pan can do most anything that a full set of other cookware would be needed for.
Before jumping on the cast iron bandwagon, one should be aware that these pans require a little more care and attention than more “traditional” pans. Seasoning is by far the most important thing to pay attention to. If a pan is not seasoned right, it will become sticky and unusable.
To season a cast iron pan, the first step is to scrub it clean with steel wool. Then, wash the pan with soap and water and make sure it is completely dried. Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, coat the skillet in a layer of oil and then put it in the oven and leave it for about an hour. By repeating this process every so often, a nice, stick-free surface will develop on the pan and remain there for some time.
Cleaning a cast iron pan is a little different from just throwing it in the dishwasher and letting the machine do all the work. Soap and water should not be used to clean cast iron, as it will break down the seasoning and can affect the flavor of future foods cooked. Generally, the best way to clean them is to get the pan while it is still warm and wipe it out thoroughly with a rag. A non-metal brush can be used to remove anything that happens to have burnt to the pan’s surface. Also, never let anything sit in a cast iron pan for too long, as acids from food will begin to work away at the seasoning.
Cast iron inevitably takes some time to get used to, but the end results are well worth it. There is a reason that most people who have learned the joys of cast iron are so vocal in praising their many merits.