I have gone through my fair share of many pots and pans. For years, every black friday, a new set entered its way into my house. By the time the next year rolled around, new pans were needed because the ones I had bought the previous year were peeling. Yuck!! So finally, one year,it was time to make an investment. I was over the cheap pans. So i spent a significant amount of money (seriously significant), on a well known company’s pot and pan sets. This was it. This was last time I would buy anymore pots and pans. I knew I needed non-stick. That was non negotiable. But oh, looking back now, how naive I was. I now cook with cast iron skillets and dutch ovens everyday, 2-3 times a day. Here’s the reasons I love them and why you should get some too.
I have gotten a wonderful collection of cast iron skillets for under $100. None of my skillets have been bought new. Some were given to me and some came from antique stores. I still don’t have all of the pieces I want for my collection, but I check out garage sales, antique stores, and facebook marketplace for new (to me) pieces. There was no reason for me to spend as much as I did on my old non-stick collection.
It really is non stick.
When your cast iron is seasoned well, you get the benefit of an all natural non stick surface. Now, you do have to use fat, but don’t be scared. You can use healthy fats (lard, butter, coconut oil, etc.) so that its good for you and it makes a wonderful addition to taste. Let’s be honest, fat makes everything taste better. Don’t skimp on the fat.
Also, you do have to have a well seasoned pan to make it non stick. It’s not hard to build up enough seasoning to start cooking things like eggs on it. It just takes a little work for a lifetime of awesomeness.
Heat is Ah-mazing!
One of the biggest advantages of cast iron is it’s very high heat retention. Once it’s hot, it is hot. And it’s staying hot. This is vitally important when searing meat. When cooking, I like to place my skillet over a burner and let it preheat for 10 minutes or so. If it starts smoking, you are on the right track. Then just add your fat!
This could be a con though. I don’t know how many times I have grabbed a hot cast iron handle. Ouch! Just use an oven mitt or a dish towel to grab the handle and it be just fine.
Added Iron Into Your Diet
A woman my age needs 18mg of iron daily. When using cast iron, some of that iron is making its way into your body. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that the iron content in 100 grams of spaghetti sauce jumped from 0.6 mg to 5.7 mg after being cooked in a cast iron pot.
Extra benefit that it is not a bunch of man made chemicals leeching into your body. With cast iron, you avoid exposure to nasty chemicals in typical non-stick pans, which emit toxic fumes when overheated and contain perfluorocarbons (PFC). These chemicals are associated with developmental problems, liver damage, cancer, and early menopause.
When shopping, I purposefully look for older pieces for my cast iron collection. Now, it’s totally fine to go to Walmart and buy the Lodge pieces for under $30. I’m choosing to use older pieces though. The way cast iron was made back in the day is different than how it is made these days. However, the point is, that even with buying used pieces, these skillets are going to be able to be handed down to my children someday. These babies are tough! Not only that, when treated right, they improve over time.
I’m not sure how to prove this to you, besides inviting you over for supper, but I swear that everything tastes better in cast iron. I’m sure the fat I’m adding into our meals makes a big difference, but I’m also pretty sure that the pan is making a difference as well.
Now, this could be a pro or a con, depending on who you are. I’m choosing to look at it as a pro. Cast iron is heavy, so you are giving your muscles an extra workout throughout the day, just by cooking! If you can’t handle the heaviest cast iron, just opt for a smaller size skillet. Get a size that will suffice for typical, everyday cooking. I cook a lot of food, everyday, for a lot of people. I have a 14 inch skillet that is used almost daily. Most people will not need one that big.
Diving into the world of cast iron can seem intimidating. My biggest piece of advice: stop over thinking it. People are very extreme with their cast irons. Many debates have been had over how to season them or whether or not to use soap. The fact that many people do things many different ways just proves to the fact that cast iron is not a delicate little flower. Your cast iron pan will probably be able to handle any mistake you throw its way. So just dive in! Get yourself a new skillet and get to cooking!