cooking with cast iron.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


i feel like cooking with cast iron skillets is a bit of a trend. it's also possible that everyone has been using cast iron without me. from a nutrition and a cooking standpoint, it has several advantages.

1. cast iron is a chemical free alternative to nonstick cookware. regular nonstick pans are coated with a chemical repellent that contains PFCs (perfluorocarbons). as with everything else you touch these days, PFCs are linked to cancer and can leach into your food during the cooking process.

2. you can use less oil. did you know you are supposed to season your cast iron? proper seasoning of your skillet is what makes it nonstick.

here's how: cover the bottom of the pan with a thick layer of kosher salt and cooking oil. heat the oil until it starts to smoke. pour the hot oil and salt out. let it cool! then rub the pan with paper towels until smooth. sounds like a lot of work, but seasoning is only necessary the first few times you use the pan.

3. cast iron fortifies your food with iron. weird, huh? instead of leaching PFCs, cast iron actually filtrates iron into your food.

4. lifting a cast iron pan repeatedly will give you julie bowen arms.

ps: how to clean it and where to find them.

photo via smitten kitchen.

34 comments:

Elizabeth Harwell said...

Thanks for this. My mother-in-law gave me her's and told me I needed to season it but I had no idea what that meant. Now I do!

jillian m. said...

It's so depressing that AFTER I bought a set of non-stick cookware, I found out about them being possibly carcinogenic. I avoid using a high flame because I hear that the chemicals are more likely to stick to your food that way. But I'm in the market for a cast-iron skillet anyway!

Lauren said...

I actually don't have a regular cast-iron skillet, although I've definitely thought about getting one! I have a few Le Creuset pieces, which are enameled cast iron, and I love them. Paul and I were given a couple of nonstick pans when we first moved in together and we ended up getting rid of them because we hated them. I had no idea it was possible to feel such animus toward a cooking instrument!

rebecca said...

lauren-
the le creuset enameled cast iron is even better, no? i would assume the handles don't get as hot.

Kim said...

Definitely scary to hear about non-stick's linkage to cancer. I think it's high-time we invest in a few cast iron pieces. I have my eye on a couple of the pieces in the Le Creuset collection.

Caitlin said...

I got my first cast iron skillet for Christmas! This post makes me even more excited about using it!

nicole said...

Cast iron skillets have been used in my family for generations. I guess I assumed they were a staple in the Southern kitchen. I own two - one medium-sized one, and a smaller one (for cornbread!). I don't own any Le Creuset pieces, though; they are on my wish list. xo.

sumslay said...

Aw, my parents always cooked with a cast iron skillet growing up!

in dreams said...

my mum had been wanting a cast-iron skillet for ages (she put it on every birthday+christmas list for years!), and when she didn't get it, she went out and bought it herself. she loves it, but my dad doesn't really know how to use it, so it routinely needs to be re-seasoned.

i think because of that, she bought me a ceramic-coated frying pan from paderno (my birthday gift!), instead of a cast-iron one. it's much lighter (duh) and it cooks like a dream! too bad it doesn't have the iron content down...

Vanessa said...

Cast iron is totally the way to go! When I grew up we had nothing but, thanks to my grandmother. My parents still use her old skillets, they must be at least 35 years old! The results are always perfect, I should invest in my own...

rebecca said...

vanessa-
vintage cast iron! that's so cool.

TheBeautyFile said...

This is such a good post!! I was just getting an earful the other day that I should never use anything coated and didn't even think about cast iron. Perfect. Love the way you told us to make it non stick!

Ranu said...

I've been using a cast iron pan (for most the reasons above) and love it. More even cooking too I feel like. No Julie Bowen arms yet but I'm working on it :)

Jayna said...

I love my cast iron skillets! I cook everything in them. I season mine in the oven by coating them completely (top, bottom, handle) in vegetable oil and baking them at 250 for two hours upside down on a cookie sheet. After, just wipe off the excess oil and let cool. It keeps them perfectly non-stick!

rebecca said...

jayna-
thanks for the tip. my pan is new and sometimes still sticks even though i've seasoned it. glad you shared this!

The Egg said...

definitely a work out while cooking.

xoxo the egg out west.

The PvdH Journal said...

You know I had no idea about this!

Claire Kiefer said...

This is a good reminder that I should break mine out more often! I generally only use it for cornbread and things that kinda require cast iron, cause it's heavy and a pain to clean (since you can't just wash it traditionally). But you're right about all these things, so mine just might resurface this week! What have you been making in yours?

rebecca said...

claire-
you're going to laugh, but i've been searing black bean burgers and soy dogs in mine. it's like having a grill in the house.

Rebeka said...

I love cooking with cast iron. My parents have the same skillets my grandparents used to use when they were kids. So they also stand the test of time which is something I like to think about when purchasing nice kitchenware.

This post was really great.

Daisy said...

Thank you so much for commenting on my blog because I'm so glad I found yours (sounds kind of pathetic)! I just went through your daily life in 5min, haha! Your dog is adorable!

Dora said...

I think cast iron is the best way for cooking stews.And it's true, they taste better :) Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Erin said...

We bought a cast iron skillet a few years ago after watching The Barefoot Contessa make the perfect filet in one. I love it!

rebecca said...

erin-
i joyfully follow anything the barefoot contessa does. she's a rockstar.

Johanna said...

Fantastic Julie Bowen reference. I always marvel at her arms, too!

Lottie said...

I love cast iron kitchenware! My parents have an aga so nearly everything they have is castiron and it just reminds me of home.

We have non stick pans which now I regret buying as they are cancerous and nowhere near as good as castiron pans--but they are red which is something

Tang said...

Yes! I want to try and use my cast iron pan more often. :)

Lena at A Crimson Kiss said...

I like no. 4. I once ruined a cast iron pan, and had to steal my parents'. Now my mother has made two cast iron magic pans, and I have made none. She still won't teach me the secret.

kitchu said...

I'm probably dying of cancer right now from my non stick pans, it's just wrong.

ginanorma said...

I am so so glad you stopped by my blog, I hope you come by again btw, not only do i dig your blog , but i am loving learning this about cast iron! i knew using cast iron made THEE best food, but i just wasn't ever sure about purchasing it. we don't use the non stick ones either, but i haven't used cast iron yet, thank you for this wonderful info!

knitxcore. said...

i love using cast iron! i got a fantastic grill pan for christmas that i can't wait to use!

Sandra said...

I'm actually looking for a cast iron skillet. Thanks for commenting on my post and leading me to yours!!

Lauren Knight said...

So good to know. I keep hearing all about the health benefits and frankly, with all of us a little anemic, this might be our next purchase! They are only like $30 anyway! Thanks for the nudge.

Anonymous said...

i grew up using cast iron, in fact i am still using cast iron skillets and dutch ovens my great grandparents used!! i find them to be one of the most consistent keepers of heat you can get. on top of that they are cheap. yup why spend 100's when 50 bucks does the job better in a lot of cases than something that is pretty and costs an ass ton more!! down side is they are not for everything. serious they will get more traction than most of your other cooking vessels combind

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