Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cast Iron Cookware

I have a personal affinity for cast iron cookware that predates any of my farm aspirations. I've been using it for years and I wanted to share some of my tips for using cast iron.

Why cast iron?

  • Cost - It's cheap...not dollar store cheap, but cheap enough that the average person can pick up a good cast iron skillet for under $30 dollars.
  • Durability - A cast iron pan will outlive you, it will outlive your kids, it will outlive your grand-kids. Unless you smash it or bury it in the yard, it will pretty much last forever. Even if you burn the hell out of it on the stove, you can restore it to usable.
  • Safety -  Aluminum and non-stick pans have safety issues where unhealthy compounds can leak into your food...cast iron and stainless steel do not. If you want to read-up more on the health risks of different cookware materials I suggest you check out this article on WH Foods (one of my favorite sites) for more info.
  • Performance. Cast iron pans heat evenly and retain the heat after adding food to it. Food cooks more even and gets a better char or browning on it than in other pans. Since it's safe to use metal utensils with it, you can get rid of those awful plastic utensils.
  • Cleanup - Yes, there are different do's and don'ts with cast iron for cleaning (compared to other cookware), but as long as you take good care of your pans and don't burn things on the bottom you can just wipe the pan out with a clean towel and call it good.
  • Environmental Impact - Iron is abundant, so cast iron cookware isn't made of any exotic materials mined in a conflict zone by slave labor...it's end of life is to just oxidize into it's base minerals so there is no worry of it damaging the earth after humans have left the planet.
  • Versatility - I use my cast iron in the oven, on the stove, on a grill, on a campfire, & over a propane burner. You don't have to baby the pans. You can get your money's worth out of them. Use and abuse them and they'll not only take it, but beg for more.

Where do you get cast iron?

New

Cast iron pans are available new at most grocery stores, department stores, army surplus and Cracker Barrel restaurants. You can also get them online and there are plenty that can be ordered with Amazon Prime, to save on shipping something so heavy.

Lodge is the most popular and commonly carried brand out there. In fact, you might be hard pressed to find any other brand. They make good pans. Most of the cast iron I personally own are Lodge brand.

Used

Cast iron is what your great grandma cooked in and likely her grandma too and because it lasts forever you can find it used in a lot of places. Cast iron can be completely restored even if it is in pretty rough shape, so don't feel shy about getting a rusted up old pan...just drive a hard bargain and tune it up at home.

Craigslist - This is where you are most likely to find a lovingly cared for piece of cast iron. People don't usually list it for sale here unless they want it to go to a good home. So, if you want a pan that is all ready well seasoned, this might be your best bet.

Antique shops - There are certain really cool old pieces of cast iron that they just don't make anymore but there are plenty of them floating around and the antique dealers know how much people love it. No, it won't be cheap,,,but, for a truly unique and special piece for your collection it might be totally worth the price.

Thrift Store - I love thrift stores and they have cast iron on their shelves more often than you'd think. Check in from time to time and you might find one hell of a deal.

Taking care of cast iron

  There is another fantastic article by Paul Wheaton that details pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about taking care and restoring cast iron cookware. If you want to read that, check it out here.

Hope this gives you an idea as to why I love my cast iron so much. Drop a message below and tell me what you think.