Up until about 3 years ago I had always used non-stick cookware in the kitchen. I like to cook but I hate cleaning up. My experience with using cast iron was limited. I thought it was complicated to use, and messy. I can’t remember why I decided to purchase a cast iron frying pan but I did and I now love it. The missing piece was that I didn’t know anything about cast iron cooking. Thank goodness for the Internet. I now understand not only that seasoning of the pan must be done, but how to do it. Proper care of cast iron cookware results in much easier clean up. (Note to self; the feeling of joy is directly related to our level of education on any given topic.)
Non-stick surfaces in cookware have been around for much longer than I had thought (again, I’m grateful for the Internet). Teflon was invented by Roy Plunkett in 1938. You now have that bit of information for your next trivia contest. The thing with non-stick surfaces is that if they are heated to a temperature greater than 350° C (660° F) they can start to break down releasing harmful byproducts. I appreciate that this is very hot, and while I don’t believe that I have ever cooked at that temperature what I do know is that I have seen changes in the surfaces of my non-stick pans. My conclusion is that on some level that can’t be good. The cast iron frying pan is now my first choice.
Cast iron cookware actually improves with age. When do we hear that anymore? Once it is seasoned (pre-seasoned cookware is now available for purchase) it does take some on-going maintenance. Wiping the pan down with oil after washing is really all it takes. That builds up the non-stick quality of the surface. Over time, clean up becomes easier and easier.
From a health perspective cooking with cast iron can add iron to your diet. I don’t eat meat so this is a huge benefit for me. Iron transports oxygen through the body, as a part of hemoglobin in the blood. Oxygen is a crucial part of keeping our muscles and our organs functioning. If you’re feeling tired, not having enough iron in your system may be part of the problem. It’s not easy to measure how much iron cooking with cast iron may be adding, but knowing that I am possibly gaining some iron overrides the inconvenience of any extra clean up time.
The other thing I notice when using the cast iron frying pan is the weight of the thing. The obvious benefit there is that I’m getting a bit of a muscle workout while I’m cooking, and in the cleaning process too. Now that’s a well-rounded piece of cookware.
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