Want to avoid chemicals found in non-stick pans and invest in cookware that will last a lifetime? Choose cast iron. Properly seasoning and caring for the pans ensure they last for generations.
Why Cast Iron?
Cast iron skillets are a bit of an investment, but they have been a preferred choice for years because they are heavy and durable, heat and cook evenly, and are very versatile. Use them on the stove top, or bake with them in the oven.
Another benefit to cast iron pans is that they have a natural non-stick surface created by years of seasoning, or well-applied fats and oils. A properly seasoned cast iron skillet will last for generations, and you can often find pans dating to the 1800s at flea markets and garage sales, making cast iron budget-friendly as well.
The Art of Seasoning
Seasoning cast iron helps avoid rust and stuck-on food. This simple technique involves layering fat and grease into the microscopic pockets of air that exist in the iron:
1. Rub the cast iron pans with cooking oil, shortening, or lard. Any vegetable oil will do, including coconut oil. After coating the pan evenly, use a towel to wipe away the excess oil. This prevents excess oil from smoking in the hot oven.
2. Place the pan upside down in the oven. Put something non-flammable under it to catch the drips, such as a cookie sheet.
3. Heat the pan at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
4. Turn the oven off and let the pan cook in the oven.
5. When the cast iron pan cools completely, repeat the entire process, beginning with coating it in oil.
Be warned—never place cold liquids on a hot cast iron pan. It will cause the pan to crack and all your hard work will end up in the trash.
Care & Usage Tips
Care for the pans by wiping them clean after each use. Use a salt scrub, or boiling water, to clean the pans when necessary. Avoid commercial detergents on your cast iron pan as they destroy the seasoning of the metal. Don’t leave them soaking in water or run them through the dishwasher. After cleaning, coat the pan with a thin layer of oil between uses. This will prevent rust on the pan and maintain the seasoned finish.
Don't cook acidic foods, such as foods with tomatoes or vinegar, in a new cast iron pan that has had minimal seasoning. The acids will undo your work and require you to season again sooner than you expected. Once a pan has been well-used and well-seasoned, this no longer becomes a concern.
With just a little bit of upfront work, you will find your cast iron cookware becomes naturally non-stick, easy to cook with and easy to clean.
And the best part? With a minimal investment of money and time, you will have pots and pans that last you a lifetime.
Do you cook with cast iron? Have some additional tips to share?
Let us know what you think of this time-tested cookware in the comments!