I used to think using cast iron cookware was simply a whole lot of prepper hype. I didn’t realize the amazing benefits of cast iron until the non-stick finish started to flake off of my non-stick pans and end up in my food. It was then that I made the switch to the naturally non-stick cast iron cookware, and I haven’t looked back. It’s been a terrific cooking experience, and I’ve discovered there are just so many benefits to cooking with cast iron.
The benefits of cooking with cast iron cookware include: it is long-lasting, non-stick, chemical-free, easy to clean, and cost-effective. Cast iron is excellent for cooking because it’s versatile enough to use on wood stoves, campfires, and any range or oven. In addition, it retains heat extremely well and is durable enough to last for generations.
This article will discuss the benefits of cooking with cast iron cookware. Of course, it is a small investment for all of the benefits, and we’ll talk about how versatile it is, easy to use, and how it gets better over time. But first, let’s take a quick look at how long-lasting cast iron cookware really is.
Cast Iron Cookware Is Long-Lasting and Sturdy
Cast iron cookware can last for generations when it is well taken care of. Yes, it is heavy, but that’s part of what makes it so good! The heavy and strong nature of cast iron will make it last for years, so you won’t have to be regularly replacing your cookware because it breaks, scrapes, or loses its non-stick features. You can find cast iron at yard sales and thrift stores that are decades old and still in great shape.
There are no nuts and bolts to come loose and no glass pieces that can break, either. Cast iron is tough enough to handle being used over an open fire, a gas cookstove, or even in your oven. It can handle high heat, too.
While some people say you should never use metal on your cast iron pan, others say you don’t need to worry because cast iron is tough enough not to get scratched or damaged by metal utensils.
Cast Iron Is Naturally Non-stick
Once cast iron is seasoned, it is naturally non-stick. And if it starts to seem a little bit dried up, you just add a little oil, season it, and it is non-stick again!
You lightly coat the pan with oil to season cast iron and then heat it to the smoking point in an oven or on your stovetop. Oils such as grapeseed oil, vegetable oil, or even canola oil will work great. I’ve even used coconut oil in a pinch. It may take up to 3 applications to get a nice, smooth finish. The oil creates a chemical reaction which bonds to the pan and gets better over time.
If the finish gets damaged by acidic foods or if you accidentally wash your pan with soap, you can rinse it out really well, dry it, and season it again.
Cast Iron Is Considered to Be Chemical Free
There is plenty of debate about using non-stick pans that have been coated with Teflon or other non-stick surfaces. Cast iron, though, is chemical-free. So you won’t have to worry about carcinogens or chemicals scratching off of the surface or leaching into your food.
Cast iron is molded from an alloy of carbon and iron, so there are no harmful additives. In contrast, inexpensive stainless steel pans can leach nickel into your food, and pans coated with non-stick surfaces can flake off into your food.
Cast Iron Cookware Is a Natural Source of Dietary Iron
If you need extra iron in your diet, you can get marginal amounts through cooking with cast iron. In addition, minute amounts of iron become absorbed into your food, which can add a source of iron to your diet.
Cast Iron Cookware Is Very Easy to clean
You won’t ever need to use soap on your cast iron pan. A plastic scraper or scrubby is really all you need to scrape off any cooked-on food. Then just rinse it well with warm water, pat dry, and you are all set.
If you really have trouble getting the food off of your cast iron pan, you can heat it up slowly with a little bit of water to soften the baked-on food, then gently scrape it right off. Keeping the pan well-seasoned will ensure that food doesn’t get stuck to the surface, keeping it quick and easy to clean.
If you forget to dry your cast iron after cleaning, it can develop a little bit of surface rust. But don’t worry. You can remove the rust with an untreated steel wool pad. Just scrub the rust away, wash, dry, and re-season. Then, your cast iron pan will be as good as new again.
Cast Iron Cookware Is Cost-effective and Inexpensive
Cast iron pans are surprisingly cost-effective and inexpensive. You won’t have to break the bank to get a set of these pans.
Not only are they inexpensive when compared to high-end cookware, but they are also long-lasting. As a result, you won’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a couple of pans. In fact, you can find them for around $30 apiece, in most cases. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll inherit a set from your parents or grandparents that you can pass on to your children, as well.
Cast Iron Pans Get Better Every Time You Use Them
It’s no secret that cast iron gets better with use. The more you season cast iron, and the more you cook with it, the better it gets. As long as you don’t damage the seasoning with acidic foods or rust, it will just keep getting better over time.
Of course, if the seasoning does get damaged, it isn’t the end of your favorite cookware. Just clean it and season it again.
Cast Iron Cookware Has Great Heat Retention and Heat Distribution
Many professional chefs and hobbyists love copper cookware because of its heat distribution and heat retention. But cast iron is great at holding its heat. Not only can it handle high heat, but it will also hold the heat in. Cast iron may take a couple of extra minutes to get up to temperature, but once it does, it heats evenly and holds the heat in well.
Cast iron can heat up unevenly if you use it over a small flame or too-small burner. But as long as your flame and burner are the correct sizes, it will heat evenly, spreading from the middle of the pan and heating outward.
Cast Iron Cookware Is Highly Versatile
One of the best qualities about cast iron is how versatile it is. The same cast iron pan can be used on your typical cookstove or in the oven. You can fry in it, grill in it, sear, scramble, or just about anything else.
Because cast iron pans are typically made as a solid piece (the handle isn’t a separate or different type of metal), you can even bake in your cast iron cookware. Remember, though, that this means the handle will be just as hot as the rest of the pan, so you’ll need to use an oven mitt to protect yourself from burns.
You can also use cast iron over an open flame, on or in a woodstove, without worrying about it cracking or breaking. It is designed to handle extremely high heat.
Final Thoughts on Cast Iron
With all of the benefits of cast iron cookware, it is easy to see why you might want to add a few cast iron pieces to your kitchen cookware. Living Traditions Homestead gives a thorough primer on seasoning, cleaning, and cooking with cast iron cookware in their video, here.
Can I use metal utensils in my cast iron pan?
There are mixed reviews on whether you should use metal utensils in your cast iron pan. While it is safest to use hard plastic, you can carefully use metal utensils on your pan, as well.
Can I cook tomato-based sauces in cast iron?
Very acidic foods can wear away the seasoning of your cast iron pan. However, it won’t damage the pan itself. So if you realize you’ve cooked tomato sauce in your favorite cast iron pan by mistake, don’t worry about it. Instead, give it a good cleaning and re-season your pan. After that, it will work just fine again.
Can I use cast iron on my glass top stove?
Yes, you can use cast iron on your glass top stove. However, you need to use a little bit of caution. Be careful to set the pan down gently on top of the burner because you don’t want to crack or break your cooktop. Don’t drop the pan or drag it across the cooktop because it could scratch or gouge the glass.
Does Cast Iron only come as a frying pan?
No, you can find cast iron cookware in all types of cookware. Frying pans come in a wide variety of sizes, but you can also find it as a dutch oven, stew pot, and griddle.