I may have a tendency to become slightly dramatic about the things I love.
Example: My family. Words cannot even tell you the throbbing my soul endures for them. This Brown Butter Fudge: it’s sexy and I wanna marry it. You see? It just comes naturally, what can I say?
So, here’s the thing: I feel the same way about cast-iron cookware. It’s just… so beautifully moving and inspiring. It has a rich history and a solid reputation, and I utterly adore it. Cast-iron is my absolute favourite way to cook. I big-puffy-heart-love it. Cast-iron rules and teflon drools… and here’s why:
Why Choose Cast-Iron? Here are 3 good reasons:
I recently wrote about teflon over at Keeper of the Home, and after discussing some of the studies that have pointed to serious health risks associated with the ubiquitous non-stick coating, this was my conclusion:
“Do you know how many health risks and scary-sounding studies and crazy potential health risks are associated with glass cookware? Cast iron? Stainless steel? Zero.
I can’t tell you with upmost certainty that Teflon absolutely causes xyz disease. I can tell you, however, that the choice is pretty well a no-brainer for me. Materials used for centuries–natural materials created by God vs. chemicals invented in a lab with plenty of shady ties to major health concerns? I’ll take my cast-iron pan any day of the week, thank-you very much.“
It provides a superior non-stick cooking without the toxic chemicals that are associated with teflon. I can make eggs, pancakes, fried veggies, and even desserts (from stove-top to oven!) in it, and nothing ever sticks. It’s amazing!
2. Long-lasting & versatile
Cast-iron boasts a far superior quality than any teflon-coated pan on the market today. By a long shot. This is difficult to overstate, really.
Cast-iron pans are passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years, whereas teflon pans start flaking and chipping and degrading right away, and only last a few years. It is far more durable and stronger than any stainless steel or teflon frying pan out there.
A cast-iron pan can go on the stove-top, in the oven, or on a campfire. It could go on a BBQ or even in a fireplace! Its versatility allows for you to own less pieces of cookware. I have 3 cast-iron skillets, and most days all 3 are in constant use.
3. Frugal & sustainable
When you combine the versatility of cast-iron with its longevity, it may actually be considered the more frugal choice. I firmly believe that frugal doesn’t always mean needing to spend less money upfront, and this is a perfect example.
Have you ever heard of planned obsolescence? I first heard about it in Annie Leonard’s influential and eye-opening documentary The Story of Stuff while in university. (A must-watch!) She explains:
“Planned obsolescence is another word for “designed for the dump.” It means they actually make stuff that is designed to be useless as quickly as possible so we will chuck it and go buy a new one. It’s obvious with stuff like plastic bags and coffee cups, but now it’s even big stuff: mops, DVDs, cameras, barbeques even, everything!”
Of course cheaply made housewares with toxic chemicals and flimsy materials are part and parcel of this whole scenario. I do not want to contribute to this consumerist culture by buying things which are poorly made, requiring me to discard them and buy another sooner than I would have if had just bought better quality in the first place.
Best Place to Find Cast-Iron Cookware?
If you are looking for a source you can completely trust with no hesitation then you absolutely have to check out MightyNest. Their selection of cast-iron cookware is suberb. In fact, I’ve been drooling over the cast-iron muffin pans for a while now, and I am putting them at the top of my birthday list this year.
I also have a couple of pans that I sourced second-hand. If you are very patient and persistent, you can often find one at a yard sale or a thrift shop. I looked at the thrift shop in Tiny Town every time I went for the 2.5 years we lived there. It “only” took me a year to find one.
If money is tight and you have the patience to keep looking, you may just be in luck. I *may* have done a literal happy victory dance when I found mine for $2. Oh yes, I did, friends.
If you’re not into the thrifting route, then I’d advise finding a store that shares your values for sustainable, non-toxic, and green products for your home, like Mighty Nest. They care about their customers and their needs, and that’s why I love them so much. They also make my philanthropic heart go pitter-patter with their school donations program.
Like I was saying at the beginning – when I fall in love with something, I fall hard. MightyNest is a store I can get behind – they’ve stolen my heart.
How to Properly Season & Maintain Cast-Iron
When you buy a new cast-iron pan, it will require seasoning before use. This basically involves coating it with oil, placing it upside-down in the oven at a high temperature, and baking it. Many pans come with specific instructions for this.
I recommend using saturated fat. It’s the most heat-stable – and it’s good for you, too. So of course, that’s what you already have in the house, right??
When you need to clean it, use a stiff brush or scrubbie pad of some sort, and only use water. Don’t use soap to clean it regularly. Now, most sources will tell you to never ever use soap on a cast-iron pan, but I do occasionally, and it works fine for me. But only in certain situations…
When there’s a ton of grease, like after cooking up a package of bacon, I typically use a tiny drop of soap to help cut down on the grease layer while washing. It’s not enough to clear the grease away altogether – just enough to make it not so thick of a coating.
After washing, you can air-dry if necessary, but personally, I like to place my clean and wet pan on a hot burner for a minute or two to dry it out completely and prevent it from rusting.
So that’s it – how to care for cast-iron cookware… but even more awesomely: how to fall in love with it. And just like that, you find yourself falling in love with cast-iron and all it stands for.