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!
image via flickr cc
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.
image via flickr cc
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??
Coconut oil, bacon grease, tallow, lard, or organic palm oil would all be good choices. Check out this link for some more details (but ignore the recommendation for vegetable oil. Yuck.)
image via flickr cc
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.
Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t find this blog sooner! I have always wanted to cook with them for all the reasons above, especially the non toxic part. But I didn’t know how to take care of them and I new there was a method to maintaining cast iron. I got to watch my friend cook on cast iron last summer on his brand new stamped concrete patio that my company had poured for him.
There is cast iron and then there is CAST IRON! For the best, you need to prowl the antique shops and especially antique festivals for Griswold “Extra Finished” cookware. Out of the box, 100 yrs ago, Griswold pans had a finish on them that would take 50 yrs to get with a current production Lodge. Smooth as a baby’s bottom!
really love your site,not suprised as im an infp! love all your reasons for choosing cast iron.
Yay for INFPs! Welcome! 🙂
Hi, just found you tonight (why you don’t use coconut oil to moisturize anymore) and so glad I did find you! I have cast iron skillets that are over 100 years old from my Great Aunt, but, I recently purchased a Lodge skillet from Amazon and I just love it and it’s made in the USA. It also came pre-seasoned. Thanks for the tips here. BTW great site
Hi Pamela! Welcome to R&H! 🙂 Wow, you are SO LUCKY to have those old cast-iron skillets. I’m pretty sure those old ones would survive a nuclear holocaust! 😉 🙂
Just found you today. Was looking for cast iron recipes on Pinterest and stumbled on your site. I have 2 old skillets and they are smooth as glass. I bought a griddle (newer) and I do NOT like the surface. Rough. Anyway, I saw that Mightynest is sponsoring your post. After looking it over, I registered and signed up for MightyFix. I would have not heard about this great website if I hadn’t ‘stumbled’. 🙂 Thank you.
Glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for visiting! 🙂
Thanks for the tips, especially how to season a new pan. I have a couple of ceramic pans that I use all the time, but I love the idea of getting a couple of cast iron pans seasoned to where the food doesn’t stick, and then taking them with me in the camper.
I, too, LOVE my iron cookware! I don’t use exclusively iron (yet), but I use my skillets almost daily. Scrambled eggs or grilled cheese in the skillet, yummy soup in the dutch oven. And we have our 4 iron skillets and our iron dutch oven hung on the wall over our stove – similar to the photo above. Looks so country home-like!
Hi! Thanks for the great info. How come some skillets are $200 and some are $50? I’m also confused about the ceramic vs. cast iron. Just wondering you have a clear understanding on these topics. Thanks in advance!
Hi Tanya! The difference in price could be so many things, from the prestige of the brand name to cost of source materials. Ceramic enameled cookware provides the benefits of cast iron but it’s easier to clean up and you don’t have to season it. It’s usually dishwasher friendly. Some people use both cast iron and enamel, others have a strong preference one way or another. The trick is to figure out what will help YOU cook best!
Garry @ welltherm
I m a big fan of cast iron but the cleaning can be a bit of a pain some times.
I have always used cast iron skillets.. Handed down from mama to me, & I like to ‘collect’ pieces if I can get them for a good price… It is the ONLY way to cook food!
So funny Beth! I am reading about the cast iron cookware, & was going to make a comment about it…BUT… I see I already made a comment in 2014! Still feel the same way, my sister got me a 3 piece set for my birthday last year, & each year we are going to add a piece. Mama always cooked in cast iron ONLY! She passed down her pieces to me, (i’m the oldest & love to cook) So I was doubly blessed .. Thank you for your tips, they are great! P.S. I did use (1 time) vegetable oil to ‘season’ my large pan.. what a HUGE mistake that was! It was so ‘sticky’..YUCK! Don’t ever use vegetable oil….
Ha! So funny that you already commented, but forgot. Love it. 🙂 I’m still loving my cast iron, too! I use it daily. And thanks for the tip about the vegetable oil (although I don’t even have the stuff in the house – it’s a really unhealthy fat!) Hope you have a great week, Dee! 🙂
I have never owned any cast iron cookware in my 55 years. I had a roommate awhile back that owned some cast iron cookware but she would not let me cook with it or touch it. I would love the opportunity to use it in the kitchen everyday. Thank you for the tips on how to take care of it.
Thank you for this post. I am really struggling with my husband and the whole going green process in our home. I purchased a ceramic fry pan from Mighty Nest and can’t think of the name right now, but many bloggers raved about it. I just tried to throw away our scratched non stick pan and he said he does not like the way his eggs come out in the new pan, they are not over easy. Do you have any suggestions on how to cook eggs over easy in either ceramic or cast iron. Thanks, feeling exasperated in my own kitchen.
The best way to get a cast iron pan is get it second hand. I can’t believe it took the author a year. I see them all the time. And you can always to antique stores they won’t cost anymore than a new one. And don’t by Lodge unless perhaps you get the preseasoned one. They aren’t ground smooth like they should have been. I asked my mother for a cornbread sized pan thinking she’d get one second hand, but she didn’t she bought a new Lodge and I have never been able to season it.
And don’t be afraid of rust. Sprinkle the pan with coarse salt and coconut oil or whatever you plan to use & scrub it away.
I would love to whom. I have an immune system problem and have no decent cookware!! I recently started using a tiny iron pan and love it… But it’s micro!! I can’t buy anything new. Money is super tight. I love iron. It’s so real compared to all The disposable rubbish these days.
Win not whom… Auto correct