It’s been two years since I woke up in a pregnant frenzy deciding all non-stick cookware had to go and we were becoming cast iron people. It was the beginning of my move toward completely non-toxic cookware! So, my wonderful husband purchased a couple of cast iron pans for me for Christmas, specifically the Lodge brand. Truly, I had no idea what I was doing right away. But, now looking back on all of it, I love cast iron. I think it’s an excellent piece of cookware that everyone should stock in their kitchen. It has its limitations, of course, but overall it is a great piece of cookware to own.
So comes the question, what brand should I buy? Well, I can’t sit here and give you a detailed review of many cast iron brands, as I’ve only tried two pans since I made the switch: Lodge, and my grandma’s old cast iron pans from when she got married.
My top choice? Actually, it’s the old skillets. They don’t make cast iron like they used to; the old pans were cast much smoother than the new ones are, and the iron is different. The old ones were far more non-stick than the new ones initially as well, but that’s not a problem anymore (more on that later). However, the old ones are also slightly warped, rusted, and don’t cook evenly, which is where the Lodge pans shine.
And, since most of us can’t get our hands on antique cast iron, it’s important to know how new cast iron pans fair among the demands of day to day cooking,wear, and tear.
Now, I’m not much of a gourmet chef; I don’t’ do anything that isn’t completely necessary, and I usually fail to complete all the steps I am supposed to complete in a long drawn out procedure. I have found, despite what I was told, that cast iron is very resilient and very hearty. I certainly don’t abuse it, but I don’t baby it like I thought I was going to have to. In fact, sometimes I go a few days without cleaning them, using yesterday’s leftover bits as today’s seasoning.
When I first got my Lodge pans, although they come pre-seasoned (the coating that makes them non-stick), I found the need to season them again. Food was sticking to the rough surface, and in those early days I did not cook anything sticky nor did I make sauces in my pans. However, through continued use and build up of seasoning, my pans are extremely resilient and I can cook just about anything in them without much of an issue. My advice to anyone switching over from non-stick is hang in there, it gets easier, and you get used to the new way of cooking. It will take a little time for the pans to reach their full potential, but just like many things, they get better with age. Here are some tips and tricks for getting started with cast iron:
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I have these cookware items from Lodge:
Pros of Cooking in Cast Iron
- Excellent flavor
- Perfect for sauteing, frying, making casseroles, braising, broiling
- Oven safe
- Non-toxic cooking
- Easy clean ups
- Adds good healthy fats to meals
- Flavors develop with time
- Great for people who don’t like to wash and dry too often
Cons of Cooking in Cast Iron
- Some limitations
- It takes time to build the seasoning and the non-stick
- If you have something that gets really dried on, it can be a pain to clean
- Must be careful with acidity
- Heavy, you’ll be getting a workout!
My Extremely Simple Seasoning Procedure
- Wipe a SMALL amount of oil in the pan (really small, because too much will make your pans horribly sticky).
- Let it sit in oven around 350 until you can’t stand it anymore.
My Easy Peasy Maintenance
- After cooking, let cool, rinse out, scrub chunks out ( you can totally be lazy and do this the next day, but it’s a little harder).
- If the food is hard to remove, use coarse salt, a scrub brush, and a small amount of water.
- Dry, place on stove, rub in small amount of oil, heat for a few minutes. (I’ve found this method really seasons the pan well and makes for easier use.)
- For bad messes that are basically glued on, use the hard side of scrub brush to scrape out. You may have to reseason the pans.
- Here is Lodge’s Maintenance Method
Cooking Best Practices
- Heat the skillet first before adding food.
- Cook on low to medium (high heat causes sticking).
- Use cooking oil (which is a good thing if you are choosing the right oils–avocado oil, coconut oil, ghee, grass fed butter).
Things That Cook Very Well
- Fried, breaded chicken, seared steaks, ground beef, chicken cubes, braised chicken breast, baked chicken breast (basically any meat)
- Sauteed veggies, onions, and garlic
- Fried eggs, bacon, sausage
- Sauces and stews (after proper seasoning)
- Quiche and frittata
- Baked goods like cookies and cakes
Things that I’ve Failed At
- Scrambled eggs; I cannot find a way that it doesn’t end up in a glued on disaster
- Fish; the smell lingers and fish sticks way too much.
Rusting; I use stainless steel for boiling pots of water and soups. (but, with proper care, rusting shouldn’t happen).
Leaching iron; Be conscious about vinegars, acids, and tomato sauces and use only in a well seasoned pan. I occasionally use them and haven’t noticed any iron taste, but I don’t let it sit in the cast iron long.
Absorbing flavor; Cast iron recycles the flavors from what was previously cooked in it, which adds a wonderful dimension to your cooking. However, be mindful of what was previously cooked in the pan. If you made garlic seared steaks yesterday, you’ll want to give it a good cleaning before you make skillet cookies.
Specifically, Lodge pans are extremely affordable. On the website:
- 6 inch skillets go for $12.75
- 12 inch skillets go for $39.50
- 5 qt dutch oven goes for $64
I use my cast iron skillets every day, in fact they barely ever leave the stovetop. I haven’t used the dutch oven as much. Cast iron is perfect for your average, day to day cooking as well as recipes for special occasions. You really can’t go wrong!
Recipes for you
What are your favorite recipes that use cast iron?