Cast Iron is a material that has been used for centuries to make cookware. Cast iron is one of the most popular materials used today to make cookware because of its ability to distribute heat evenly and without hot spots. Cast iron is also very inexpensive compared to other materials, such as stainless steel. Cast Iron lasts a lifetime if properly maintained. The only downside to cast iron is that it weighs more than most other types of cookware.
The two main types of cast iron cookware are enameled and bare/uncoated. Enameled cast iron has a coating in the interior so they are easy to clean, but the outside needs special care because the enamel can chip off and be ingested by accident. Bare/uncoated cast iron needs to be seasoned like the pan before use, but after that you need to take care not to scratch or chip the surface- this will make it non-stick which is why many people love bare/uncoated cast iron cookware for its ability to cook food evenly and without hot spots.
Seasoning cast iron is a process that makes bare/uncoated cast iron non-stick and prevents food from sticking to the pan. It also helps prevent rusting by filling in any small cracks or crevices and preventing water molecules from getting inside and causing rust. There are plenty of different methods out there for seasoning cast iron and some work better than others depending on the cookware you want to use. For example, if you’re going to make a Dutch oven- it’s best to season with oil, lard or shortening over low heat for a long time so the pan has an even coat of oil throughout it. But if you’re making a pan to use as a skillet like pancakes or eggs, you can use whatever oil you want and heat it up quickly to make sure the food doesn’t stick.
People who love cast iron cookware swear by it and say that once they tried using cast iron for cooking it was hard to go back to any other type of material. Whether you’re new to cast iron or you’ve been using it for a long time, there are always tips and tricks that can help make cooking with cast iron easier.
But is this type of cookware really good in distributing heat evenly? And what are the myths about using the best cast iron cookware? Stick around as we’ll tackle this topic in today’s article.
A Brief History Of Cast Iron Cookware
The production of cast iron cookware started in Tennessee. The first known cast iron skillet was made in 1810 and it had a handle on the side so it could be hung on a crane or over a fire. Cast iron cooking became very popular because it is such an inexpensive material and does such a great job cooking food evenly.
Over time, the popularity of cast iron cookware grew so rapidly that people began to think it was unhealthy because they thought you could get heavy metal poisoning from using it. This resulted in them stopping production and making other materials popular instead, like stainless steel. The truth is there are trace amounts of iron in all materials, but the metal alloy used for cast iron cooking is very low in iron and not hazardous to your health at all.
Signs And Indications Of A Good Cast Iron Cookware
One of the telltale signs that a cast iron skillet is a quality cookware, is if it has been pre-seasoned from the factory. This means that the company has already put the oil in and heated it up to make sure that it’s evenly coated in oil. These pans will also come with a coating of wax or a heavy seasoning on them when they arrive in your house.
You can also check the surface for any bumps, which means that there are still some crevices in there- this means that there may not be an even coating of oil over the entire surface of the pan. And you can also test how easily food will stick by putting some water on a very low heat and quickly scraping off any pieces of stuck on food with a plastic spatula. If you can scrape off pieces of stuck on food, then your pan isn’t seasoned enough yet. But if it’s really difficult to scrape the chunks of food off then that means that your pan is probably too well seasoned and will take more work to get into that perfect non-stick surface.
If you’ve already seasoned your cast iron but you need to redo it because it’s not working, you can use a paper towel and some salt. Put the salt on the paper towel and wipe the entire pan with it over very low heat for about 15 minutes. The salt will scrub off any residue left on the pot without scratching up or damaging the surface. Make sure you wipe down your entire cast iron skillet so that it’s completely clean before you start again with the seasoning process to make sure it lasts for years to come.
If you have an enameled cast iron pan, then it is safe to use on any surface of your stove top as well as in the oven. But bare cast iron will need to be seasoned with oil on the stove top and then put into a hot oven for at least an hour but more commonly two hours depending on how heavy of an oven you have. You can also season it on the stovetop like all other types of cast iron but you shouldn’t do this if your skillet is enameled.
If you’re cooking something like gravy, bacon or chocolate sauce that might be a little more difficult to clean up- use a paper towel to wipe off as much of the food as possible before taking your cast iron skillet into the kitchen sink. If you wash it with soap and water from the very beginning, then you’ll have to season the skillet again from scratch.
And if you don’t have any paper towels, then scrub off as much of the food with a sponge and some warm water while the pan is still hot on the stovetop. Then wipe it out completely with a clean rag before drying it off with another dry one and setting it back down on your stovetop to cool. If you pour water into the cast iron when it’s still hot, then you’ll warp the iron and cause damage that will be difficult to fix.
Common Myths About Cooking With The Best Cast Iron Cookware
Here are some common myths surrounding the use of cast iron cookware:
Cast Iron Skillets Cause Heavy Metal Poisoning – Heavy metal poisoning is caused by the accumulation of heavy metals in the body over time and not from a single event like using a cast iron skillet. The metal alloy used to make these skillets contains very little iron and is not considered hazardous to your health.
Cast Iron Skillets Have Been Cross-Contaminated – Cast iron skillets are made completely from metal, so it’s impossible for them to cross-contaminate food like stainless steel would because it has seams where bits of food can get caught and then cooked along with the food you’re cooking in the pan. Cast iron skillets are so heavy that they’ll always stay at the bottom of your pot or pan.
Cast Iron Skillets Aren’t Safe For Children Because It Adds Lead To Their Diet – The newer lightweight cast iron pots and pans have never been used to cook for children under the age of 3 in the United States.
Cast Iron Skillets Aren’t Safe For Pregnant Women Because Of Lead Poisoning – Lead poisoning is caused by the accumulation of lead in the body over time not from a single event where lead was ingested. The amount of lead added to food through cooking in cast iron skillets is so low that it cannot be ingested at a dangerous level.
Cast Iron Skillets Will Stain Your Food With Iron – If you cook something acidic in your cast iron skillet, it is possible for the acid to react with the iron and change the color of your food, but there are special techniques that will prevent this from happening including pre-seasoning your cast iron skillet, avoiding acidic foods in a bare skillet, and using a chemical non-stick coating.
Recommendations For Cooking With Cast Iron Pans And Skillets
Lastly, here are some things to keep in mind when cooking with cast iron cookware:
- Pre-seasoning – You should try to season your cast iron skillet before you cook anything for the first time. The seasoning protects the metal from rusting and provides a barrier between the food and the pan. It also helps to reveal any small scratches or imperfections in the metal because they’ll turn black if they’re not properly protected with oil. You can either season your cast iron skillet on the stovetop by placing it on medium heat for 1 hour, or you can place it in an oven heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.
- Seasoning after cooking using paper towel – If you are cooking something that will be difficult to clean up, then place a paper towel over the food before transferring it to a plate. If you pour the food onto a plate without covering it, then there’s a chance that some oil will drip and cause an unwanted mess on your stovetop (or elsewhere).
- Add salt to water when boiling pasta or vegetables – If you want to make sure that the food you’re cooking doesn’t stick to your pan, then you should add a few pieces of coarse salt to the water when boiling vegetables or pasta. The salt will make it easier for you to scrape the food from the bottom of your pan once it’s done cooking.
- Use a spatula with a thin edge – If you want to prevent scratching the pan, then use wood or plastic utensils with thin, straight edges that won’t dig into the surface.
- Don’t use dish soap – If you want your pan to stay seasoned and prevent rusting, then you should never use soap when cleaning it. If necessary, fill your skillet with water and let it soak overnight before scrubbing off any residue with a paper towel or cheesecloth. If you choose to use soap after cooking, then make sure the water is boiling and place a few tablespoons of salt inside the pan while scrubbing with a paper towel or brush. This should remove any leftover oil and allow your skillet to dry faster.