Prepare yourselves for a rant.
I love cast iron. When I started cooking with it, at the beginning of last year, I declared that I would never ever use another frying medium. And, lucky for you, I’ve prepared a list of reasons why.
Please read on: if I can convert one person to the wonders of cast iron (and thus make your life easier) then my week will be made.
Here are a few common reasons that people do not cook with cast iron:
1. It requires seasoning.
2. It’s old fashioned.
3. It’s not non-stick.
Here are rebuttals to those three arguments:
1. You need only season your cast iron pans once or twice a year. In between, you can clean them with hot water (boiling, if you’re worried about germs and the like, but let’s be honest – not many of them would survive a rapid frying), or with a paste made of oil and salt if you have a stubborn mess. Then you simply dry it off and pop it back in the cupboard.
2. Yes, it’s old fashioned. Your grandmother probably cooked with it all her life. And for goodness’ sake, don’t you think there’s a reason it’s hung around so long? It is superior.
3. It is too non-stick! My dad explained, when I was first going on about how amazing my new pans were, that it’s a naturally non-stick surface. No, it’s not teflon-coated. It’s naturally non-stick. What this means to you is: a non-stick surface that you can use metal utensils on without fear of scraping. If you bust up the surface in any way, you can sand it down again and it’s still going to be non-stick.
More reasons to love the stuff:
4. It’s cheap! Some perma-season cast iron can be quite pricey, but the ones I use were so far within my student budget I couldn’t believe it. I paid $25 (that’s just over $20 USD) for three pans (10”, 6”, 4”). I also have a griddle that cost me $12 and a wok that cost me $15. I cannot believe the price of this stuff, especially given that it lasts a lifetime.
5. It lasts a lifetime. Everyone hates getting used to a new pan – different metals and surfaces conduct heat differently. Buy some cast iron ones, and it’ll be the last time you ever have to go through it.
6. It can go in the oven (assuming it has a cast iron handle as well). This was actually the main reason I wanted cast iron cookware. Being a complete omelette fanatic, I wanted to be able to grate cheese over my projects and throw them under the grill without worrying about the handle melting. This also means, of course, that you can use it for baking (see my cast iron skillet brownie! And don’t just see it, make it – it’s incredible).
7. It is more non-stick than any non-stick cookware I have used. If you were keen to test this theory, you could try making crepes – I pointed out in that blog entry that I had never been able to make decent crepes until I tried it with cast iron. I never have to oil my cast iron pan to make my spectacular crepes – they just lift right off once they’re done. Unbelievable. I think it’s something to do with the more consistent heat distribution you get using such a heavy pan.
Now, go forth and buy cast iron! Next time you need a pan, please consider it. You won’t regret it. Hell, your grandmother probably has a ton of spares you could swipe. And if she happens to have a waffle iron, do send it my way! It seems they’ve never existed in New Zealand – we only get those horrid electric things.