Our grandmothers didn’t have non-stick but they survived. They cooked eggs, made sauces, and seared meat all in a piece of cooking equipment that is coming back into vogue: the cast iron skillet. As many avid cooks know, these pans are: oven safe, last forever, get scalding hot, and when cared for properly, are non-stick. With the downsides to Teflon and traditional non-stick pan getting more and more attention in the press, people today are looking for alternatives. I for one am glad to see the return of the cast iron skillet. As mentioned in our post on carbon steel pans non-stick as we think of it has a host of issues. It decomposes flaking off into food, it releases toxic fumes above 500 degrees, and it has a limited heat range for searing. Cast Iron on the other hand has none of those drawbacks and can last forever.
Caring for Cast Iron
Cast Iron Skillets like their carbon brethren require more care than the conventional non-stick. What you get in return is healthier food and a more durable pan. Cleaning is the big place that these skillets differ from a traditional frying pan. The surface achieves it’s non-stick properties through the seasoning process and as such requires care to preserve it. Here is an in-depth guide to cleaning and refinishing cast iron from Lodge, the makers of our favorite cast iron skillets. In short, if you follow these steps you’ll preserve them perfectly: clean the pan out quickly after use, scrub with kosher salt if you need an abrasive cleaner, wipe it down with vegetable oil when finished.
What to cook?
These pans are great for anything that requires time on the stove top as well as in the oven to cook through. Cast iron skillets are by far the best tools for searing things like cuts of steak or pork since they hold heat more effectively than thin metal frying pans. Another great use is as a baking tool. Cast Iron Corn Bread is one of my favorite dishes to serve large groups, because it tastes great and it has a huge presence when served on the table.
I have really enjoyed my cooking experiences with a cast iron skillet. It gives me peace of mind to know that I am avoiding the dangers of Teflon pans, and I am using something that is ultimately more effective too. Let us know your thoughts and experiences cooking with cast iron skillets.