This article will help you understand:
how to cook with cast iron pans,
how to care for them
how to shop the right cast iron cookware for your needs
Cast iron pans can last a lifetime if they are well-maintained.
Many of us who have grown up in our mothers’ and grandmas’ kitchens may remember that one ‘sacred pot/pan’ that was treated differently than the other cookware. The one that needed special attention. I would wager it was the prized possession of the kitchen: a cast iron pan.
Maybe you are lucky enough to have inherited this traditional piece but aren't quite sure what to do with it. Or you are considering purchasing one but don't know which. I am here to help :)
Here is what you need to know about them:
Cast iron pans are one of the most versatile and durable cooking tools you can have in your kitchen. They have been used for centuries to cook an array of dishes, from seared steaks to cornbread and everything in between.
Why YOU, too, need a cast iron pan
Here's why you should consider investing in a cast iron pan, and how to care for and cook with it.
Benefits of Cast Iron Pans
- Durable: Cast iron pans are incredibly durable and can last for many years with proper care. They can withstand high heat and are virtually indestructible, making them perfect for cooking over an open flame.
- Versatile: Cast iron pans can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, or even on the grill, making them incredibly versatile. They can be used for everything from searing to baking and even frying, giving you plenty of options for how to use them.
- Improves with Use: Cast iron pans improve with use, meaning that the more you cook with them, the better they will perform. Over time, the natural oils and fats from cooking will create a non-stick surface, making them even easier to use.
- Use metal utensils: Unlike its Teflon coated non-stick cousins, cast iron pans won’t get scratched if you use metal cooking utensils and cutlery.
I recommend this one:
A Guide to Cooking with Cast Iron Pans
Cast iron pans are a staple in the kitchen, prized for their versatility and durability. A well seasoned cast iron pan has a natural, non-stick surface, making it ideal for cooking delicate foods such as eggs or fish.
Cast iron skillets are great for high-heat cooking methods such as searing, frying, and roasting and can be used on the stove, in the oven, or over an open flame. They are also perfect for dishes that require long cooking times, such as stews or braises, as the heat is distributed evenly and retained for a long time.
Here's what you need to know about cooking with cast iron.
DOs and DON’Ts when cooking with Cast Iron cookware
- Preheating: Always preheat your cast iron pan before cooking. Cast iron pans hold heat exceptionally well, so it's important to heat them slowly and evenly to avoid warping or cracking. Start with a medium-low heat and gradually increase the temperature as needed. This will ensure that your food cooks evenly and will also help build up the seasoning.
- Oil: Use oil when cooking with a cast iron pan to prevent food from sticking. Avoid using high smoke-point oils such as olive oil, as they can burn and give your food a bitter taste.
- High heat: Cast iron pans can handle high heat, so don't be afraid to crank up the stove. They are perfect for searing steaks, for example.
- Avoid acidic foods: Avoid cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes or vinegar-based sauces, in a cast iron pan. They can react with the iron and cause a metallic taste in your food.
Find Cast Iron Dutch Ovens in any shape, size and budget here!*
A Guide to Cast Iron Care
Cast iron cookware can last forever if they are well-maintained. Here is what you need to know to extend their lifetime and get your money’s worth out of it:
Cleaning: Your cast iron skillet needs to be cleaned after each use. Start that process by pouring water in it while the pan is still warm.
To loosen more stubborn bits off the bottom and sides without damaging the pan’s seasoning, use coarse salt to scour. You can rub in the salt with a paper towel, but a coarse brush with natural bristles works just as well. If you still have sticky residue in the pan, fill the skillet with some water and bring to boil - this will loosen the most stubborn foods like caramel or burnt in gravy.
DO. NOT. EVER. USE. SOAP. IN. YOUR. CAST. IRON. PAN.
There, I cannot spell this out enough. Soap or harsh detergents can strip away the seasoning. Likewise, do not ever put your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher.
- Drying: Do not let the pan sit in water and immediately dry off washing water residue. Dry the cast iron pot thoroughly with a soft cloth or paper towel to prevent rust.
- Seasoning: ‘Seasoning cast iron cookware’ has nothing to do with spices. The term seasoning describes the process of polymerisation of fats to the skillet’s surface. It is this particular seasoning that gives cast iron cookware their non-stick qualities, the glossy sheen and prevents rust.
In order to season your cast iron pan, you have two options:
a) after each wash, heat the pan on low heat for a couple of minutes, then apply a thin layer protective layer by pouring 1 tsp of vegetable oil over a sheet of paper towel and applying it over the warm cookware with kitchen thongs.
b) after each wash, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the skillet, then bake it in the oven on 350°F for about an hour.
Repeat these steps several times to (re)build a protective layer if the pan is new or if you had to remove rust.
- Storing: Cast iron pans can last a lifetime if they are well-maintained. Store them in a dry place to prevent rust, and avoid stacking them on top of one another, as this can scratch the surface. If necessary, place a sheet of paper towel between your pots and pans. Do not cover with the lid so air can flow.
What cast iron cookware to buy - a guide
Bulky - heavy - expensive: is Cast Iron cookware still a thing in the 21st century?
the short answer is YES. Cast Iron pots and pans have been and continue to be a classic must-have item for every (home) cook worth their salt.
Cast iron pots have been around for centuries and they are not going anywhere.
However, with so many options available, it can be difficult to know which cast iron cookware to buy.
This guide will help you choose the best cast iron cookware for your kitchen.
Look for these features:
Brand: Choose a well-established brand with a good reputation for quality.
The most popular brands of cast iron cookware are:
Le Creuset (*)
(costly but iconic pieces of kitchenware classics available in many colours)
(high quality brand with a timeless design)
(more budget friendly)
(* = affiliate links)
- Seasoning: Cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned regularly to maintain its non-stick properties. Choose cookware that is pre-seasoned or comes with instructions for easy seasoning.
- Size: Cast iron pans come in a variety of sizes, so choose one that will suit your cooking needs and the size of your stovetop or oven. A 10-inch skillet is a good size for most cooking tasks.
- Weight: Cast iron is heavy, so consider the weight when selecting cookware. If you have a small kitchen or limited storage space, consider purchasing lighter-weight cast iron cookware.
- Handle design: Look for a handle that is securely attached to the pan and comfortable to hold. A handle that is too short can make it difficult to maneuvre the pan, while a handle that is too long can make it difficult to store the pan.
- Price: Cast iron cookware can vary greatly in price, so choose a quality product that fits your budget. Keep in mind that cast iron cookware is an investment and will last for many years with proper care.
In conclusion, cast iron pans are a must-have for any kitchen. They are durable, versatile, and improve with use, making them an ideal choice for a variety of cooking techniques. With proper care and seasoning, your cast iron pan will last for many years, providing you with delicious and perfectly cooked meals every time.
If you were still on the fence, I hope this article helped convince you to get your own cast iron cookware now. And if you already have some, I hope you learnt something new about their use and care.
Please leave me a comment on your key take-away from this article or feel free to share some additional insight.