9 Reasons to Cook with a Cast Iron and Why You Should Too
I hadn’t ever used a cast iron or even considered one until I got to college. The only time I had ever seen a cast iron was in Tom and Jerry cartoons on Saturday morning. My senior year I lived with a teammate from a rural part of Indiana; he used a cast iron for everything. The thing barely had to be washed and cooked food well, I had to get one and give it a go. To make a long story short, I’m glad I did.
A cast iron is easy to use, requires very little maintenance, and the damn thing will last forever. Check out my list below for the reasons I choose to use a cast iron, even over the more expensive aluminum pans that sit in my cabinets.
It’s Pretty Much Indestructible
You’ll have a tough time screwing this kind of material up. It’s a solid hunk of metal, the same kind of material used to make important car parts, like the knuckle that holds your wheel on. Why do you think in older cartoons the skillet also doubles as a weapon?
Next time you’re at the store, pick one of these things up and you’ll see why once you buy one, it’s the last one, at least in that size, that you’ll ever buy.
You can Cook Anything on it
Potatoes, steaks, eggs, vegetables, pizza, you name it, you can cook it in it. There are recipes for thousands of meals and even more variations that allow you too cook things you didn’t think were even possible in your cast iron. I use my cast iron at least weekly to cook the chicken I use in my weekly meal prep.
Season it Properly and it’s Almost as Good as Teflon
If you’re not familiar with what seasoning is, it’s basically applying a thin layer of canola, vegetable, or olive oil around the entire pan and then heating it up as hot as you can get it for an hour, then letting it cool. What this does is it turns the oil into a non-stick layer that allows you to cook anything on it without it sticking.
I’d like to say it’s better than non-stick cookware, namely Teflon, but then I’d be lying. Don’t get me wrong, a properly seasoned cast iron is just as non-stick as the newest frying pan, but Teflon is tough to beat. The engineers or whoever created it, had to come up with an entirely new process just to get the stuff to stick to the pan.
Sometimes you can’t win everything, but the trade-off value for a cast iron still wins in my opinion.
Can Cook with it on Other Surfaces
Try sticking your fancy Teflon coated pan in the oven, over a campfire, or on the grill and watch what happens. Compare that to a good ole’ cast iron and you’ll see why I prefer the latter. You can’t put newer pans over these high heat sources; they’re simply not able to withstand the high temperatures.
No Non-Stick Coating in My Food
A lot of manufacturers have improved their non-stick coating, but there are still skillets out there where the non-stick c
oating will flake off. This is usually when you use a metal utensil on it, or it’s simply a worn out piece of cookware. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to not ingest non-stick coating.
It’s a Dirt-Cheap Pan
Where else are you going to find a skillet that will last forever and is $15 or less? Nowhere. As of writing this, a 10.25” Lodge skillet is on Amazon for $11, with free shipping. Even if you find out you don’t like cooking on it, $11 for a kitchen weapon doesn’t seem like a bad deal to me.
It’s Incredibly Easy to Clean
Once you’re done cooking, you can usually just leave it until the next meal needs to be made. Maybe this is just a lazy habit of mine, but the more you cook with it, the more flavor you get in your meats and veggies. The only time I clean mine is if I burned something on it or there’s just a build up of crud.
All you have to do is boil some water in it, break the burnt-on food up with a fork or spatula and dump the water. If it’s really being stubborn, you can use a scrub brush with salt – no soap needed! Afterwards, I typically add a little bit of olive oil just to help keep it coated.
Holds Heat Well – Maybe Not Evenly Though – Use the Oven
Most people say cast iron skillets heat evenly; I’d have to say that is false. You’re going to get hot spots on the skillet, but the plus side is once it’s hot, it’ll stay hot. The easiest way to combat hot spots is to just heat the skillet up in the oven. You’ll get even heat distribution and may not even need to turn the stove on too high to keep it where you want it.
You Look Like a Man Cooking in It
There’s nothing like cooking a thick steak on top of piping hot cast iron. Is there really any better sound than a fat piece of meat sizzling against a perfectly seasoned skillet for that perfect searing? I think we all know the answer to that is no. Besides, what kind of impression does that send when you’re cooking a T-Bone on an As-Seen-On-Tv copper pan for your date?
Do you use a cast iron? What do you love or hate about it? Leave a comment below!
Also published on Medium.