16 years ago my husband and I went on our first camping trip. Though I had grown up camping, I had never actually cooked while camping. Naturally, I turned to the internet and over and over I read the cast iron pans were a must when camping. So we bought one. We used it once or twice and then it sat for many years until one day I had a recipe I wanted to make that required the skillet to move from the stove top to the oven. I pulled out my cast iron and I never put it back in the camping supplies again. It has stayed in my kitchen and has become my absolute favorite go-to pan every time I cook. Oh, and of course I bought a second one with plans to slowly replace every other pan one by one. What made me fall in love with cast iron? Here are 8 reasons why YOU need to be using cast iron and what you are missing out on if you’re not.
1. It’s made of iron.
It is practically indestructible. You won’t ever have to buy a replacement-you can pass it down to your kids and then your grandkids. What a great deal, huh?
2. It can handle high heats.
No worries about turning up the burner – this baby can handle it. Oh, and my favorite is that it can go from stove top to oven seamlessly. I don’t have very many recipes that require this, but when I do – I am so thankful for my cast iron.
3. It has no chemicals in it.
I used to be a hard-core Teflon lover. No more. The teflon flakes and then it gets in your food. EW. Do you know what’s in that? The coating that keeps the food from sticking to nonstick pans contains PFCs (perfluorocarbons), which is a chemical that’s linked to liver damage, cancer, developmental problems and, according to a study in the Journal of ClinicalEndocrinology & Metabolism, early menopause. PFCs get released—and inhaled—when pans are heated on high heat. When the pan is scratched, the coating flakes and you end up ingesting it. Again, EW.
4. It’s nonstick.
We use it for everything. When seasoned properly your food will not stick. However, I will be completely honest with you and tell you it’s not like the teflon non-stick. My husband will not use it to make eggs. He will use our stainless steel pans instead. So yes, it is non-stick, but maybe not the kind of nonstick if you are used to with Teflon. You will make some minor adjustments, but if it is seasoned properly – you will have no problems (and let’s be real eggs stick to everything…like the spatula with egg still on it after it’s been run through the dishwasher! Are you with me? So annoying.)
5. It’s versatile.
They are perfect for sautéing, frying, stir-frying, searing, baking in the oven, on the stove and over fires.
6. Food tastes better.
I seriously did not believe this at first, but after cooking at my mom’s one weekend, I noticed a HUGE difference in the taste of my morning sausage. It was okay, but suddenly I wasn’t LOVING my morning sausage and let me tell you – that made me sad. It wasn’t hmmm tasty like it is with my cast iron. Why?
The iron allows for the pan to get really hot, which browns the food beautifully. I mean restaurant quality – and I’m no cook. I’m telling you- it’s perfection. Just to get your juices flowing on ideas, think: chicken legs – like those pictured, pizza, cobbler, quiche, FISH – so delicious, my morning sausage, and any dinner that you want to taste better! The sky is the limit friends and there are lots of great recipes out there just for cast iron pans, but you know what? You don’t need cast iron specific recipes to use a cast iron. Just treat it like any one of your other pans that you use on a regular basis.
7. Save on soap.
Once you season your cast iron, you don’t want to wash it with soap or the food you cook after that will taste like soap. Take a plastic scrubby and wipe ‘er clean with water. If you really need to scrub, add some salt. If food really gets stuck on, heat it back up and scrape it off with a spatula or one of those plasticy things – you know what I mean. Take away: they are easier to clean than you think.
8. It can boost your iron intake.
Say what? Because it’s made of iron, the mineral will transfer into your food. While it isn’t much, every little bit helps, right? According to Eating Well, “10% of American women are iron-deficient. Cooking food, especially something acidic like tomato sauce in a cast-iron skillet can increase iron content, by as much as 20 times.”
Now all of these are great reasons, but if you’re anything like I was – you feel a bit daunted by the whole “season” your pan thing.
It’s weird, right? You know what though? I have to tell you it’s not that bad and you don’t have to do it every day. We’ve owned a cast iron pan for 16 years and I’ve seasoned it twice. Once when we bought it and once when I pulled it out of storage after sitting unused. The truth is, the more you use it the less you have to season it.
Here are the directions I use when I need to season my pan. Now this website says to coat it with a little bit of oil after each use – I don’t do that every time and my pan is fine. If I notice a bit of rust I go back to these directions and give my pan a little love, but friends – the maintenance on these babies is pretty minimal when you’re talking about high quality cookware that will last FOREVER.
So how do you choose? You don’t need to go all fancy shmancy. They are very affordable.
My favorite 10.25 inch cast iron is here. If you have a family, you may want to go with a larger size, the 12 inch, here. On my wish list is this one because I’m so tired of the coating flaking off from the pans I own. I end up covering it up with aluminum foil so I don’t have to worry about ingesting it.
Do you use cast iron? Why do you like it? Do you have a favorite recipe you would like to share? Share in the comments!
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