I have deep affection for cast-iron. It not only conjures up vivid fantasies of the frontier life I never lived – pig roasting, cauldron bubbling, Pa singing, but I find it sticks far less than other non-non-sticks and it brings its own nutrient along.
So despite my once monogamous relationship with Teflon (which is over), I now have a cupboard full of cast iron. And besides the fact that each weighs as much as a small child, I’ve yet to find any substantial character flaws and instead keep discovering qualities that deepen my loyalty.
Stick happens but it’s easy to stop
This is one of the biggest reasons I was reluctant to use cast-iron, but stopping “stick” is actually pretty simple. First start with a pan that’s well seasoned. (See here to learn how; if it’s not, there’s no chance at non-stick). Then when the food is done, let it sit for 30-60 seconds, off the flame. That’s it. Think “cook&release” (from the heat). If the food’s still stuck despite your patience, add another 30 seconds of patience, then push hard with the utensil to prod it off the bottom. You cant damage the pan like you can Telfon, so give it some jabs until you get underneath the golden outer layer. (I discovered this when I grabbed a phone call right at egg removal time, and two minutes later, the eggs had miraculously released themselves from the pan. Why does this happen? Because you’re giving the steam from the cooked food, enough time to soften the stuck bits.)
Good things leach out
This might be the only time when the leaching of anything into food is a good thing. The iron bits that come off (in very tiny amounts) are good for you. It’s iron your body can use – unlike say the Teflon bits that are a less useful nutrient. (See that post.)
Lends farm-house flare
No pan says “I labored over a hot stove ” quite like cast-iron. Not only is it always on my stove top but I use it as an alternative baking dish for quiche, berry crumble or pie. Take it straight from stove to table and serve. See here. (I would avoid storing the food, though, in the cast iron, as it could take on a metalic taste.)
The brand I like best is LODGE, which is more expensive than cheap imports, but is not coated with a paint that could chip off . (Find it at Whole Foods, Crate&Barrel, Lodge’s online store or simply check the back of your cupboard.)
What are you cooking with?
Photo: A member of my cast iron family.
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