I have a fondness for cast iron skillets. I do not know why. I have gathered up a ton of them over the years and cook in them almost exclusively. But being the frugal person that I am, I have only purchased a couple of them new. The rest have come from second hand and antique stores. These have been loved by the original owner and then abandoned by their offspring. That is something I don’t understand. Why anyone who grew up with a parent using these could choose to use anything else.
Here is what I know about the newfangled cookware.
- They are light weight. That is not really a benefit. The heat does not transfer all through the pan as well and I have spent too much time scrubbing the bottoms where I have burned a ring of food. Either that or I have to stay by the stove and stir constantly. Neither one is appealing to me. Even the copper bottom pans do not work as well as cast iron.
- Aluminum pans have been associated with the increase in likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders. I want to keep my brain….thank you very much.
- Non-stick cookware is coated with Teflon. That saves the scrubbing. You can leave one of these sitting with food in it for days and all you have to do to clean it is to take a rag and wipe it out. But there is a huge disadvantage to using Teflon. It is made of ammonium perfluorooctanoate. For me, if I cannot pronounce it, I distrust it. So to make it easier for us laypeople, it is known as C-8, which has been linked to cancer, organ damage and other health effects in tests on laboratory animals. So I won’t use that either.
Now here is the coolest part to me of using cast iron. I get trace amounts of iron in my foods and never have to take supplements. In fact, when I took pre-natal vitamins these overdosed me with iron. And the over-abundance of iron in my blood caused me to have miscarriages. So that is something to be aware of. I had 3 babies without being anemic after I started using cast iron.
So for those of you who would like to use cast iron, there are a few things that you need to know.
- When you buy them at antique stores, they will probably be rusty and ugly, but that is okay. What I do is to take a metal scouring pad to it with a touch of soap and scrub all the rust and old seasoning off of it. I have used a small putty knife to chip away at things if needed. If it does not come off then I have used a wire grinding wheel. This should be done outside because it spreads lots of dust. These old pans are usually very smooth on the bottom once they get clean and I like these the best.
- Some of the new ones that I have seen have circular ridges in the bottom. I do not like those so I had my husband take it and grind it down with a grinder until it was smooth. I do not know the reason for the ridges, but before I ground it down, it was harder to clean and I kept tearing up my eggs when I tried to turn them.
- Once they are clean, rub them all over the inside with olive oil and put in your oven for about 1 hour at 200 degrees. This puts a seasoning seal on it.
There. Now you have one of the best cooking skillets that you could ever own.
Now for the unusual upkeep. Never ever use soap in your cast iron again. To clean, scrub with your stainless scrubbing pad and hot water. Wipe dry. Do not let water sit in your cast iron or you will have to start over at the beginning again. For a while, recoat with a little olive oil after cleaning and wipe with a paper towel. One of the frustrating things about cast iron is that I almost never get it put away. It is always on my stove. Where I am living now I do not have convenient hooks on the wall, so to put them in the bottom of a drawer is a nuisance. But I do use them every day so it all balances out.
When you get to looking for cast iron pans, you will be amazed at all the options. I have skillets from 3” to18”, Dutch ovens of different sizes, saucepans, cornstick pans, cake pans. One of my favorite skillets is one that has 2 parts, a 6” deep skillet and a 2” deep skillet that can also be used for a lid. And I have flat skillets for pancakes and eggs. Oh, what variety there is in the cast iron world. Go on an adventure and see what you can find. Then let me know what you find and how you like them.