How this Old Fashion Cookware is Making a Comeback
Digging through the cupboards of cooks in the 30’s you would have been hard pressed to find cookware not made of cast iron. Cast iron kettles, dutch ovens, and pots were used by the settlers to heat with coals from the fire. Because ovens did not exist then the dutch oven was used to cook anything we could now cook in an oven, bread or cakes. Cast iron was born out of necessity as pioneers needed cookware that could withstand the heat of coals. There was no such thing as plastic handles on frying pans like we have now a days. How is it that a cookware staple long replaced by teflon, textured aluminum, and non stick coatings is making a come back? One word health. The only thing a cast iron pan will leach is iron.
How Cast May be the Solution for a Throw Away Culture
The realization that teflon eventually breaks down and becomes part of the meal you are cooking is enough to make anyone start questioning how safe it is. If you google "is teflon safe?" and you are met with a large variety of opinions, from carcinogen to non toxic, one thing cannot be debated about teflon and that is durability. Durability is the one characteristic of cast iron that cannot be debated. There are families cooking with cast iron cookware that is literally hundreds of years old. Many old rusty cast iron pans have been resurrected from the dead with a little elbow grease and seasoning. People are starting to realize our throw away culture has created some huge problems in the landfill area. Using cookware that lasts for hundreds of years will keep at least some garbage from entering a landfill.
What is Cast Iron?
Cast iron is actually just what it sounds like, iron that has been melted down and poured into molds made of sand. This is the casting part of cast iron. In the 1800’s and 1900’s all cast iron cookware were made by hand pouring, which allowed more intricate designs and control over the process. Cast iron pieces then had to be control while they cooled. The cooling part was very important to produce a quality piece because uneven cooling could cause defects. After cooling the cast iron pans would be smoothed by hand with a grinding stone to create a glass like finish. Modern cast iron pieces are made by machines and will not have the smooth finish of vintage pans instead they will have a pebbly texture finish.
Rules for Investing In Cast Iron
If you are wanting to invest in some cast iron cookware you should start with a frying pan. After you have learned some of the basic principles for use and care you will find yourself eyeing up other items made of cast iron. The best cast iron cookware items can be found at your local thrift store or at garage sales. The older the better. Some of the new cast iron pieces can also be a quality investment and can be easier to find. When investing in a piece of cast iron cookware don’t forget it’s better to choose quality over price as you will hopefully love and cherish this piece for a long time and it may even become a family heirloom.
What to Cook with a Cast Iron Pan?
There is no pan that can outdo a cast iron pan when it comes to creating crispy food. The secret is that cast iron hold more heat than any other frying pan. This heat will be distributed evenly so it will cook food evenly. Any food you want a crispy outside do will be done to perfection in a cast iron pan. Some of the best items to make in your cast iron frying pan are crispy hashbrowns, searing steaks to perfection, battered fish, or bacon. You can also bake items in your cast iron pan such as a frittata or cornbread.
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Here are some recipes we have created using a cast iron frying pan:
How to Cook with Cast Iron
Cast Iron pans always need to be preheated before putting food into the pan. Usually medium heat is fine, but it will depend on your stove and item you are cooking. Add a bit of oil or butter to the pan and heat. Then add your desired food item. If you find an item like a hashbrown sticking this is probably because you are trying to flip it too early. If the hash brown has developed a nice crispy brown exterior it will come loose easily and flip. Cast iron pans have the advantage of cooking half the dish on the stove top then finishing the food item in the oven. The cast iron pan will not have a plastic handle like a non stick frying pan so this saves you from cleaning extra dishes. For example, if you made a sweet potato onion frittata you would start by heating the pan with butter. Then browning the onions and sweet potatoes. The eggs could be beaten and poured over the top of the onions and potatoes and covered in cheese. You could then pop the whole thing into the oven and bake to perfection.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan
Cleaning is probably the most feared part of owning cast iron pan for any cast iron newbies. Have no fear the cast iron pan was the original non stick pan. When you are first learning to cook with cast iron there may be a few stuck on messes, however soon you will catch on. One of the best tools to clean a cast iron pan is a scraper. The pan after cooling can be scraped, washed with a bit of hot water, and dried. If you pans are sticking it could be because you forgot to preheat it or may need to be seasoned properly.
Now that you know the basics of cooking with cast iron you need to invest in your first pan. Happy cooking!