Yes, throw away those pots and pans made of teflon, aluminum, and silicone. They may be making you sick, and there is a healthier, cheaper, and more logical solution: cast iron.
The process of making and using iron has been around for thousands of years. Iron is a metal found in the earth that when heated and mixed with oxygen and carbon, forms a metal mixture that can be wrought, forged and poured. Iron is also a necessary mineral in your body that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to your cells. (Low iron in your blood causes “iron deficiency anemia”.)
Cast iron cookware is made by pouring the molten iron mixture into sand casts. The sand is then blasted off, and you have a pan. Cast iron pots and pans have been made the same way for over 130 years.
What made me want to change my cookware?
I had read about the harmful effects of teflon and aluminum. Teflon is a chemical that is sprayed onto metal pots and pans and provides a non-stick surface for cooking. The teflon, however, when heated, can cause toxic gasses to be released and can cause birth defects, cancer, and constant “flu-like” symptoms. Teflon production companies (Dupont being the biggie) are being mandated by the US government to change the chemical composition of teflon by 2015.
Calphalon is also a popular non-stick product, but it is made with aluminum. Aluminum has been studied for it’s possible links to Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis.
I was using a brand of cookware that was calphalon-like. I looked into the pot I used most often and I saw that the surface of the pot was missing color. The non-stick surface was being “cooked into” the foods I was making. We are eating our chemically enhanced cookware, basically.
Then I saw my mother-in-law’s old cast iron pan in my cabinet…….
Cast iron frying pans…….isn’t that for cattle drives? and cartoons?
I had no idea what to do with this heavy pan-shaped thing, but I have to admit, it felt good in my hand.
My sister told me she recently bought a set of cast iron cookware and she loves it. One US manufacturer is Lodge. Lodge is the oldest manufacturer of cast iron cookware in the US. They’ve been making cast iron cookware since 1896. They use a special mixture of cast iron to provide the highest quality. (some cast iron is made in China and uses a lower quality iron mixture that produces “hot spots” in the cookware surface)
I decided to take a look and do some research. It turns out that there are numerous benefits to cooking with cast iron, and professional chefs swear by them.
- pots and pans are significantly cheaper than any other cookware out there. One 8 inch cast iron skillet costs $16.50 while other skillets average $26.00 with a copper 8 inch skillet costing $90.00. I purchased a set of 2 sized fry pans, a 5 qt.dutch oven with lid, and a 10 1/2 inch flat griddle all for $55.00
- cast iron will last over 100 years when cared for correctly
- the more you use cast iron, the better it gets and the more “non-stick” properties it has
- cast iron retains heat and distributes heat better that anything else
- cast iron will not crack, flake, chip, peel or warp. Try doing this with a cast iron fry pan:
- cooking in cast iron allows the food to absorb small amounts of iron for your blood health especially when cooking acidic foods, like tomatoes, in a well seasoned pot
- well seasoned cast iron surpasses any chemical non-stick surface for non-sticky-ness.
- you can move your heated pans from stovetop to oven without a thought
- its mass lets it hold a steady temperature so well that it is perfect for deep- or shallow-frying.
- you can cook just as easily outdoors over a fire as you can indoors on a stove.
- if you prefer more color in your kitchen, you can use enameled cast iron, although it can chip, it has the same properties as cast iron
- Cast iron comes in dozens of shapes and sizes. they even have cute corn bread molds in the shapes of cactuses and perch
- cast iron pans make an excellent weapon. One hit over the head with one of these and your assailant will be seeing stars or have a face in the shape of a frying pan.
Cast iron gives me a connection to my mother and all the mothers before her. I may be weird, but I feel very nostalgic cooking with my cast iron (very “I Love Lucy-ish”)
Caring for your cast iron
The reason the iron does not rust, is due to seasoning (no,…not with paprika). The iron has to have oil baked into the metal to keep it from absorbing water. A properly seasoned pan will not rust and will be perfect for cooking anything and everything.
I bought my pots and pans from Lodge and they came “pre-seasoned” which means I just have to maintain them.
After use, I scrub with a plastic brush using only hot water (no soap, as soap removes oils) to remove food and dry it. I then place it on the stovetop and heat to remove any residual water. I put a few drops of vegetable oil on and distribute and dry with a paper towel. It’s actually easier than using a metal scouring pad, because nothing sticks to the pan.
Water is the enemy…so don’t ever leave it in water or leave it wet. If food is stuck on, you can put water in and boil the food out.
You can see the seasoning A B C’s here
What if you see a rusty old cast iron pan at a garage sale for 10 cents?
Buy it! Chances are the surface of the pan is smooth under the rust. You can re-season pots and pans easily.
- Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).
- Rinse and dry completely.
- Apply a thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware (inside and out).
- Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any dripping.
- Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
- Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven.
- Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
- Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.
The down side
One down side is that the pots and pans can be heavy. But I guess that can be a good thing, if your goal is to do more weight lifting!
Make sure you cook acidic foods in well seasoned pans, or it could affect the taste.
So, consider cast iron cooking. It may just turn you into an “Iron Maiden” or an”Iron Man”.