February 26th, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About Cast Iron

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Everything about Cast Iron Groovy Green Livin

I’ve been gradually making the switch to safer pots and pans. Nonstick finishes have come under fire in recent years due to the toxic fumes emitted when the cookware is exposed to high heat. Bye, bye Teflon, hello cast iron and stainless steel.

About a year ago I was sent a Lodge 10-inch cast iron skillet ($14) for review and it rocked my world. Since then I have an arsenal of stainless steel and cast iron in my kitchen. Cast iron certainly has its drawbacks- it’s extremely heavy and cast iron requires a little extra elbow grease to keep it in tip top shape. But I’m finding the pros far outweigh the cons.

Just this past week I invested in a Lodge Cast-Iron Reversible Grill/Griddle ($45) for the top our our range. We’ve been using it for pancakes, pancakes and more pancakes.

Since I’m a newbie when it comes to cast iron I thought I would devote some time to a few cast iron basics.

Why Should I Buy Cast Iron?

Cast iron is the pan that your grandmother used. Cast iron pans keep getting better and better as they age. The more you cook the better they get. These relatively inexpensive pans are virtually indestructible, provided you take care of them. Cast iron pans can be transferred from the stove top right into the oven (or on the grill, or even over the campfire). Also, the seasoning of the pan creates a nonstick surface without the toxic chemicals found in Teflon pans (see below for information on seasoning). Note of caution: Acidic foods like tomatoes, beans, and certain sauces can damage seasoning, and should be avoided until the seasoning is well-established.

What Cooking Tools Should I Use With Cast Iron?

Many cast iron devotees have heard rumors that wooden cooking utensils are the best. This isn’t necessarily true. Stainless steel spatulas work fine and won’t damage the seasoned pan. If you choose to use metal cooking utensils with your cast iron you might see black flakes in your food. Those flakes are probably pieces of food and shouldn’t be of concern.

How Do I Clean and Season Cast Iron?

Cleaning cast iron is actually very simple.

  • After cooking, clean your pan with a sponge and hot water. No need to use soap. Careful not to put a hot pan in cold water-this could causing it to warp or crack.
  • TIP: If you are having trouble removing stuck-on food, boil some water in your pan for a few minutes to loosen residue, making it easier to remove.
  • Towel dry immediately and apply a light coating of oil while the pan is still warm.

There’s been a video flying around the internet on how to clean and season cast iron. It’s fascinating and involves using kosher salt. Take a look.

What Cast Iron Pan Should I Buy?

Here’s what I have in my kitchen:

On my wish list:

Do you have any cast iron pots and pans? Any tips to share?

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photo credit: DSC_0331.jpg via photopin (license)

32 Responses to “Everything You Need to Know About Cast Iron”

  1. Oh I love cast iron and would love to build my collection like you have. My dad only cooks with cast iron. Great post and very helpful links.

  2. I don’t have any cast iron yet but I’m interested in getting at least one piece to add to our stainless steel. I admit I’ve been a bit reluctant because of cleaning it but you make it seem really doable! Thanks:)
    Sara recently posted..The Human Microbiome: Your body’s ecosystemMy Profile

  3. I want to love cast iron. I really do. But I’m a stainless girl. Even reading the cleaning tips. Apply a light coating of oil while it is still warm? What do lazy chefs do? I usually clean our pots and pans well after they are cooled – after dinner, some family time, etc.
    Green Bean recently posted..82 Ways to Avoid the LandfillMy Profile

  4. Who needs going to the gym when you have cast iron? I bought a few too and need to use them.
    Anna @Green Talk recently posted..6 Foods You Can Freeze! I Bet You Didn’t Know.My Profile

  5. Ha! Anna I’ll just keep lifting my cast iron.

  6. My cast iron skillets do not look so great right now. I need to try the leaning method and get them seasoned properly.
    Leigh (@greenforu) recently posted..Compassion For Those Who Live With Our Choices #1000VoicesMy Profile

  7. I have that same griddle! We use it a ton. It can be tricky making sure pancakes don’t burn because it gets hot so fast. Great for roasted veggies on the ridged side!
    Micaela @MindfulMomma recently posted..The Source for Organic Superfoods Snacks: Essential Living FoodsMy Profile

  8. Great info! I really should get a cast iron skillet.

  9. I don’t have any cast iron at the moment, but I was telling my husband not long ago that I wanted to get a cast iron frying pan. Now I know what to do with it when I get it 😉

  10. I truly believe I can cook anything in my cast iron skillet and my cast iron Dutch oven! Easily the most used pans in my kitchen that is stocked with stainless pots and pans…
    Cerissa recently posted..The Family that _______s TogetherMy Profile

  11. I remember buying my husband a cast iron griddle when we lived in NYC and carrying it a few blocks home and wondering why I had such an idea! We do love the cast iron griddle and skillet though.

  12. I have EIGHT iron pans: 2-10″, 2-8″, one each of 7″, 6″, 5″ and 4″, and I use them all. No separate griddle because my Wolf has one. I haven’t used anything but iron since probably the 80’s. Clean-up is easy: I usually accumulate several then wash all at once, dry on a low burner, THEN a bit of oil wiped around with a paper towel.

  13. I use my cast iron skillet for everything, from sauting to baking (in fact, I made a delicious chocolate cake it in tonight). It’s a great investment for the kitchen!

  14. I have one cast iron skillet and I LOVE it!

  15. One is all you need right Cathy?! I’ve had one for a few years and I love mine too. Just added a few more to the mix.

  16. What a great idea Kimberly. I never thought to bake a cake in mine. Love it!

  17. Sounds like you have quite a collection Rick. I love that your range has a built in griddle. Great idea to save up a few and wash all at once. The low heat trick works incredibly well.

  18. They are heavy Tamara-I can’t imagine carrying my griddle a few blocks!

  19. I hear you Cerissa-I have so many stainless pots and pans and I’m finding that the cast iron is used much more frequently.

  20. The perfect gift for you Robin-although a cast iron pan isn’t the most exciting gift! I think you’ll love it.

  21. We haven’t had a problem yet with burning pancakes Micaela-but good to know! Great idea to roast veggies on the other side.

  22. It’s pretty easy to whip them back into shape Leigh. I’ve let them go before and then wiped them out with a little oil. Good as new!

  23. I’m not disagreeing with you Green Bean. Cast iron is a bit more effort. If it’s not for you stick with the stainless. I get it!

  24. Cleaning isn’t so bad Sara-and I’m pretty lazy when it comes to dishes!

  25. Thanks Sommer!

  26. Great review, having studied interior design a small area of study was materials and finishes. As far as toxicity goes the K.I.S.S. rule seems to rule. Glass, clay, natural fibres, iron, wood and porcelain are all great choices for the kitchen…switching over to cast iron pots and pans at our home too!

  27. Thanks for the great tips! I pinned the post for later especially for the tip on cleaning my pan with Kosher salt! I’ve looked up a number of different ways to clean a seasoned pan but hadn’t run across this yet. Thanks!
    Leticia- Tech Savvy Mama recently posted..Encouraging Young Animal Lovers Towards Career in Zookeeping with TailsUp! and Advice from a National Zoo ZookeeperMy Profile

  28. […] posts I really enjoyed include Everything You Need to Know About Cast Iron, 4 Gadgets to Help You Through a Snowstorm, and Getting to Know Your Oatmeal: The Different Types […]

  29. […] steel and cast iron are at the top of my list for safe baking alternatives to Teflon and other non-stick […]

  30. […] For a great article on how to care for your cast iron skillet, check out Lori Alper’s blog here. […]

  31. […] For a great article on how to care for your cast iron skillet, check out Lori Alper’s blog here. […]

  32. You really need to look at some old cast iron. Lodge makes a great product. But back prior to the 1950s they made a better product. Lighter and a milled surface so it was super smooth and easier to clean. Look at Griswold and Wagner too. A lot of times you can go to an antique store and buy one for $25. Paying even twice that is worth it. You will not regret it.
    Marc recently posted..60 of the Best Cast Iron Skillet RecipesMy Profile

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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