Environmental In-Box: Cast Iron Cookware

For top-notch cooking without the worry generated by non-stick coatings, I turn to cast iron cookware. Here’s why:

What I Like:

  • No Nasty Chemicals – You get “non stick” without the nonsense of PFOA, the nasty chemical that makes Teflon easy to clean but also health threatening.
  • Great Cooking – Once cast iron is seasoned (a simple process), it cooks beautifully. I make lots of sticky stuff in my pans, like omelets, sautes, and stir fry. I use just a little bit of oil to lubricate the surface, then gradually heat the pan. It cooks like a dream.
  • Easy to Clean – The pan can be cleaned with hot water and the gentle scrub of a kitchen brush. It doesn’t need soap, but if you use it, go light. You don’t want to scrub away the surface seasoning.
  • Holds the Heat – If I’m cooking a soup or stew, I can turn the heat completely off ten minutes early and the heat in the pot will keep the ingredients bubbling along. That also makes it a great serving dish. You won’t have to worry about food cooling down immediately once it’s put on the table if you serve it in a cast iron pot. NOTE: If you don’t like the black hue of cast iron, you can pay a little more for enamel covered iron ware that will look very pretty on your table.
  • It’s Cheap – Given all its benefits, cast iron pots and pans are very affordable.

What’s Not to Like?

  • Cast iron is heavy. You’ll need two hands and a little bit of muscle to lift a full cast iron pot. I’m no body builder and I can manage it, so you probably can, too.
  • Don’t Air Dry – To avoid rust you should dry cast iron with a towel, rather than let it air dry. You can also set it on your stovetop, turn on the heat, and let it dry that way.

Product and price comparison:

Lodge is probably the best-known cast iron manufacturer, as well as the cheapest. Several other brands sell enameled cast iron, including Le Creuset. Staub, and Mario Battali Cookware.

Here’s what several consumers had to say about the various enameled cast iron lines available. If you don’t care about the color of the pans, the most economical choice is the plain cast iron from Lodge. Otherwise, shop sales (or ask for the fancier enameled cast iron for a birthday or holiday gift).

NOTE: Scanpan now produces Green Tek, a PFOA-free cookware line it claims is environmentally friendly. This looks promising, but the manufacturer’s claims have no third-party validation, and I haven’t tried it myself yet. Stay tuned.


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13 Responses to Environmental In-Box: Cast Iron Cookware

  1. Diane MacEachern October 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Kirsten, Thanks so much for sharing the info on Cuisinart Green Gourmet.

  2. Janet October 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    Another wonderful range of cast iron cookware comes from Japan. Oigen has been producing cast iron cookware since 1800’s. Steeped in family history and is still within the family.
    The NakedPan are hand made by artisans using 75% recycled cast iron, 25% new, are rust proof, great on induction, gas, electric, fire. Are also recyclable and naturally occurring non stick.
    Have cooked curries, piaella, stews, roasted vegetables and even a cake in my oven dish. Found you use less fat in cooking along with less heat.
    Does indeed save money and energy.
    Highly recommend the NakedPan

  3. Kim~www.getgreenbewell.com October 6, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    Totally agree with the health benefits of cast iron versus non-stick pans.
    Inexpensive cast iron pans, pots, etc. can be found through Macy’s. Their in-store brand of cast iron is inexpensive and easy to find.
    I’ve been using our Calphalon cast iron skillet bought at Target and it works great, too, and didn’t have to be seasoned.

  4. Diane MacEachern October 6, 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    Thanks for the Macy’s tip, Kim. I’m glad to hear you can get such a great bargain on cast iron there.

  5. Green Fundraising October 7, 2009 at 4:57 pm #

    I used both cast iron and non-stick. You are soooo right – I shouldn’t use non-stick. I love my Le Creuset products (although they can break the bank.) And I’m a girl in that way, I love all the fancy colors! It just makes me happy…. ha ha.

  6. Aaron Pike October 26, 2009 at 10:38 pm #

    I see you have failed the often forgotten original cast iron cookware brand. Wagner and Griswold cast iron cookware products are still manufactured in the United States of America. The intellectual property of the Wagner and Griswold brands is owned by the American Culinary Corporation. I encourage you to try one of our pans as they are still well coveted by many cast iron afficionados. The general public has been unaware of our existence in the marketplace, however the American Culinary Corporation is working hard to get products on a retailers shelf near you. Feel free to visit http://www.americanculinarycorp.com to learn more information.

  7. Pat October 29, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    Hello Diane,
    I use my grandmother’s Griswold pans. If she were alive, she’d be over 100 so you can see that cast-iron pans are a good investment.
    If your blog fans are buying pans, I hope they consider purchasing those made in countries that provide public education, free and fair voting procedures, protect human rights and outlaw child labor. Pat

  8. Melissa November 2, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    I see a lot of cast iron pans at the thrift store. Are all safe or should I only be looking for certain brands?

  9. kids supra December 26, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    Go for someone who makes you smile because it takes only a smile to make a dark day seem bright.

  10. Sam May 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Electric Skillet – We use cast iron when we are camping, maybe I should consider for everyday use. http://panfryingreviews.com/

  11. peter kenneth January 11, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    It’s an outstanding post !!! great!!!

  12. Tyler Jones January 11, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Good one! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Tyler Jones January 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Well done with the post!

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