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:
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.