If you’re into cooking food, you might be considering why to use cast iron.
With other non-stick options like Teflon, why would you ever use cast iron?
What Is the Problem With Teflon, Exactly?
Teflon is just another name for a synthetic chemical, which is processed with other chemicals to make your non-stick surfaces.
These other chemicals are supposedly not present in significant amounts when the finished product is done.
(And we should all thoroughly trust the government to regulate what’s a “significant” amount of toxic chemicals and bleach in our stuff, right? Right.)
These chemicals break down in high temps and get into your food, and therefore, in your body. They are carcinogenic.
You ESPECIALLY need to stay away when the pan is scratched, because then the literal particles of Teflon and its fun gang of chemical friends are going into your food/mouth.
You need to throw these things out immediately if they are scratched (and even if they are not scratched, but baby steps, right?)
So Why to USe Cast Iron?
I was introduced to cast iron the same summer I was introduced to coconut oil so you can bet my summer was filled with fun adventures of getting used to all the perks of the cast iron and using the hell out of that coconut oil.
And, it was also filled with a ton of nachos and refried beans, thanks to a recipe out of a gluten-free book called Gluten is my Bitch by April Peveteaux, which was, coincidentally, also given to me that summer for my birthday.
ANYWAY. So, why to use cast iron?
- You can use it on the stove or in the oven.
- You do not have to wash it. At all. (Ok so you can wash it sometimes and maybe you even should when you cook meat in it but who am I to say?)
- It holds temperature really well, although it takes a bit more time to get heated up.
- You can do weight workouts with it when you’ve misplaced your dumbbells.
- You can club people with it and there’s a possibility they may not return from unconsciousness. Which comes in handy when you live alone in a cabin in the woods.
- It does not have nasty harmful chemicals in it that will give you cancer.
I first learned that I didn’t have to wash cast iron when I actually washed it and it rusted. I had to refinish it several times after that. LEARNING CURVE.
It’s easy to refinish a cast iron once you’ve royally screwed over your pan, so don’t worry. Another awesome reason about why to use cast iron. It’s virtually indestructible.
You just need some steel wool and some oil or fat. Cast iron does not need to be washed. I wipe mine out with a cloth when I’m done. Then again, I am also not cooking raw meats in there or commercial eggs which may have campylobacter or salmonella.
So, if you’re cooking these things in a cast iron, you might want to use just a little Dr. Bronner’s to rinse it out. You’re allowed to use a little dish soap, but only if it’s not tested on animals.
Cast iron holds heat really well, so after it’s heated up you need to turn that temp down to low most of the time. And don’t try and pick it up without a cloth or a potholder when it’s hot! Ooo baby.
Doesn’t Food Cooked In Cast Iron Stick?
Actually, if it’s been properly seasoned (oiled) and maintained, it doesn’t stick at all. A great reason why to use cast iron.
You DO need to use more oil than a Teflon pan, though. If you are not using enough oil, your food will stick.
To get the stuck food out, use kosher salt or your metal spatula.
Don’t soak it! Water and cast iron do not mix well (it’s ok to add water to the pan when cooking but it may alter the seasoning a little, making it more likely to stick).
There are a ton of tips and helpful sites out there to assist you with your first cast iron. Don’t be afraid! You should be afraid of getting cancer, not some silly heavy pan.
Where to Buy and Prices
You can get a medium-size cast iron for as cheap as $9.99 at T.J Maxx. I also found a big cast iron that I use when I’m cooking for more than one person at a flea market in Virginia for $10.
They do sell new ones for quite a bit of money, though. For your first one, I wouldn’t spend that much. Try to find something cheaper so you can experiment and you won’t feel entirely heartbroken if you’ve ruined it. Look and you will find when considering why to use cast iron.
NOTE: I’ve heard recently that commercial cast iron pans are sprayed with some type of chemicals to make them “seasoned”. I haven’t looked into this claim yet because both my cast irons have been so damn seasoned over my years of use that I’m pretty sure any chemicals have burned off. But check it out before buying…
I’m Not Into Cast Iron—What Else Can I Use?
There are other alternatives out there. You can use ceramic. Supposedly ceramic is cool. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet because the non-stick nature of it reminds me of Teflon, even though I know it’s NOT Teflon.
You can also use copper and stainless steel, but be aware these metals may be made with other metals and get into the food too. Look for high-quality stainless steel.
Glass and Corningware seem ok. I’ve also heard that the type of iron used in the cast iron pans is not great for the body either as the body doesn’t absorb it the same way as it would an organic iron.
Confusing, right? As long as I’m not using Teflon, I feel ok.
So there you have it. Give cast iron a try. These pans are cheap, virtually indestructible, and make amazing dishes that crisp like no other. Why would you ever go back to Teflon when you could have one of these gems?