Sustainable Dharma

Finding Dharma in a Sustainable Lifestyle

Why I Cook With Cast Iron

This is the first post of 3 about cast iron

For Part 2 Cast Iron Cleaning, restoration, and care and Part 3 Cooking with Cast Iron

I think everyone should use cast iron, but it helps to understand it!

I grew up using cast iron. In my family it is handed down through generations.

By the time I was 10 I knew how to clean it as well as my dad, 16 I was restoring pans that people didn’t want anymore. When I turned 18 and had my own apartment I was already trying to talk my dad out of his cast iron.

My dad will not part with his pans, but he did buy a whole set of new ones for me. Now I had never seasoned new pans before, and honestly I hate dealing with new pans, even now.

Over the years I found we were using the cast iron pans less and less. Most of that came down to the fact that I am the only one in the house familiar with the care and cleaning. With the news of multiple family members being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s we decided we needed to make some changes to hopefully prevent this in ourselves.

All aluminum in the house is going! This meant time to toss out the Teflon and dig out the cast iron! Since I only have limited pans and I hate new pans, I went online looking for local people trying to get rid of their old cast iron.

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This turned out to be easier and cheaper than expected!

I got 6 pans for $26 and another 2 for 10$ this weekend!

Buying old ones means restoring them, and I will be posting a photo tutorial. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes you will be scrubbing and cussing for a week.

So what is the real values of cast iron?

  • As long as it is cared for and is a good quality, it will last forever. Like seriously I have a pan that has been passed down from 4 generations, and I just got a pan that I can not pinpoint the date on, but know it was made before 1900
  • It will add Iron to your diet, and prevents anemia. The whole time I was pregnant I never needed iron pills.
  • Once it is well seasoned it’s more non stick than Teflon. Also you don’t have to worry about fumes or scratches.
  • Goes from the stove top to the oven flawlessly. It never goes to the dishwasher though! With proper care you may only need some oil and a towel to clean it.
  • One less aluminium item in your house! (Aluminium is linked to Alzheimer’s)
  • It is cheaper over all. Cheapest if you buy used and abused and fix it up! I just got 6 pans for $25!!!!
  • It can be used over any heat. If you are in a survival situation you can cook directly over fire with no harm done. (It may form a carbon “ick” that is hard to clean off later.)
  • You use less oils and fats in your food, once it is well seasoned. Until then a lot of the oils and fats absorb into the pan. A good season is really years of oil cooked into the metal.

The Part That Sucks

I love cast iron, and have used it all of my life, so I can easily look past the annoying aspects. I realize there a lot of people who don’t feel the same way. After a while though, it will just become second nature.

  • You HAVE to season it. Although you can do the initial season in a short time, it really takes years of regular use to get a good season. This is another reason I prefer getting used pans. It is easier to repair a season than start a new one.
  • Even after it is seasoned, it takes time to build a good season. If you buy new pans it could be years before it is non stick.
  • Cast Iron is heavy. It is solid iron after all. Even moving the pan from the stove to the sink can be a chore. If you are using a dutch oven, you may as well be lifting weights while you cook.
  • It gets VERY hot. Most people says it distributes heat better but that is not true. Iron is a poor conductor, but it does hold heat well and a long time. Like anything else it will have the sweet spots and the spot closest to the heat will be the hottest. Once the whole pan gets hot, it tends to stay hot. This means at some point, you will grab a handle without thinking and burn your hand.
  • It requires lots of care. You need to clean it without soap, keep it oiled, and make sure it gets enough air.
  • Iron rusts. It is a fact of using it.
  • You have to keep it somewhere… it’s big, bulky and did I mention heavy? It likes to be hung, but I don’t have room for all that.

To me, it is worth the hassle. If it seems too much for you, at least give it a chance for a while. Who knows maybe you will get some mussels on your arms?

Stay tuned for Part 2! It will be about restoring and seasoning cast iron

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One comment on “Why I Cook With Cast Iron

  1. Pingback: Cooking in Cast Iron | Sustainable Dharma

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This entry was posted on January 21, 2015 by in Sustainable Living and tagged , , , , , .
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