Cast-Iron: Simple Quality
My belief is that anyone can cook just about any food with a few solid, basic items. While it can be fun and enjoyable to collect gadgets and whatnot, in the end, you're still going to need some good, durable cookware.
This post is something between a review and a revival: my choice of cookware, hands-down, is cast-iron. I've been a fan of cast iron ever since I started learning how to cook at 9 or 10 years of age. It's heavy, but it cooks better than a lot of other pans that are made out of aluminum or another lighter metal - and much better than any "non-stick" pan. When it comes to cast iron, I am a believer! (Can I get an "amen?")
Here are just a few of the benefits of cast iron:
- It's a great investment because it lasts and lasts - if you take care of it, your cast iron will outlast you. My dad (now in his 80s) is still cooking with a pan my grandmother used until shortly before she passed on almost 40 years ago. The pan is probably 70 years old, and works just fine. I plan on passing along my cast iron to my kids one day. Contrast this with a cheap non-stick pan at a quarter of the price that you'll replace within a year. This is frugality at its best - spend a little more, get a lot more out of it.
- Take it anywhere. You can use it on the stove top or in the oven... or over a camp fire. Cast iron takes it all in stride.
- Cast iron cooks evenly, and holds heat more efficiently than lighter metals. This means you can get the same great results with cast iron, every time.
- If you're worried about chemicals and such in your food, cast iron is better: it imparts healthful iron into your diet. Non-stick cookware's "non-stick" flakes off into your food, introducing God knows what into your body. For me, it's a no-brainer.
Now for "show and tell" - this is my current collection. If you want to see more specs or purchase, all of these pans are available on Amazon.com. Click on any image to get more information at Amazon.com:
My favorite go-to pan is my 12" Lodge cast iron skillet. I use it for everything from making burgers to scrambling eggs to making pasta sauce. Though pre-seasoned, you'll find it needs a touch-up once every 4-to-6 weeks depending on what you're cooking and how you wash it.
Another favorite of mine is this "chicken fryer." It's a deep skillet that's good for frying, but it can also be used for cooking rice or making a pot roast in the oven. It comes with a heavy lid that seals the pan up, meaning the cooking food won't lose all-important moisture and flavor.
I've had this 10-1/2" griddle for almost 20 years, and it's holding up very well. I mostly make pancakes for my kids with it, but it works for omelets, grilled sandwiches, and hotdogs, too.
I bought this one as a splurge many years back and haven't regretted it. It's double-sided: flat on one side and ridged on the other. If you're cooking steaks or chops, you can get a nice cross-hatch pattern just like in the steakhouses.
I had to throw this one in just for fun: a honking big cast-iron dutch oven my parents bought when I was a kid. You can plop it in a campfire and bake bread, hang from a tripod and make stew, or over a gas cooker for a fish fry. It's between 40 and 50 years old, and you wouldn't know it just from looking.
That's it! If you're not a cast iron fan, I hope you'll give it a try.
What are some of your favorite long-lived cooking items? Let me know!