Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ode to the Cast Iron Skillet

There was a fantastic little article in the New York Times last week by the writer of gorgeous works, Jhumpa Lahiri, whose books I love.

She wrote about realizing the simple beauty and perfection of the cast iron skillet while summering on Cape Cod -- and I wholeheartedly agree with her.

A while ago, I was searching for alternatives to non-stick skillets, due to their total health hazardness and total non-eco-friendliness, and was finally swayed by my dear friend Winston into abandoning the non-stick toxicity and going for the classic, true non-stick skillet: cast-iron.

Part of a cast-iron's skillet's beauty is that it is so inexpensive and so easy to take care of: I got a Lodge 12-inch pre-seasoned (this makes all the difference!) cast-iron skillet for $24.95! You can't beat that price. (A hint: if you live near an REI, order it to be shipped to the store for you to pick up, to avoid paying for the -- literally -- heavy shipping costs.)

And a cast-iron skillet's care and handling is even simpler than any other pan: just never, ever use soap on it or set it to soak, and it will literally serve you loyally for decades. (Think I'm just talking out of my arse? Some of the first cast-iron skillets made more than 100 years ago are still in use! When Lodge says your children's children will be making cornbread in your cast-iron skillet, they aren't kidding.)

To wash, simply clean under slowly-running hot water as soon as possible after cooking, scrubbing with a soapless sponge (we use one that I've dedicated to my loyal cast-iron workhorse that has never had soap on it). Then make sure it's fully dry after washing (to prevent rust) by heating on your stove. Once it's totally dry, turn the burner off and your cast-iron skillet is good to go. Genius.

They're also very environmentally friendly: they are made of only one (duh) material, and that's it: no toxic chemicals or toxic production process.

And one thing Winston alerted me to, that even the brilliant Ms. Lahiri failed to mention, is that cooking in cast-iron actually boosts your iron intake! Especially if you cook with tomatoes (and then you're getting lycopene, which is even better!) or other acidic foods. (A side note: I don't notice a metallic taste when cooking with my skillet, ever.)

So there you have it: too many reasons to count why cast-iron cookware belongs in everyone's kitchen.

Do you have cast-iron? If not, why not? I used to be afraid of it and feared that it really wasn't 100% non-stick. Since taking the plunge, I can tell you that my fear was totally unfounded.


P.S. Ohmigod after spending way too much time perusing Lodge's site, I so want a Camp Dutch Oven someday, for camp cooking. How awesome. Okay and I also definitely want one of these someday. (Uh...yeah. Hubby is reading this going, "Oh GREAT. More kitchen stuff; just what we need." Hi honey!)

P.P.S. Why are this and this so cute? I want one. For what, I don't know. And then there's this, which is just too cute for words. Mini ears of cornbread! (Hi again, honey!)

4 comments:

  1. I love my cast iron pans! I've been cooking in them for about 2 years now because of my distrust of chemical nonstick coatings too. Some say they're too hard to maintain, but I disagree. They are the pans I use most often.

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  2. a. I love my cast-iron skillet, and I love that you love yours for the same reasons: minimalism, simplicity, natural materials, ease of use, health, history and lore, modes of use (sauteing, deep-frying, baking, roasting...) I even use it for omelets, crepes, frittatas, pasta sauces (and latkes as you know well) and stir-frying, and it's the only pan i bring for camping ( http://itsallinhishead.blogspot.com/2009/04/big-basin-getwaway-part-ii-food.html )
    b. thanks for the mention AND link, this will really get me posting again
    c. all the of those cast-iron things are cute (except the cornpone pane--for some reason that skeeves me out :-P ) and thought you might enjoy these others: bacon press (http://www.cajunbarbecue.com/Cast-Iron-Cookware/Cast-Iron-Accesories/Cast-Iron-Bacon-Press/), panini press (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002IBQVC/ref=asc_df_B0002IBQVC880690?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&tag=googlecom09c9-20&linkCode=asn&creative=380341&creativeASIN=B0002IBQVC), and waffle iron (http://www.amazon.com/Cast-Iron-Waffle/dp/B000KEJS5E) (which MY honey bought me...)

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  3. Made a nice curry in my cast iron pan last night but left some water in it. Nice pool of rust this morning...Thanks for the reminder.

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  4. I've got a Lodge and found that the pre-seasoned surface actually started chipping off after about a month of using it :o(

    Here's a discussion thread on how to handle that:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/545592

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