Cast iron cookware is either loved or totally disliked by the common public and cooks in particular. For centuries, the primary reason behind choosing cast iron cookware was its potential to retain heat and at the same time, offer hardiness. Although cast iron is not a recent invention, it continues to be a fickle beast for many of us to date.
There are several lucrative features provided by cookware made from cast iron. Such equipment offers properties that are a necessity for an everyday user. For instance, the ability to retain high temperatures is of utmost priority for many and is one of the number one pointers of cast iron cookware. However, just like other utensils, cast iron cookware also has some demerits such as being heavy to handle and prone to rust.
What Is Cast Iron Cookware?
Made out of heavy-duty, cast iron cookware is well-known for its durable nature, the ability to retain heat, the potential to maintain a consistent temperature for a longer duration of time, and non-sticking cooking provided it is properly seasoned. Seasoning also serves another function of ensuring that the bare cast iron has little to no chances of rusting. There are several types of cast iron cookware to choose from. Some of the most commonly opted options include frying pans, deep fryers, dutch ovens, waffle irons, woks, karahi, crepe makers, griddles, and flat top grills.
Cast iron cookware is generally opted for frying or searing primarily because of its ability to retain relatively higher temperatures. Since this type of cookware has the tendency to develop a non-stick surface when looked after properly, it is also an ideal option for preparing stir-fries or frying potatoes. Some cooks also hold that cast iron cookware gives an added taste to cast iron cookware while others vote against this stance.
In addition, cast iron can also serve the purpose of baking, such as cakes, cornbread, and cobblers. Pans made out of cast iron tend to be thicker than similar pans that are made using other materials. It is important to note that cast iron is a poor conductor of heat. As a result, there are strong chances of uneven heating if the pan is heated too quickly or you use an undersized burner. Various favorable traits of cast iron allow it to store heat for a longer period of time than stainless steel pans, aluminum, or copper.
Cast Iron Cookware Pros
Cast iron cookware offers several advantages. Some of the most common ones have been listed below:
Any cookware be it skillet or pans or cooker made out of cast iron is bound to have a long shelf life. This, therefore, ensures that you make a worthwhile investment and don’t need to frequently keep changing cooking equipment.
It is often said that cast iron cookware can last longer than you do. And this statement undoubtedly holds true. In fact, cast iron tends to improve with age. Although cast iron cookware that is manufactured these days has a lower quality than the one in the earlier times, they continue to be one of the most important cookware in the kitchen.
A single piece of equipment made out of cast iron allows an individual to saute, sear, simmer, and even bake various food items. If you have a compact kitchen space or wish to reduce the number of pans and pots, cast iron cookware is a worthwhile purchase for you. If you have a good skillet, you can almost cook anything in it. The versatile nature of cast iron cookware enables it to cater to a wide variety of consumers and also acts as necessary equipment for outdoor cooking.
The biggest advantage of cast iron cookware set is that they tend to be inexpensive and therefore, is not at all heavy for the pocket. We live in a period where people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars just for a knife. In such an environment, being able to purchase equipment as versatile as cast iron cookware for less than $30 is a blessing.
High Heat Tolerance
When compared with other materials, cast iron cookware tends to have the highest retention of heat. While metals like aluminum undergo a significant temperature drop when food is added to the pan, cast iron is the opposite. Once it has reached a stable temperature, cast iron will retain the heat even when food is added to it. Now, this is an important feature for cooking equipment primarily because a hot pan that maintains a higher temperature allows consumers to enjoy a crisp, brown crust. This is not only the case for stovetops but also for the oven.
Excellent Heat Retention
Cast iron cookware has the potential to retain high temperatures for a relatively longer duration of time. Therefore, if properly seasoned, cast iron cookware ensures that your food is evenly cooked.
Compatible With All Cooktops
For any type of cooking equipment, you are often advised to use a particular kind of cooktop. Luckily enough, this is not the case for cast iron. You can use cast iron cookware on any cooking surface. That being said, cast iron cookware can also be used on induction cooktops.
Cast Iron Cookware Cons
Needs To Be Seasoned
To make your cast iron pan non-stick, you need to help it to build a layer of seasoning. Although many manufacturers today offer pre-seasoned cast iron cookware, they still require some level of seasoning from the user. Luckily enough, if you know the basics of seasoning, it won’t be an issue to cook something as basic as eggs.
Remember that when you are building up a good base of seasoning, the pan will be more prone to rusting and thereby, interacting with foods that contain acids. Acidity can ruin the taste of your food by giving it a metallic taste. Nonetheless, once there is a good layer of seasoning, you don’t have to be bothered about making acidic foods in it.
Prone To Rust
Cast iron is prone to rust. When cast iron cookware is seasoned properly, the oil is absorbed into the surface of the cookware. As a result, the cookware becomes impermeable to water.
Cast iron cookware is not a light pack. Most of the cookware made out of cast iron is quite heavy and therefore, it can be slightly difficult to maneuver. To lift a cast iron cookware out of the oven, you will need both hands. In addition, you need a big sink to clean such cookware. Therefore, the weight and the size of the cleaning sink must be taken into consideration before making a purchase. Analyze the pans at the store before you opt for one.
Cast iron cookware often has a pebbly bottom surface. These cookwares are not seasoned properly and therefore, can be slightly difficult to cool upon.
Many chefs hold that cast iron cookware which is seasoned brings about a change in the flavor of acidic foods. For example, seasoned cast iron cookware alters the taste of tomatoes, giving off a metallic taste. This is primarily the result of the iron which is transferred to these food items.
The problem of food sticking is one that is commonly reported with regard to cast iron. This problem can, however, be avoided by ensuring regular use, correct cleaning procedures, and the seasoning of cast iron as soon as the food starts to stick will resolve the problem.
Can’t Use It to Boil
Cast iron cookware can’t be used to boil. The reason behind this is that when you allow anything to boil in cast iron, the seasoning tends to be released. As a result, you might either have patchy seasoning or uneven seasoning left on your cast iron cookware.
Difficult To Clean
As discussed already, cast iron cookware is heavy. Therefore, it becomes difficult to clean it especially if you have a limited cooking space.
Although cast iron does wonders when it comes to retaining heat, it is not a good conductor of heat. A cast iron pan will heat very unevenly if you are making use of a burner that is smaller than the size of the pan. The part of the pan that is directly on the burner will heat more than the edges of the cast iron pan.
Because cast iron cookware is manufactured from a single piece of metal, the handle eventually gets very hot. This is especially true if you have been heating the pan in an oven. If you grab the handle with a painful hand, it will be an extremely painful burn. Always use mittens when you are using cast iron cookware.
It is, therefore, evident that cast iron cookware has several advantages to offer from durability to consistent temperature to affordability. But at the same time, there are certain drawbacks that must be taken into consideration, including the difficulty in cleaning, uneven cleaning, and chances of your food getting stuck to the cookware.
Almost every kitchen equipment today comes in a cast iron variant. Cast iron equipment requires maintenance. If they’re properly maintained, trust me when I say this: they will last a lifetime.