Friday, September 3, 2010

Cast Iron

I'm a bit of a cast iron freak. I've always loved cooking on it. It's big, heavy, substantial and it works. It's also energy efficient if you learn how to cook on it properly. The biggest problems with cast iron are that it's fairly expensive and there's some maintenance involved in taking care of it. These days it's really hard to find unseasoned cast iron at all. Most of it is factory seasoned and it's ridiculously expensive. I've done my share of cooking on factory cast iron finishes. They work well enough but in my experience they tend to wear or cook away pretty quickly. I'm not sure if it's from cleaning or what but if you treat your cast iron like a regular pan it will rust eventually. Whether you buy your cast iron pre seasoned or not you need to know how to take care of it if you want it to last. Luckily, cast iron is ridiculously easy to take care of. In fact, it takes care of itself if you use it regularly and cook with it as intended.

A few months ago I was at Harbor Freight. They had a 3 pack of unseasoned cast iron pans for about $14. I went ahead and jumped on them. Preseasoned pans are expenseive and you still have to take care of them like any other cast iron. Another option is to buy cast iron used but then you're contending with the possibility that some old guy snuck his wife's cast iron out to the garage to melt some fishing weights or bullets in 30 years ago. Cast iron does very very well at a lot of jobs but once you've got to be careful about what they've actually been used for. If you don't really know then you should probably stay away. Back in the day people didn't realize how bad lead really was so their cast iron would go back and forth between the garage and the kitchen. If you really trust the source of your used cast iron then by all means cook with it. If you bought it at a garage sale from some 80 year old couple then think twice about where it's been. There are home lead test kits available. Several local governments also have offices available to test lead contamination.

Short of a pressure cooker there's no better cooking implements to use to cook your food with than cast iron. It heats evenly and, while not quite as effective as teflon, it's hard to stick anything to cast iron when you cook correctly with it. It does take a little getting used to and it requires quite a bit of maintenance. If you cook the right things with it and you learn to use it as intended, though, it ends up being really easy to deal with. In the future I'll do some more about cooking with cast iron and keeping it maintained.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melting lead in cast iron cook pans?? I call B.S. It makes no logical sense for someone to do something like that. Sure, it could happen, but wouldn't you see the lead? Or, is it as invisible as the gulf oil spill that we can't see, but know is there?

The Urban Survivalist said...

It leaves enough residue to cause significant harm to people. It doesn't take much lead to screw you up. Then again it could just be another conspiracy!? Maybe lead actually makes us super smart and super strong!!

Anonymous said...

While I agree good cast iron cookware is not cheap I don't think it is really all that expensive. I have enough cast iron cookware to anchor the Queen Mary and I bought them one piece at a time when I had the extra cash. $30 for a nice big 5 quart chicken fryer is not too bad. It will last 100 years or more. My nice aluminum pots and pans are about 6 years old and won't last much longer before I have to buy a new set.
By the way I did cast wheel weight lead in a muffin tin. I kept it in the garage so no one would use it but you never know...

ralleywolf said...

I love cast iron, it's always my first choice. I avoid teflon coated pans like the plague, that coating is poison and it comes off into your food. No matter how carful you are, eventually the teflon comes off...

irishdutchuncle said...

we just got a large, lodge, cast iron skillet last month. (largest one i could fit on my camp stove) very nice. i found a cast iron dutch-oven, out by the dumpster, a few months back. nothing wrong with it, except a little rust. (it's amazing what people will just throw away) i'm just starting to get the "hang" of using them. i'd like to phase out the "non stick" stuff entirely.

before putting food into the pan, the pan should be hot. then add the cooking fat, right before adding the food. learned that from a cooking show. it works.

Jack said...

If I had my choice, in a survival situation, at a Bug Out Location, I think cast iron pots, and a good dutch oven are the only way to go. Heat and cooking efficiency are increased these items... I have a set of three pans and the dutch oven I speak of for home use. Love them all.

Anonymous said...

I have the 10" cast iron Griswald skillet that was a wedding present to my Grandmother. She used it until she gave it to my mother who used it until she gave it to me. I've kept it so far, but will eventually give it to my daughter with no obvious wear and tear except a good coating of carbonized seasoning that makes it slick as teflon. What else lasts 4 generations and more in our society?
PS, don't wash them in the dishwasher. You have to start over from scratch with the seasoning.