Tuesday, September 22, 2009

cast iron cooking

benefits of cast iron

This weekend, I discovered the magic of cast iron cooking. I'm now hooked. I've been wanting to start cooking with cast iron for a few years now, and I even have an old cast iron skillet that I purchased at an antique store sitting in the bottom of my closet at my mom's house. I mean to bring it back to New York every time I visit home. Somehow, though, at the end of each trip, I talk myself out of lugging the hefty iron mass back across the U.S. in my suitcase, and the pan remains there, un-seasoned though not unloved, for another several months.

Enter Crate & Barrel. Mary and I have had a gift certificate from there burning a hole in our pockets ever since we moved into our apartment, and we finally got into the city to shop this weekend. With it, we picked up a french press for making coffee and herbal infusions, the Baked cookbook (oh yum), and a sizeable, pre-seasoned cast iron skillet. 

After a day of cooking together, my skillet and I are tight. It has far more benefits than I previously thought. My original desire for a cast iron pan was born from a need for cookware that could go from stovetop to oven, as we previously had none. That was only scratching the surface of this pan's great qualities. Cooking with cast iron is actually an excellent way to add iron to your diet, a nutrient which almost fifty percent of Americans, mostly women, lack. In addition, cast iron that has been seasoned is naturally non-stick and does not contain any of the carcinogens in modern non-stick cookware. Add to these qualities that it conducts and retains heat beautifully, and you can understand why I'm smitten.

So why isn't cast iron cookware more popular today? It's cheap, versatile, health-promoting, and makes delicious food. The thing about cast iron cookware is that it can last multiple lifetimes if you care for it properly. For marketers, this is a downside, because it means they sell fewer pans. For the rest of us, this is great. As long as you practice some routine maintenance, you can enjoy a lifetime of happiness with your new pan.

Unless the cast iron pan you buy is pre-seasoned, you must season it yourself before use. Calm down: it's not hard. Mark Bittman gives simple instructions here. You are then ready to cook. After cooking, just remember not to wash with soap. I use hot water and a hard-bristled brush to scrape off any left-behind food. Note that while most cast iron enthusiasts warn against using soap on your cast iron, others swear a mild soap is fine and, at worst, will only cause you to have to re-season it before the next use. After washing, dry the pan immediately to prevent rust and apply a thin coat of oil such as grape seed or coconut to the cooking surface, wiping away any excess. Store your cookware in a dry place, and you can look forward to a long and happy life together. 

frittata recipe

Now that cast iron has found its way into our home, I was finally able to make this frittata that I've been lusting after. I don't need to give you the recipe, as Tea has provided an excellent one here, which you can alter to your liking.



  1. First, let me compliment your photography! Especially the first one-- way to use depth of field! Also, I totally agree about cast iron. I have three cast iron pans that my mom got when she was 19 and now regrets giving to me when I got my first apartment. They are wonderful to cook with and truly last forever. I use them every day. I bake in the big one as often as I use it on the stove-- most recently I made peach upside down cake. Anyhow, welcome to the club. :-)


  2. I just remember my mother's pancakes tasting like iron when she used a cast iron pan. I guess I still fear that pan.... :) But I saw a fritatta recipe yesterday on the food network and wished I could overcome my fear for the sake of that recipe... we'll see...

  3. Louise,
    Thank you! I'm still working on all the tips you gave me. Really helpful. And peach upside down cake? How do you think that would transport to NY?

    No, iron pancakes do not sound good. I haven't had that problem at all. I'd say just be sure your pan is well-seasoned, wash it gently, and don't overcook things. Oh, and don't use it for acidic things like tomato juice or things with citrus. I say go for it! Face the fear!




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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009