Cast Iron Cookware: An 18th Century Solution in the High-Tech Era

Cast iron cookware has been used by people from around the world for generations. Indeed, it really can be said of cast iron cookware that it is an 18th century solution that remains ideally suited to the culinary needs of 21st century cooks and chefs. In short, cast iron cookware can be a perfect addition to any kitchen.

There are a variety of reasons why cast iron cookware is a solid selection. First, when contrasted with other types of materials used in cookware, cast iron provides both excellent heat diffusion and retention. Cast iron allows for efficient and even cooking of a wide array of different food items. After only a short amount of time working with a cast iron piece of cookware you will find that you are able to turn out amazing dishes with ease.

Second, as people have become ever more vigilant about what they put into their bodies, cast iron cookware is a good choice because it does not leech unhealthy metal into food. There are cookware items that have the potential to leech metals into food as it is being prepared which can be harmful in the long term. The fact is that even if a bit of iron is leeched into a food item as it is prepared with a cast iron cookware, this can be beneficial to people who might have a deficiency of this mineral.

Third, during these challenging economic times finding ways to save money is always an ideal course. Many cookware products can end up being very expensive, even beyond the average budget today. However, cast iron cookware is affordable. You do not have to spend the proverbial arm and a leg to obtain this type of product.

There is a process associated with cast iron cookware that is known as seasoning. Many regular users of cast iron cookware maintain that you should never really clean or wash cast iron cookware. Rather, they recommend that you should only wipe this cookware after use or wash these items out with hot water only. These individuals take the view that using more traditional washing techniques will remove the seasoning that accumulates through the use of the cookware.

As an aside, there are some people who recommend actually cleaning best cast iron cookware with some regularity to avoid grease left in the pan from becoming rancid. After the cleaning process, a layer of oil or fat should then be applied to the surface of the cookware.

With an ever increasing number of people taking up what commonly is referred to as “nesting” – spending more time at home – more meals are being prepared at home than has been the case in more recent history. Traditional home cooking has become “all the rage” in many sectors. Therefore, if you are a person who is spending more time with the family and engaging in more at home entertainment for friends, adding cast iron cookware can be an ideal choice for you.

Nothing is cast in stone, except perhaps the reliability and usefulness of cast iron when used in cookware. Its benefits have been enjoyed by man for centuries, from the ancient cauldrons and old-fashioned cooking pans to more modern skillets and cooking pots. Cooking tools and implements have also evolved over the years, and “cast iron technology” followed suit. Thus, it is no wonder how cast iron cookware sets have also come into existence.

The Basics on Cast Iron Cookware Sets
To begin with, let us understand what cast iron is. Cast iron is the result of melted pig iron mixed with carbon and silicon alloys. Technically, once the mixture solidifies, you’ll end up with 95% iron, give or take. These results in a material that are both versatile and malleable, characteristics that made it a favorite in industrial and manufacturing circles – cookware manufacturer, included.
Despite the introduction of more modern and high-tech cookware and other cooking implements, many people still recognize the power of cast iron. Cast iron cookware sets include the classic cast iron skillets, as well as griddles, grills, Dutch ovens and their accompanying lids and other accessories. That is a long way from our ancestors’ traditional cast iron skillets and griddles.

Features of Cast Iron Cookware Sets
Much of the charm of cast iron cookware sets lie on its exceptional heat retention and distribution properties. Let us break down the features of cast iron cookware sets.
Heat-resistance. More than “resisting” heat per se, cast iron cookware sets have the advantage of being able to hold its own no matter how high the temperature is. While other cookware sets made from lesser or weaker metals cave or crumple under too much heat, cast iron cookware does not have that problem.
Heat-retention. Instead of repelling the heat, cast iron cookware absorbs the heat and keeps it. Naturally, that is exactly what we want when we cook, because that means the food will be cooked thoroughly and much faster.
Even heat distribution. The use of a single piece of metal (cast iron) will result in the heat being evenly distributed throughout the pan, skillet, or griddle. When it comes to searing or frying, cast iron is the ideal choice. This also enables cast iron cookware to be usable as a stovetop cookware and an oven baking dish, saving many the cost of having to buy two sets of cookware.
Durability. Cast iron cookware sets are extremely durable. Our ancestors’ use of cast iron cookware over open fire gives you an idea of how sturdy and resilient it is. With the modifications and innovations brought on by modern technology in the manufacture of this cookware, it could only be tougher.
Downsides of Cast Iron Cookware Sets
Of course, it would be wise also to take note of the disadvantages of cast iron cookware sets.
Slow heat conduction. With cast iron, the conduction or transfer of heat is very, very slow. If you’re cooking with a cast iron pan or skillet, you have to exercise a certain degree of vigilance. Control of the temperature or heat is vital because, if heated too quickly, hot spots could develop, causing cooking problems with the food.
Extreme heat. Once heated, cast iron will become extremely hot. This means even the handles of cast iron cookware sets, when made with cast iron, will also be hot. To avoid accidents, most likely involving burning or scalding, use the proper kitchen tools or supplies for handling these types of cookware.
Effects of iron. It is a given that, when cooking with cast iron cookware, small amounts of iron will manage to find its way into the food. Those who have allergies or health problems related to iron excess will have issues with this. However, those with iron deficiencies will benefit from it.
Special Notes
There are special things to note about cast iron cookware sets. Bare cast iron, as mentioned, is prone to rusting and sticking of food to the surface, leading to great difficulty in cleaning and maintenance. Now, some modifications and innovations have been made to eliminate such usual problems.
Seasoning. Since bare cast iron has a tendency to have a sticky surface, it is important for cast iron cookware sets to be seasoned. Seasoning is the process of coating all surfaces of the cookware with polymerized oils and fats (mostly vegetable oils or animal fat) to make it resistant to sticking and rusting, as well as serve as a shield against trace amounts of iron getting into the food. This process is often done repeatedly over time to ensure the non-stick properties of the cookware are retained.
Enamel coating. Enamel cast iron cookware sets have also become popular over the years. The introduction of enamel coated cast iron cookware has eliminated the need to season the surface of the cast iron pans since the enamel coating pretty much takes care of it already. The enamel coating also makes it much easier to clean than the merely-seasoned pans.
Cleaning and maintenance. Usage, cleaning, and storage of cast iron cookware sets is not something to be taken lightly.
Before cooking put a small amount or thin coat of vegetable oil or shortening on the surface. This is to ensure no sticking.
After cooking, wash with warm to hot water and a stiff brush, soap, paper towel, or rag, depending on the amount of food debris it has.
Never use harsh detergents because they can damage the seasoning.
Never use hard brushes or scouring pads, most especially in enamel coated cast iron cookware sets.
After washing, wipe down or dry with a towel. Store them in a cool, dry place, and with the lids and covers separated, so as to aerate them and prevent rusting.
Cast iron cookware sets are highly likely to last you a lifetime, maybe even more. With the proper care and maintenance, future generations might still be able to have a use for them, just as most of us are still enjoying the benefits of the odd cast iron skillet of our grandmother.