Cooking with cast iron comes with benefits

Pictured is chicken in lemon butter sauce cooked in a cast iron skillet. (Photo by Zarah Parker)

The first time I used a cast iron skillet was more than a year ago to bake homemade cornbread.

Since then I’ve played around with cooking different things in it. And the more I use it, the more I hate using any other skillet.

I’ve discovered that for me, not only does food seem to taste better, it’s easier to cook. For example, it might be a little embarrassing to admit, but I used to have such a difficult time cooking chicken on a regular skillet. It would brown too quickly or not quickly enough. I think that had more to do with the heat source, and I was constantly having to adjust the burner.

When I switched to making chicken in my cast iron, the first thing I realized was I didn’t have to worry about adjusting the heat, which made me think the skillets might absorb the heat differently. But then I learned that cast iron doesn’t heat evenly. But once it’s hot, it’s hot, which makes it great for something like searing steak.

I’m a firm believer in using cast iron and I think every home should have at least one.

Cast iron will last a really long time if it’s taken care of properly. It’s something that can be passed down from generation to generation. And since it gets better and better with use, the secondhand cast iron is better than a new one.

And even if the cast iron isn’t properly taken care of, restoration is not out of the question.

What some people may not realize about cast iron is that it can naturally become non-stick when seasoned correctly, meaning users can eliminate oils or butter if they wish.

One way of seasoning a cast iron pan is to wipe it down with a cooking oil. Then bake it upside down in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Let it cool completely before removing it. Make sure to put something below the skillet to catch the oil that may drop off.

Another benefit to using cast iron is that it’s chemical free, making it a great alternative to other pans, especially ones touted as non-stick. Cooking with cast iron also adds iron to your food, which is most useful to people who have an iron deficiency.

When it comes to cleaning cast iron, I found there are different opinions. Some use warm water to clean. Then there are people who own cast iron that’s never touched soap or water.

I can’t say my cast iron has never touched water, but I know never to use any soap. Depending on what’s been cooked, it’s likely that everything in the pan can be wiped out easily. After cleaning, dry the pan and heat over medium to low heat until there is no moisture in the pan. Then lightly oil it with a paper towel until it looks dark and smooth.

If the cast iron pan develops rust, just scrub it away and season it again.

Some good oils to use on your cast iron include flaxseend, sunflower, soybean, corn or canola.

Just think, with a little work on a cast iron skillet, there would never be a reason to buy another.

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