From cooking magazines to instagram, cast iron skillets seem to be popping up everywhere recently. So why use cast iron? Is it really superior or just for the appeal? Here are my top reasons for why you should use cast iron.
Cast Iron Skillets Last Forever
Cast Iron is incredibly resilient, tough metal. Unlike mainstream pans, cast iron skillets have very long lives if they are taken care of. Some people even report having cast iron skillets in their families for multiple generations. They’re less likely to break, can withstand higher temperatures, and their seasoning prevents scratching.
Even when damaged, cast iron skillets can be recovered. Even a rusty cast iron skillet can be brought back to life by removing all the rust and re-seasoning it. It’s true that cast iron stands the test of time.
They’re Great for Searing
Searing is an essential step to create and retain flavor in meat, but it can only be achieved by reaching a temperature high enough. Cast Iron is great for searing because it can withstand higher temperatures and retains heat really well. This creates an ideal environment for cooking meat as it promotes the maillard reaction (browning), giving cooked meat all it’s amazing flavors.
Cast iron also emits heat much better than other pans. Cast iron has a high emissivity rating, meaning that it cooks more than just the surface of the food that’s in contact with the pan.
It’s Versatile in the Kitchen
Anyone else sick of searing on the grill just to put food on a separate pan in the oven? A cast iron cookware reduces the amount of cookware needed in the kitchen. Because it’s 100% metal, it can be used on any heating system, from the stove top range, to the oven, to hot coals or a fire. You can even move it from one to the other with ease.
Since cast iron is only made of iron, you don’t have to worry about the handles melting or enamel cracking when transitioning from one cooking surface to another. One thing that always bothers me in the kitchen is having different pieces of equipment for different things. It adds to landfill waste, takes up storage space, and can make a bigger mess when cooking. That’s why I personally prefer equipment that has multiple functions, making cast iron the most reliable piece of cookware.
Cast Iron Skillets Heat Food Evenly
As mentioned above, cast iron has an incredible ability to retain heat, emit it, and sear. This also allows it to cook food evenly as opposed to other forms of cookware. However, in order for it to cook evenly, you do have to make sure that it’s fully heated before using it. It’s thick material does require more time to heat up than conventional pans, but the overall benefits of cast iron still outweigh this minor inconvenience.
It’s Super Easy to Clean
Cast iron is super easy to clean because you barely have to clean it.
DO NOT wash your cast iron skillet with soap, water, steel wool, or the dishwasher. These things remove the seasoning on cast iron and make it rust. Instead you can use a stiff brush with a little kosher salt to simply remove the pieces of stuck-on food. Then, give it a quick rinse or wipe with a towel. That’s all!
The first few times you use a new skillet, it may be a little hard to get off those food particles. But the amazing thing about cast iron is that it gets easier to clean over time. As you continue to cook with it and season it, the seasoning gets stronger and less permeable, making it much easier to clean.
Cast Iron is Non-Stick
Cast irons natural seasoning makes it naturally non-stick. It’s typically seasoned with an oil, which when heated polymerizes creating a non-stick surface. As the pan is used more, the oils continue to polymerize strengthening this non-stick surface. This is why cast iron typically has very loyal owners. Not only does it stand the test of time, but it truly get’s better with age.
You Can Find Cast Iron Really Cheap
There are plenty of great cast iron skillets in stores but honestly I don’t see much of a need to buy those! Used cast iron is perfectly good and even if it’s a little rusty can be easily recovered with proper removal and re-seasoning. You can find cast iron from friends, buy nothing or zero waste groups, tag sales, or consignment stores. Although it may feel unnatural, trust me when I say you can trust used cast iron without a problem.
Should You Buy Traditional Cast Iron or Enameled?
Enameled cast iron has become more popular it’s modern, more attractive, and claims to naturally non-stick without needing any seasoning. However, American Test Kitchen did a great equipment review comparing the differences.
They found that traditional cast iron consistently had a 100% non-stick effect. While many enameled cast iron skillets stuck to foods like corn bread and fish. America’s Test Kitchen also found that traditional cast iron skillets become even more resistant to sticking over time, while enameled remained unchanged. In addition, they could that enameled cast iron started to crack at high temperatures, while traditional cast iron remained unchanged.
Good enameled cast iron also often comes with a cost. Products with a longer life expectancy typically come at a much higher price. While cast iron skillets can be found for a couple bucks at a tag sale and don’t vary in quality.
Whichever is best for you depends on your needs. I know plenty of people who would rather fork over the money for enameled cast iron because they’re intimidated by seasoning. But I also think overall a traditional cast iron skillet is more economical, less expensive, more versatile and durable, and contributes less to the waste cycle if bought second-hand.
Recommended Traditional Cast Iron Skillet
If you’re looking to buy a new traditional cast iron skillet, I recommend the two below. But remember, you can probably always find it second-hand! You might even find an extra from a family member.
15 1/4 inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet
This pre-seasoned skillet is a few inches larger than most, giving you a little extra room. Click here to purchase.
Lodge Double-Handled Skillet
This double-handled skillet can be found in either 10.25 inches or 12 inches. The quality is the same as any other cast-iron skillet, but some may prefer it’s double-handles.
Recommended Enameled Cast-Iron Skillet
Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Skillet, 11.75″
Le Creuset’s Signature Cast-Iron Skillet has received amazing reviews time and time again. Compared to other enameled skillets, it tends to be more resistant to chips, cracks, and changes in temperature.
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