Cast iron pans are a type of cookware made from cast iron, which is known for its durability, heat retention and even heating properties. You can use cast iron on a variety of heat sources, including stovetops, ovens, and grills, and can withstand high heat.
Cast iron is great for evenly cooking food and for adding iron to the diet. They do require some special care, such as being seasoned and cleaned carefully to prevent rust, and should be dried and seasoned with oil after each use.
Why is Cast Iron better?
Cast iron pans can be better than regular pans for a few reasons:
- Heat retention
- Even heating
- Adds iron to the diet
- Non-stick surface
Cast iron pans have excellent heat retention properties, meaning that they can hold and distribute heat evenly for a long time. This makes them ideal for cooking foods that require consistent heat, such as pancakes or fried eggs.
Cast iron pans heat evenly across the surface, allowing for more consistent cooking results. This is because cast iron is a good heat conductor.
Cast iron pans are extremely durable and can last for many years with proper care. They can withstand high heat and are resistant to warping and scratching, making them a great long-term investment.
Cast iron pans are suitable to use on a variety of heat sources, including stovetops, ovens, and grills, which makes them a versatile option in the kitchen.
Adds iron to the diet
Believe it or not, cast iron pans can add iron to the diet. This occurs when they leach iron into food while cooking, and is generally safe for most people. You can read more about iron from cast iron pans here at the Foot Network.
With regular use and proper seasoning, cast iron pans can develop a natural non-stick surface that is suitable for low-fat cooking.
How are Cast Iron Pans Made?
Cast iron pans are made by melting iron and pouring it into a mold to shape it into a pan. Once it is cooled and solidified, the cast iron pan is removed from the mold and is ready to be seasoned and used for cooking.
How do You Season a Cast Iron Pan?
Seasoning a cast iron pan is a process of creating a natural, non-stick surface on the pan through the use of oil. The process typically involves the following steps:
- Clean the pan: Start by cleaning the pan with hot water and a stiff brush to remove any rust or debris. Make sure the pan is completely dry.
- Apply oil: Using a cloth or a pastry brush, apply a thin layer of oil to the entire surface of the pan, including the outside. You can use vegetable oil, canola oil, or melted shortening.
- Heat the pan: Place the pan upside down on the top rack of an oven preheated to 400°F (200°C). Leave it in the oven for one hour.
- Repeat the process: Repeat steps 2 and 3, two or three more times. This will help create a strong and durable non-stick surface.
- Store the pan: Once you season the pan, it is ready to use. Remember to always use oil or butter when cooking with cast iron pans to maintain the seasoning. After each use, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel, and store it in a dry place to avoid rusting.
It's important to note that with regular use, the pan will develop a natural patina that can act as a non-stick surface, meaning you will have to season the pan less and less over time.
Can Cast Iron go in the Oven?
Yes, cast iron pans can go in the oven. In fact, they are very versatile cookware that you can use on stovetops, ovens, and grills.
They are ideal for cooking dishes that require high-heat searing on the stovetop, and then finishing in the oven.
Keep in mind that cast iron pans can get very hot, so use oven mitts when handling them and make sure to preheat the oven before using the pan, to avoid injury.
Will Cast Iron Work on Induction Stoves?
Yes, cast iron pans can work on induction stovetops. Induction cooktops use a magnetic field to generate heat, and cast iron is a magnetic material, so it can interact with the magnetic field and generate heat.
However, not all cast iron pans are created equal, and some may not be as responsive to the magnetic field as others. To ensure that your cast iron pan will work on an induction stove, you should check the bottom of the pan for a magnet test. If the bottom of the pan attracts a magnet, it will work on an induction stove.
Additionally, you can also look for cast iron pans specifically labeled as "induction compatible."
Are Cast Iron Pans Safe?
Cast iron pans are generally safe for cooking as long as you properly season and maintain them.
However, if you do not properly seasoned or maintain a cast iron pan, it can rust and develop small cracks which can cause the pan to leach excess iron into food. This may be harmful for those at risk of iron overload.
If you notice any chips, cracks or rust on your cast iron pan, it's better to replace it.
How Do You Clean Cast Iron Pans?
Cleaning cast iron pans can be a bit different than cleaning other types of cookware. Here are some general guidelines for cleaning cast iron pans:
- Avoid using soap, instead use hot water and a plastic brush
- Scrape off any stuck-on food using a plastic brush
- Dry the pan thoroughly
- Add a thin layer of oil to the pan after drying
- Store in a dry place away from moisture
- Avoid putting the pan in the dishwasher
You can read our full write up on cleaning cast iron pans here.