So, why cast iron? Lots of good reasons.
- It’s non-stick without chemicals. (An overheated Teflon-type non-stick pan can produce noxious gases that can kill birds.)
- I don’t have to worry about damaging it (and possibly ingesting a chemical coating) if I scrape it with a metal utensil.
- It may increase the iron intake in our diet (though for people with hemochromatosis or very young children this could be problematic and they should NOT use cast iron.)
- It’s relatively inexpensive compared to fancy non-stick pans.
- Cast iron can last for generations. I plan on passing my cast iron to my kids (and maybe even grandkids) and hope they will cherish it for all the meals I made them in it.
- Because it will last for generations, it is probably the most environmentally friendly cookware available.
- It can be used on the stove then transferred to the oven.
- I think foods taste better cooked in cast iron. I know my veggie broth does. And I was about to retire my Creamy Potato and Mushroom Soup/Gravy because making it gluten and dairy free was so bland. Then I started cooking my broth and my soup in cast iron. Now my potato soup is a family favorite.
- Cast iron has been around for over two thousand years. It is a common thread I share with my ancestors.
- It looks cool.
- I love to teach. A lot of people are afraid of cast iron. I feel good every time I help people learn this lost skill.
There are downsides of cast iron, though they are not an issue for our family:
- They are heavy. Folks with decreased arm and hand strength may not be able to lift cast iron, especially the bigger pieces. My 9 quart dutch oven with lid weighs 23 pounds (I know because I carried it downstairs and weighed it on the bathroom scale. Then I carried it all the way back up the stairs.) My little melting pot that is too small for my uses weighs 1 pound 13 ounces.
- You can’t put them in the dishwasher. Until we moved, we went 15 years without an electric dishwasher. Our dishwasher was named Kevin (he’s still named Kevin, our new house just has an electric dishwasher, though we haven’t named it.) However, since cast iron cleans so easily, it’s never been an issue for us.
- It gives off iron. People with Hemochromatosis should not cook in cast iron. Talk with your pediatrician about using cast iron in children under three.
- Some people think flavors of prior dishes are passed onto the next food cooked in the pot. I haven’t found that to be too much of an issue. (Other people say they like that quality.)
- Retains heat so you must use caution until it has cooled to a safe temperature. (I use a silicone handle cover on all skillets and keep a basket of pot holders near my cooking area so I don’t accidentally get burned.)