The Art of Cooking with Cast Iron Pans

The Art of Cooking with Cast Iron Pans

The Art of Cooking with Cast Iron Pans: From Professional Chefs to Home Cooks

Published on March 12, 2023 by

Cast iron pans are more than just kitchenware; they are a testament to culinary history and a versatile tool that promises unmatched flavor and technique. From professional chefs to home cooks, these pans have always had a devoted following. They are deeply rooted in culinary traditions and their popularity is only growing in modern kitchens. With the ability to hold and distribute heat evenly and transition seamlessly from stovetop to oven, cast iron pans are indispensable for a wide array of dishes. In this publication, we'll delve into the resurgence of cast iron in contemporary cooking, the unique health benefits it offers over non-stick pans, top brands to consider, and essential care tips including seasoning and oiling.

The Resurgence of Cast Iron in Modern Cooking

While non-stick pans and other advanced cookware have made their mark in the kitchen world, cast iron pans have seen a resurgence in popularity. They provide even heat distribution and can withstand incredibly high temperatures, making them ideal for searing, frying, baking, and even slow-cooking. This adaptability means a single cast iron skillet can be a multipurpose tool in the kitchen, taking you from stovetop to oven with ease.

Health Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron Pans

One often-overlooked advantage of using cast iron pans is the health benefits they offer over conventional non-stick pans. While modern non-stick cookware can be convenient, it often comes with its own set of health-related concerns. Below, we'll explore some of the reasons why cooking with cast iron can be a healthier option.

No Harmful Chemicals

Many non-stick pans are coated with synthetic materials like polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), commonly known by the brand name Teflon. When overheated, these coatings can break down and release toxic fumes. Cast iron, on the other hand, is free of chemical coatings. Its non-stick properties come from the natural seasoning process, making it a safer alternative for those concerned about chemical exposure.

Iron Supplementation

Cooking with cast iron can actually contribute to your daily iron intake, an essential mineral needed for oxygen transport in the blood and muscle function. Foods that are acidic or cooked for longer periods have been shown to absorb more iron from the cast iron surface. While this shouldn't replace dietary iron sources or supplements for those who need them, it is a nice additional benefit.

Durability and Longevity

Non-stick pans tend to wear out faster, especially if the coating starts to peel or gets scratched, posing another health concern. In contrast, a well-seasoned and well-maintained cast iron pan can last for generations, reducing the need for frequent replacements and thereby contributing to less waste and consumerism.

Reduced Oil Usage

Once a cast iron pan is well-seasoned, its surface becomes naturally non-stick. This allows for cooking with less oil, which can be beneficial for those looking to reduce their caloric or fat intake. Keep in mind that you'll still need to maintain the seasoning by occasionally oiling the pan, but this is generally a small amount and a different process from adding oil for cooking.

The Best Brands and Manufacturers of Cast Iron Pans

Over the years, several brands have distinguished themselves in producing quality cast iron pans:

  1. Lodge: As one of the oldest and most recognized cast iron brands in the U.S., Lodge has been crafting their pans since the late 1800s. Known for its durability and affordability, Lodge pans often serve as a great entry point for those new to cast iron cooking. Currently, we favor skillets from Lodge based on their longstanding reputation and performance. However, we are continually researching and are optimistic that reviews of other brands could potentially change our position in the future.
  2. Le Creuset: This French brand is synonymous with its enamel-coated cast iron cookware. While pricier than Lodge, Le Creuset offers a colorful array of pots, pans, and Dutch ovens that combine traditional cast iron performance with a modern aesthetic.
  3. Staub: Another French player in the cast iron arena, Staub is renowned for its dark interior enamel, which is perfect for browning and searing.
  4. Field Company: A modern entrant, Field Company focuses on creating lighter and smoother cast iron skillets. They marry traditional techniques with modern innovations.
  5. Finex: With its distinct geometric design and coil handle, Finex offers a modern twist on cast iron. The polished surface and unique octagonal shape set it apart.

Cast Iron Pan Care & Cleaning

The longevity and performance of a cast iron pan largely depend on its care. Here's how to ensure your pan serves you for years, if not generations:

  1. Seasoning: A cast iron pan requires seasoning – a process where fat is heated on the pan until it polymerizes. This forms a protective and non-stick layer. While many pans come pre-seasoned, maintaining and re-seasoning occasionally is crucial.
  2. Cleaning: After cooking, it's best to clean the pan while it's still warm. Use a brush or scraper to remove any food bits. For stubborn residue, a paste made from kosher salt and water can act as a gentle abrasive. It's advisable to avoid dish soap and harsh scouring pads, as they can strip the seasoning.
  3. Drying: Rust is the enemy of cast iron. Always dry the pan thoroughly after washing. It's even recommended to place it on a low burner for a few minutes to evaporate any residual moisture.
  4. Oiling: Once the pan is dry, apply a light coat of vegetable oil or any other neutral oil to its entire surface. This helps maintain the seasoning and protect against rust.
  5. Storing: Store your cast iron in a dry place. If stacking with other cookware, place a paper towel in between to prevent scratching and moisture buildup.

Seasoning and Oiling Cast Iron Pans

Canola Oil

Canola oil is a popular choice for seasoning due to its neutral flavor and high smoke point, typically within the range of 400°F to 450°F. It is easily accessible and relatively inexpensive, making it ideal for regular upkeep.

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats and has a high smoke point, typically within the range of 390°F to 420°F, which makes it suitable for seasoning. It is also praised for its light texture, allowing for a smooth, non-greasy layer on your pan.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil has one of the highest smoke points among cooking oils, around 520°F, making it an excellent choice for seasoning your cast iron. Its rich content of monounsaturated fats contributes to a durable seasoning layer, and its neutral flavor profile won't interfere with your culinary creations. It's a premium oil, so it may be a bit more expensive than other options but offers high-quality results.

Safflower Oil and Sunflower Oil

Both of these oils are similar in that they are flavorless and have high smoke points, typically within the range of 440°F to 450°F. They are less common but work well for seasoning if they're what you have on hand.

Peanut Oil

Although commonly used in deep-frying, peanut oil's high smoke point and neutral profile make it another suitable candidate for seasoning your cast iron cookware. Its smoke point is generally around 440°F to 450°F

Vegetable Oil

This is often a blend of several different types of oils and is usually on the neutral side, both in terms of flavor and smoke point. Generally, the smoke point for common vegetable oil ranges from approximately 400°F to 450°F. It's a good all-around choice if you don't have any of the above specific oils available.

Corn Oil

Corn oil has a mild flavor and a high smoke point of approximately 450°F, making it a good option for seasoning. However, it's less commonly used for this purpose compared to the other oils listed here.

Crisco Shortening

Crisco Shortening is an old-school choice that many cooks swear by for seasoning and oiling cast iron. It has a high smoke point, generally around 360-370°F, ensuring that it can withstand the heat needed to polymerize and form a protective layer on your pan. Since Crisco is a hydrogenated vegetable oil (a solid fat), make sure to spread it thinly and evenly for the best results and to avoid any uneven or sticky layers. As with the other oils mentioned above, Crisco Shortening can also be used for both seasoning and regular maintenance oiling.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has a smoke point that can vary widely depending on its quality and type. Extra virgin olive oil generally has a smoke point between 325-375°F, which is lower than the other oils listed here. However, "light" or "refined" olive oil can have a higher smoke point, ranging from 420-470°F.

Because of the variability in smoke point and the fact that extra virgin olive oil can impart a strong flavor, it's generally not the first choice for seasoning cast iron. That said, it's not completely out of the question and some people do use it successfully, especially for maintenance rather than the initial seasoning.

It's worth noting that while the smoke point is an important consideration, it's not the only factor to take into account when choosing an oil for seasoning. The type of fats in the oil, its availability, and price are also considerations. For instance, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and has health benefits that could make it a more appealing choice for some people, despite its lower smoke point.

Oil Sprays

Oil sprays offer a quick and convenient way to apply a uniform coating of oil to your cast iron cookware. Brands currently offer sprays for canola oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, and olive oil. With a simple press of a nozzle, you can easily cover the entire surface of the pan, even getting into those hard-to-reach corners and edges. While some sprays may contain additives or propellants that are considered safe for consumption, there are also options for pure oil sprays that avoid such substances. Whether you're in a rush or simply prefer the ease of a spray, these cans can be a handy tool in your cast iron maintenance arsenal.

In Conclusion

The charm of cast iron pans lies in their simplicity, durability, and versatility. From searing a steak to perfection, to baking a flawless cornbread, their prowess is undeniable. With brands ranging from historic to modern, there's a cast iron pan for every kitchen and every cook. Proper care, which includes both initial seasoning and regular maintenance oiling, ensures these culinary companions not only assist in making delicious meals but also stand the test of time. Seasoning creates a durable, non-stick layer that enhances the pan's cooking performance, while regular oiling maintains this layer, protecting the pan against rust and wear. The added health benefits—such as the absence of harmful chemicals, potential iron supplementation, and reduced oil usage—make cast iron pans a wholesome choice. Often becoming family heirlooms, these pans are treasures that improve with each use. As you experiment with recipes and techniques, you'll find that, like a fine wine, a cast iron pan only gets better with age.

End of Information

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The information presented on this webpage was prepared in collaboration with advanced AI technology with the aim of providing a thorough understanding of the topic explored, and it was meticulously researched, verified, and published by The goal is to publish distraction-free information and insightful product reviews tailored to those working in the restaurant and culinary industry, and those who simply enjoy the art of cooking.

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