WHY AND HOW TO BUY CAST IRON
You may already have a set of cast iron cookware, or you may be asking yourself, why should I invest in a cast iron pan? For the matter, why invest in a cast iron pan cookbook?
The unique properties of cast iron make it ideal for baking, sauteing, frying, slow cooking, and more. A well-made pan is virtually indestructible and when properly seasoned is nonstick. Iron is almost endlessly recyclable, so not only will it last you a lifetime, but you can feel good knowing it never has to end up in a landfill. A good pan will also add trace amounts of iron, a necessary nutrient, to your diet.
Cast iron heats slowly and holds that heat. It’s a bit of a myth that it holds heat evenly, though. The pan will always be hotter directly over the burner. ( You can sprinkle some flour in your pan and place it on a burner to see. The flour will darken first where the pan gets hottest.) To remedy this, consider purchasing a heat diffuser.
Recipes that are designed for cast iron take into account slower heating time and longer hear retention. Where glass will keep your baked goods light, cast iron is the choice for when you want a screaming hot pan for searing or a terrific golden crust.
The pans work on gas and electric stoves. They can go in the oven and can be used on induction burners and direct heat; outdoors, too, on a grill, hearth, or open fire. Many recipes in this site include directions for outdoor cooking.
At the most basic level, a cast iron pan is just that, a pan make of iron that was cast in sand-blast molds, then polished. The tools have been slightly upgraded, but the manufacturing technique is the same as it has been for hundreds of years.
When buying cast iron, you will notice that there’s only one major manufacturer left in America today, Lodge. However, there are several very popular vintage brands you can buy online or find at garage sales or thrift shops. Happily, there are also at least two very small craftsmen making pans to order. Finex in Portland, Oregon, and Borough Furnace in Syracuse, New York. They are worth seeking out.
Whether you decide to buy a brand new pan or go with something vintage, think about what shapes and sizes you need. Always remember the weight of a pan when purchasing. It is too heavy to pick up, you aren’t going to use it. Find a smaller size that will be used.
What are your thoughts on cast iron? Please leave us a comment.