Cast iron cookware is a type of kitchen equipment that is made from iron that has been melted and poured into molds to create cookware items such as skillets, Dutch ovens, and griddles.
Cast iron has been used for cooking for hundreds of years and is valued for its ability to retain heat and distribute it evenly.
Benefits of Cast Iron Cookware
One of the benefits of cast iron cookware is that it can be used on a variety of heat sources, including stovetops, ovens, grills, and even open fires. This makes it a versatile option for cooking and can be used for a wide range of recipes, from searing and sautéing to baking and braising.
Another benefit of cast iron cookware is that it can be seasoned. Seasoning refers to the process of coating the surface of the cast iron with oil and heating it to create a natural, almost non-stick surface.
This not only helps to prevent food from sticking to the cookware, but it also helps to create a natural patina that can enhance the flavor of food cooked in the pan.
Additionally, cast iron cookware is durable and can last for many years with proper care. However, it does require some maintenance to keep it in good condition.
This includes cleaning the cookware with hot water and a stiff brush, avoiding harsh detergents, and drying it thoroughly to prevent rust. It’s also not safe to put into dishwasher.
It’s important to note that cast iron cookware can be heavy, which can make it difficult to handle, especially for those with weaker grip. And also can be rust easily if not properly maintained.
Overall, cast iron cookware is a valuable addition to any kitchen because of its ability to retain heat, distribute heat evenly, and improve the flavor of food through seasoning. It’s best to choose a product that’s well-reviewed and also made by reputable manufacturer.
Disadvantages of Cast Iron Cookware
There are a few potential disadvantages of using cast iron cookware, such as:
- Cast iron is heavy, which can make it difficult to handle, especially for people with wrist or hand issues.
- It is not suitable for use with acidic foods, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits, as these foods can react with the iron and cause a metallic taste in the food.
- Cast iron is also not as non-stick as other types of cookware, such as Teflon or ceramic. It requires seasoning, and sometimes, a release agent like oil to prevent sticking.
- Cast iron is also not dishwasher safe. Cast iron cookware must be hand washed with hot water and a stiff brush and can’t be soak in soapy water for a long time.
- Cast iron cookware can rust, especially when exposed to moisture for long periods of time or if not dried completely after washing.
- It is not suitable for glass or ceramic stovetops as the heavy weight can crack the stovetop or the uneven bottom can scratch the surface.
- They are not as heat-responsive, and heat distribution may be uneven. Due to the thickness of the material, it will take a while to heat up, and also cool down
All that being said, many people still prefer to cook with cast iron because of its durability, heat retention and versatility. Also, with proper care and seasoning, many of these disadvantages can be mitigated.
Best Cast Iron Cookware Made in the USA
There are several manufacturers of cast iron cookware in the United States. Some of the most well-known include Lodge Manufacturing, which has been making cast iron cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, since 1896.
Also, Griswold Manufacturing, which was based in Erie, Pennsylvania, and produced cast iron cookware from 1865 to 1957.
Another well-know brand, which is still producing Cast iron cookware is named “Staub” based in France but they have production facility in the United States as well.
Many smaller companies also produce cast iron cookware in the USA, and you can find them through online search or visiting local cookware stores.
It is worth noting that there are also some manufacturers outside the US who make high-quality cast iron cookware, such as Le Creuset in France, which is well-known for its enameled cast iron cookware.
And as far as griddles, well this has been covered in-depth.
Cast Iron Enameling
Enameled cast iron cookware refers to cast iron cookware that has a layer of enamel, typically made from glass, applied to its surface. This enamel layer serves a few different purposes.
Firstly, it provides a non-stick surface that is easy to clean and doesn’t require seasoning like traditional cast iron cookware. This makes it a more convenient option for many people.
Additionally, the enamel coating can also help to prevent rust and other types of corrosion that can occur with traditional cast iron cookware. It also protects the cast iron from acidic foods and liquids that can react with the iron and cause staining.
The enamel coating also gives the cookware a smooth surface which makes it less likely to scratch or damage other cookware and kitchen surfaces.
Enameled cast iron cookware is often available in a variety of colors and designs, which can make it a stylish addition to any kitchen.
However, there are also some downsides to enameled cast iron cookware. One of the main downsides is that it can be more fragile than traditional cast iron cookware, and the enamel coating can chip or crack if the cookware is dropped or bumped. It also can’t be used over very high heat or open flame.
Another downside is that enameled cast iron cookware can be more expensive than traditional cast iron cookware.
Is Cast iron Enameled Cookware Safe?
Enameled cast iron cookware is generally considered safe for cooking. The enamel coating on the cast iron creates a non-reactive surface that doesn’t react with acidic foods, so it can be used to cook a wider variety of dishes than traditional cast iron cookware.
The enamel coating also eliminates the need to season the cookware, and it’s dishwasher safe.
The main concern with enameled cast iron cookware is the potential for the enamel coating to chip or crack over time, especially if the cookware is subjected to thermal shock (sudden changes in temperature) or dropped.
If the enamel coating becomes damaged, it can expose the underlying cast iron, which can then rust and potentially contaminate food.
Another point to consider, is that some enameled cookware may contain lead or other heavy metals in their enamel coating, although the levels of lead and other heavy metals are usually low and not considered to be a concern for human health.
But still, it would be best to check with the manufacturer of the cookware to know the specifics and confirm if their product is lead-free.
Cast Iron vs Non-Stick Cookware
Cast iron and non-stick cookware are two very different types of cookware, each with their own unique set of pros and cons.
Cast iron is a traditional cookware material that is known for its durability and heat retention properties. It’s heavy and can take a while to heat up, but once hot, it distributes heat evenly, so it’s ideal for cooking at high temperatures and for browning and searing.
Cast iron cookware also tends to be more affordable than other types of cookware. However, it requires seasoning before use and maintenance after each use to prevent rusting, and is not suitable for acidic foods or dishwashers.
Non-stick cookware, on the other hand, is known for its easy food release properties and minimal cleanup. Food doesn’t stick to the surface, which makes cooking things like eggs or pancakes a breeze.
It’s also very lightweight and easy to handle, which makes it a good choice for people with wrist or hand issues. Non-stick cookware is also dishwasher-safe, but generally not as heat-responsive or good for browning or searing. And, it tend to be more expensive than cast iron.
The coating can wear off with time and overuse, and long time use at high heat may release harmful toxins.
Overall, enameled cast iron cookware offers many of the benefits of traditional cast iron cookware with some added conveniences, such as a non-stick surface that doesn’t require seasoning, and protection against rust and staining.
It’s also more versatile than traditional cast iron cookware in terms of it can be used in various heat sources such as induction cookers and in the oven.
But it’s important to remember that it’s not as durable as traditional cast iron and can be more fragile. It also may not be suitable for high-heat cooking.