04 Jan Cast Iron Cookware
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Cast iron cookware is incredible, strong, versatile and almost indestructible, which is why I love to cook with it. In fact, the pioneers of America needed something robust enough to cook with in any scenario possible, which is why cast iron was heavily used.
My cast iron selection is used regularly in the wood fired oven, on open fires, on the bbq, in the oven or on the hob. They are equally suited to all environments and with all metal parts it means they can be transferred from the hob to the oven etc without worry of damage like other pans might – things like plastic and wooden handles, even Teflon coatings don’t stand up well to high heat. I simply love the versatility that this material offers.
One of the benefits to all that weight and thickness of the cast iron is that it can hold a lot of heat, which translates to great sear marks for steak, burgers etc. Although a lot of manufacturers offer cast iron grates to get that perfect criss-cross steak look, I personally prefer a solid plate to increase the surface area being charred and all those lovely flavours associated with the Maillard reaction. Having a piece of cookware that can store so much heat is also great for serving food directly on or in. Placing a beautifully cooked dish into the centre of the table in a cast iron skillet looks great (as long as you place a heat-proof matt under it first!).
The range of cookware available is ever growing, there are plenty of different shapes and sizes of skillets, griddle pans, dutch ovens, roasting pans etc.
There are a few smaller UK manufacturers like Netherton Foundary, but there are larger manufacturers like Le Creuset and Lodge. I own a mix of equipment, but find that Lodge offers the best relative cost / quality ratio.
Although most come pre-seasoned these days, if you use the equipment enough to build up the seasoning (essentially a layer of oil that provides a non-stick layer and protection against rust) – a well cared for and seasoned pan can have similar non-stick properties of modern day equivalents.
It must be noted cast iron does have its critics however, it’s very heavy, which, although helps contribute to its robustness, does cause difficulty handling with some users. The seasoning must also be preserved to prevent food from sticking, this is easily done however.
Cast iron also requires a different sort of cleaning than other household pans. They are actually easy to clean (soap is a no-no!) but it’s getting into the different habit which is the biggest problem. The easiest way of cleaning is adding water to the cookware whilst still hot, gently scrubbing with a soft wire ball or pad, drying, and then applying a thin layer of vegetable oil before storing. Treat it like this and they’ll last generations!