I love my cast iron pans. At first I was not a believer, however my husband, being a lover of all things pioneer, decided to use his grandmother’s old cast iron pans we found in the garage. They were rusty and dirty. I thought for sure they would never work. I found the opposite to be true! We scrubbed them down, seasoned them and they turned out to be a staple for cooking in our household. In fact, the skillet and the griddle live on our stovetop.
While doing the research to find out how to care for my pans I found the history of cast iron to be interesting and noted there are even health benefits to cooking with cast iron! I also found something pretty alarming about the Teflon pans in my cabinet.
Historical highlights of cast iron.
- Cast iron pans were used as early as the Han Dynasty in China (206 BC – 220 AD) for salt evaporation.
- Cast iron cauldrons and cooking pots were used in Europe, before the introduction of the kitchen stove in the middle of the 19th century when meals were cooked in the hearth or fireplace.
- Cast iron dutch ovens, were developed with the onset of the Industrial Revolution.
Unfortunately cast iron was replaced in 1960’s and 1970’s, as Teflon-coated cookware was introduced.
Most people think that a cast iron pan requires extreme maintenance or is fragile due to the fact it needs to be seasoned. I have found that my pans are extremely easy to care for and are sturdier than stainless steel or Teflon coated cookware. They do not scratch or chip and the seasoning is easy to maintain.
Here is my simple seasoning recipe for getting a great non-stick surface on your pan.
- Wash your unseasoned pan in hot soapy water. If it is at all rusted then use a little steel wool and put some elbow grease into it. Rinse and DRY WELL.
- Coat your piece with a light coating of vegetable oil.
- Place your pan upside down onto a cooking sheet covered in foil and bake it in the oven at 350° for an hour.
- Turn the oven off and let the pan cool in the oven.
- Pull it out, wipe it down and presto– perfectly seasoned pan.
To maintain your pan simply wash it out immediately after each use. Oftentimes I only rinse the pan in very hot water and wipe it out. The food residue comes right off!
If you really need to clean it well simply use a small amount of soap. Remember to rinse and DRY well. Warm your pan, place a small amount of oil into your pan and rub it around. Put the pan back on the burner until the oil lightly smokes then turn it off and let it cool.
I know it sounds really weird to not scrub the pan with hot soapy water, however, the pan is protected by seasoning because of fat polymerization. The science is pretty cool if you want to nerd out on it check it out. (The link has a different way of seasoning using expensive flax seed oil. I find my method works well.)
Proven benefits of cast iron;
- Addition of dietary iron to the food. The longer the food is in the skillet the more it absorbs.
- 100% Chemical Free
- You can use less oil: A well-seasoned pan is practically non-stick, therefore you can use less oil and add less fat to your food
- Cast iron can go from the stove top to the oven and can be used to make many foods from meat to brownies and everything in between.
As noted earlier while researching cast iron I found some pretty alarming information about Teflon. Due to the information we recently tossed out all of our Teflon coated pans and only use our cast iron and stainless steel pans. I would encourage you to continue reading then toss that Teflon!
Some facts about Teflon and Dupont;
- Teflon fumes cause allergies and flu like symptoms called Polymer Fume Fever when exposed to fumes for a period of time.
- In 2003, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a study on non-stick cookware (Teflon). Results showed that the cookware reached temperatures that produced toxic particles and fumes potentially dangerous to human health. Their study confirmed that Dupont knew there was a problem long before manufacturer DuPont had admitted it.
- According to the study results, in two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, Teflon cookware was found to exceed temperatures at which coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to pet bird deaths and potential human illnesses. It also gets into your food.
- At least one PFC (perfluorooctanoic acid, aka PFOA) associated with Teflon causes cancer of the testicles, liver and pancreas in rodents. It has been designated a probable human carcinogen. Roughly 90 percent of people carry PFOA in their blood
- The EPA learned that DuPont had withheld information about PFOA pollution for more than 20 years. DuPont had to pay a fine of $16.5 million.
- Dupont has been poisoning an Ohio water supply resulting in cancer, birth defects, and a lawsuit
After doing the research it is not worth it to me to poison my family any further with this product just to have a nonstick surface on my pans. I think I’ll stick to my cast iron.
The only United States manufacturer of cast iron pans is Lodge Manufacturing Company. They have been family owned and operated since the late 1800’s
You can usually find older Wagner Ware or Griswold at the thrift or antique stores. It can be restored if it is old and rusty.