Sunday, March 10, 2013

Investing in Cast Iron Cookware

Lately I have been reading up about pots and pans. Odd, I know, but I need to get new pans and I found out some disturbing information about pans that have non-stick coatings and those made of aluminum. Evidently studies have shown that non-stick coatings convert to gasses and leach chemicals into food. I have long stayed away from aluminum because of its link to Alzheimer's and Dementia. So in my quest to find the perfect choice of cookware I discovered a blog that had a Junk Up Your Kitchen Challenge.
In that post, the author, Courtney Polivka, recommends cast iron. Evidently in the health circles, old school cast iron is the cookware of choice because it doesn't leach unhealthy chemicals or metals into your food. You can read the blog post at 

Anyway, that got me looking into finding cast iron pans. I found three recently while up north on a retreat at a hole-in-the-wall antique store. I got a good deal and came home with 3 new (old) pans for my stash. I paid around $40 for all three. The beauty of cast iron is that the pans last virtually forever and now I will just need to clean them up and season them. I thought for this blog post I would explain how to care for, clean, and season your cast iron cookware.

Many folks are turned off when they see rust on cast iron and think the pan has been ruined. Not so! A cast iron item, stored improperly or exposed to moisture will rust, but unless left for many, many years, that rust is on the surface and can safely be removed. Wash the item in warm, soapy water. Allow a few minutes for the  majority of the moisture to evaporate or dry with a soft cloth (remember rust will transfer to whatever you wipe it with, so don't use your good kitchen towels!!). Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of salt into the pan and use a potato cut in half as a scrubber. Move in small circles and scrub the rust right off. You will see the salt will turn quite nasty in color, but keep scrubbing.  You may need to add more salt at some point, if so, just scrape out the old salt and add new. The potato will provide all the moisture you need for the job. Once you have removed the rust, wash and dry the item thoroughly.

Now it is time to season. What is seasoning, you may be asking? Well, seasoning is a coating of oil that prevents oxidation of the metal and provides a non-stick surface inside you pans so food won't stick. It is an easy job and once done, is even easier to maintain. I could type an entire blog entry about this topic alone, but I found that Cheryl Canter at www.Cheryl' has done a phenomenal job of describing in detail the point of seasoning and the best way to do it. Here is the link to her blog so you can learn all about it:

Cast iron pans do not need to be washed. Soap is the enemy of seasoning, so you simply wipe them out with a cloth, add some oil, and store it for the next use. If something should stick, which would be rare and indicate you need to pay attention to seasoning, you just add a little water and bring it to a boil for a couple of minutes. That should loosen any food that sticks so you can gently scrape it off.

I understand that many are concerned with the weight of cast iron pans, especially considering the tiny house is built on a trailer, but I have found that I use fewer cast iron pans to create the same meals, so there is no need to have a complete set of pots and pans. Two good frying pans and dutch oven will serve you very well. A griddle and a small sauce pan round out my cooking needs. On the plus side, cast iron pans are very decorative so I can hang them on the wall too!


  1. You've only scratched the surface with the basic pans. A friend collects old cast iron cookware. He even has a waffle maker that has a ball joint and twists to be able to cook the waffle evenly on both sides. It's from the early 1900s and in perfect condition.

  2. DJ, I have begun researching all the different options for cast iron and am thrilled at the variety! I am going to learn to use a cast iron dutch oven to BAKE as well since I will only have a cook top in the tiny house. I am loving the adventure of discovering the possibilities!