There are many cookware options to choose from, but cast iron cookware tops them all with its many eco-friendly features and cooking benefits.
Wondering what make cast iron cooking so sustainable? Here are a few of the benefits:
There are a few things you should know about cast iron cookware, though. It requires some unique (but simple) care.
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Seasoning or curing is what creates the non-stick surface. This is accomplished when the oils or fats seep into the crevices of the pan and polymerize (harden) to create a slick surface. The more your pan is heated and cooled, the slicker this surface becomes, which is why some of the best pans often come from Grandma's house after decades of use.
Many cast iron pots and pans now come pre-seasoned by the manufacturer. This may seem like a great idea but because most of them use a soy-based oil, it may turn out to be less healthy. This is because polymerized mono- and polyunsatured fats and oils - such as canola and soybean oils - have been linked to things such as artherosclerosis and certain cancers.
So if you purchase that new, preseasoned cast iron skillet or Dutch Oven, be prepared to do some good scrubbing. Follow the same instructions used for removing rust described in the section below.
The healthy alternative to seasoning cast iron cookware?
Saturated fats! By far the best fats to use are coconut oil, palm oil and animal fats, such as bacon grease. I would personally recommend organic palm oil (found at most health food stores or online) as its smoke point is higher than coconut oil. And if you're concerned about fat you don't need to be; you're coating the pan, not eating it.
Whether you're doing it for the first time or not, follow these simple directions for seasoning cast iron cookware:
With well-cared for pans, re-seasoning is needed less and less over the years and the older and better seasoned it is, you may even find you're able to wash with soap without removing the non-stick finish.
Cooking with cast iron is slightly different than cooking with other pots and pans.
First, cast iron conducts heat evenly, which makes it prized by cooks. It can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, in the campfire or on the grill.
While there are lots of tips and tricks to cooking with cast iron there are a few general things you should akways remember:
For more on cooking with cast iron, check out these books on Amazon or search your local library:
The first rule when learning how to clean cast iron: NEVER put cast iron in your dishwasher! Between the soap and the long contact with water, dishwashers will affect the non-stick properties of your cookware and cause rusting.
Instead, your cast iron cookware should always be handwashed. Don't worry: it's quick and simple to learn how to clean cast iron with the following four tips:
Read below for more details on how to remove rust from cast iron pots or pans and refurbish neglected pieces.
Cast iron is long-lasting and incredibly durable. So if you ever find an old piece free of cracks or chips at a garage sale or secondhand store, grab it! Poorly taken care of cast iron can still be refurbished and will last you a lifetime.
You can easily remove rust from cast iron and refurbish uneven surfaces with the following steps:
This article focuses on traditional cast iron, so it's important to point out that enamel cookware is different.
Enameled cast iron is cast iron cookware with an enamel glaze. There are some benefits to enameled cast iron, such as a feeling of deeper cleaning with the ability to use soap, and no need for seasoning or worry about rusting.
However, there are also some drawbacks. Other than the additional cost, it also doesn't withstand as high of temperatures as traditional cast iron and it is not non-stick. And although porcelain is considered safe, the process of enameling can sometimes contain chemicals or processing that could raise objections.
Making the switch to cast iron cookware is good for your health and also for the environment. But it's not all you can do! Be sure to keep moving forward with other Big Strides.
When you're ready for a few more steps:
Whatever step you take, remember to have fun!
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