Cast iron cookware has been a favorite in kitchens for a very long time. Its durability, heat distribution, long lasting heat retention, and nearly non stick surface makes it the preferred choice for many types of dishes. Cast iron distributes heat very well, and retains heat for a long time, making it very suitable for "stove top to table top," keeping the food warm. Many manufacturers are putting an enameled surface on the cookware to give the outside, and sometimes the inside, a colorful appearance suitable for any kitchen decor.
Like all cookware materials, the quality of the material used to make the cookware is vital. When properly cared for, cast iron is a material that can last for generations. It can be used on the stove top and in the oven. With such durability comes one drawback: cast iron cookware is heavy. The traditional skillet may require two hands to move it around.
The non stick surface on cast iron comes from seasoning. Seasoning is the term used for treating cast iron with a quality oil and baking it at 350 degrees for an hour. This seasoning, and use of the cookware, fills in the porous surface of the cookware, and gives it a nearly non stick surface. While some may not like to manually do such seasoning, it is what gives the cookware one of its biggest benefits. Such seasoning also brings up the second drawback associated with cast iron cookware: it can retain the flavor of the last cooked food. Since some of the fats and oils of what you are cooking is being retained in the cookware, some notice the flavor of what was previously cooked in the food being cooked now. While not everyone tastes it, it may be a consideration.
A cookware set made of cast iron is different from traditional cookware sets. Cast iron is not used for all types of cookware. Most manufacturers do not make saute pans or sauce pans out of cast iron. Skillets / Fry pans / omelet pans, dutch ovens, and casserole dishes are most popular.
Hand washing cast iron is mandatory. Automatic dishwashers will remove the seasoning, and quite possibly rust the cookware. When finished cooking, simply let the cookware cool off for a while, then hand wash with warm sudsy water, and immediately dry off with paper towels or a drying cloth.
When applied to the outside, it gives a luxurious finish and beautiful color suitable for any kitchen decor. When applied to the inside, it makes a cookware piece that offers the best of what cast iron has to offer in terms of heat distribution and retention, a non food reactive surface, eliminates the need for seasoning, and is easy to clean. If the enameled surface is of interest, be sure to read our article on Luxurious Enameled Cast Iron Cookware.
Cast iron has always been known as a healthy cookware. When seasoned cast iron cookware is used, the trace amounts of iron that are released into the food is beneficial for most people. Avoid the seasoned cast iron cookware only if you are trying to avoid the added iron.
Healthy, durable, and great heating characteristics have made cast iron cookware a mandatory item in many kitchens. The enameled surfaces offer colors and easier cleaning. What more can a busy cook, chef, or healthy cook ask for?
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