Cast-iron cookware

Cast-iron cookware

Cast iron is used for cookware because it is non-toxic, has excellent heat retention and diffusion properties, and is easy to mold. Cast iron cookware is either bare or enameled.

Bare cast iron

Bare cast-iron vessels have been used for cooking for hundreds of years. [Citation | first =John | last =Ragsdale | title =The Dutch Oven Chronicled 1-4 | year =1991] Cast iron's ability to withstand and maintain very high temperatures makes it a common choice for searing or frying, and its excellent heat diffusion and retention makes it a good option for long-cooking stews or braised dishes. Because cast iron skillets can develop an extremely "non-stick" surface, they are also a good choice for egg dishes, particularly scrambled eggs. Other uses of cast iron pans include making cornbread and pineapple upside-down cake.

Types of bare cast iron cookware include dutch ovens, frying pans, deep fryers, tetsubin, woks, potjies, flattop grills and griddles.

Health effects

Cast iron cookware leaches small amounts of iron into the food. Anemics, and those with iron deficiencies, may benefit from this effect, though those with excess iron issues (for example, people with hemochromatosis) may suffer negative effects. [cite web|url=|title= Cooking with Cast-Iron?|accessdate=2007-12-30] [cite web|url=|title=Techniques for Restoring an old Cast-Iron Skillet|accessdate=2007-12-30]


Seasoning is a process used to protect cast iron and carbon steel [cite web|url=|title=Care and seasoning of your wok|accessdate=2008-01-03] cookware from rusting, provide a non-stick surface for cooking, and prevent food from interacting with the iron of the pan. Seasoning is three-step process, involving cleaning the cookware to expose the bare metal, applying a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil, and heating the cookware to bond the fat to the metal. [cite web|url=|title=Home seasoning your Lodge cast iron cookware|accessdate=2008-01-03] Seasoning also occurs as a natural by-product of using the cookware to cook foods that deposit oils or fats on the pan.

New cast iron that is not pre-seasoned is often sold with a protective coating (wax or shellac). This coating must be removed (typically by scouring) to expose the bare cast iron surface before the pan is seasoned. [cite web|url=|title=Care of Cast Iron Pots and Pans|accessdate=2008-01-03] For already-used pans that are to be re-seasoned, the cleaning process can be more complex, involving rust removal and deep cleaning (with strong soap or lye, [cite web|url=|title=Cleaning Cast Iron With Lye|accessdate=2008-01-03] or by burning in a campfire or self-cleaning oven [cite web|url=|title=How to use your self-cleaning oven for cleaning cast iron|accessdate=2008-01-03] ) to remove existing seasoning and build-up.

Fats and oils typically used for seasoning include lard, hydrogenated cooking oils such as Crisco, and palm or coconut oil (in general, oils that are high in saturated fats, and therefore less likely to become rancid).

Heating the cookware (such as in a hot oven or on a stovetop) facilitates a reaction between the oil and the iron, essentially cooking the seasoning into the pan. Some cast iron users advocate heating the pan slightly "before" applying the fat or oil to ensure that the pan is completely dry and to open "the pores" of the pan. [cite web|url=|title=Seasoning Cast Iron|accessdate=2008-01-03] , [cite web|url=|title=Cooking Louisiana - Seasoning Cast Iron Pots|accessdate=2007-12-31]

Newly seasoned cast iron will have a dark brown coating. If the seasoning process is repeated, or after prolonged use, this coating will turn glossy and black, and the non-stick properties of the pan will further improve. [cite web|url=|title=Home seasoning your Lodge cast iron cookware|accessdate=2008-01-03]

Cleaning issues

Because ordinary cookware cleaning techniques like scouring or washing in a dishwasher will remove or damage the seasoning on a bare cast iron pan, these pans cannot be cleaned like most other cookware. Some cast iron aficionados advocate never cleaning cast iron pans at all, simply wiping them out after use, or washing them with hot water and a stiff brush [cite web|url=|title=Caring for your Lodge cast iron cookware|accessdate=2008-02-29] . Others note that grease left on a pan will eventually become rancid, and advocate washing with mild soap and water, and then re-applying a thin layer of fat or oil. [cite web|url=|title=Using and Caring For Your Cast-Iron Skillet|accessdate=2008-02-29]


Well-established brands of bare cast iron cookware include Griswold (no longer in business), Wagner, Lodge, and John Wright. Emeril Lagasse also has a line of pre-seasoned cast iron made by All-Clad. There are many other producers of traditional cast iron outside the USA in France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and the UK, manufacturing both enameled and unenameled cookware. In Asia, particularly India, Korea, Japan, and China, there is a long history of cooking with cast iron.

Enameled cast iron

Enameled cast iron is cast iron that has a vitreous enamel glaze. This type of cast iron was a popular material for cookware in the late 19th and early to mid-20th centuries, but it has since been replaced by modern metal alloys. It remains a popular material for Dutch ovens.

The enamel coating over the cast iron prevents rusting, eliminates the need to season the metal, and allows for more thorough cleaning. Furthermore, pigments used in the enameling process can produce vibrant colors. While enamel coated cast iron doesn't have the seasoning and cleaning issues of bare cast iron, it can be several times more costly, and does not have some of the benefits of bare cast iron, for example the ability to withstand searing heat and the leaching of dietary iron.

Manufacturers of enameled cast iron cookware include Le Creuset, Lodge, Staub, Descoware, and John Wright. Several newer brands are associated with well-known celebrities and chefs, including Daniel Boulud Kitchen, Martha Stewart (sold by Kmart and other retailers), Rachael Ray Cookware (made by Anolon), and Mario Batali (made by Copco).


External links

* [ Learn about cast iron pans] from What's Cooking America
* [ How to season bare cast iron cookware] from Lodge
* [ How to season bare cast iron] from Only Cookware.
* [ Seasoning cast iron] from the Kitchen Emporium.
* [ HOW TO SEASON A NEW BLACK POT] from Chef John Folse.
* [ Cast Iron Cooking] , from Holiday Cook
* [ The Wagner and Griswold Society]
* [ How to care for enameled cast iron cookware] from Le Creuset
* [ A brief history of Descoware]

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