Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cooking with Cast Iron

I absolutely love cooking with cast iron!  To me, there is nothing more enjoyable than using a well seasoned cast iron pan to cook dinner for my family.  Tonight I used my flat bottomed dutch oven to make stew on the stove.  I have shared this delicious recipe with you before on a previous post titled Prospectors Stew where you can find the recipe.

I like using cast iron for a few reasons.  A well cared for cast iron pan will last you your lifetime, and can easily be passed down to future generations.  They are very durable when treated well, and easy to care for.  I wish I had known the value of cast iron when we were first married.  I would have sought out cast iron and bought nothing else.  They are a pan to last a lifetime.  We have gone through several sets of inferior quality pans in the past twenty years.  We have tried expensive pans and nothing has held up even in the most gentle of use to cast iron.  The final straw came for me a few years back when I saw a piece of nylon coating from a skillet in our food that was cooking in the pan!  The nylon coating was breaking down from use and flaking off into our food.  I do not want chemicals in our food and was deeply concerned about the chemicals leaching into our food from a heated plastic surface.  This began my journey of slowly replacing inferior pans with cast iron.  I do have a very nice set of stainless non coated sauce pans that I will continue to use which I foresee lasting many years.  Until cast iron I had yet to find a skillet that would hold up to continued use.  Cast iron not only holds up, but gets better with age.  The more you cook with it, the more seasoning it has and it has a better non stick surface that any brand I have tried.

Cast iron is very easy to find here, I find pieces in antique malls and flea markets.  I recently picked up four pans of various sizes that I reconditioned and will soon post on how to clean and re-season cast iron.  The four pans I picked up cost me around $20.00 and they will far outlast any new pan for that amount!

As our dinner simmered away on the stove, my husband mixed up a batch of his famous Chocolate Chip Cookie dough. (secret family recipe)  I baked Chocolate Chip Cookies in one of my newly re-seasoned pans. 

Did I mention that Cast iron is also versatile?  They can be used on the stove top,  open fire, hot coals, or oven with no problems.  It all depends on your cooking style and methods.
 Yum!  Look at those delicious cookies fresh out of the oven!  They lifted right out of the pan.  Another great thing about cast iron is that they retain their heat and cook with a nice even temperature.  I cook on a fairly low heat with my pans because once they heat up they stay hot and do not require a very high temperature to maintain.  They heat so evenly, that I prefer to bake my bread in a large cast iron dutch oven.  The bread is delicious each and every time!

Before I used cast iron, I wasn't sure about how to care for my pans.  I had heard they were "high maintenance" and hard to use.  I assure you they are not.  I will soon write a post on the cleaning and care of cast iron.  I want to rid you of any concerns that might make you apprehensive about joining the growing list of cast iron lovers who are discovering what cooks have known for hundreds of years  about the durability and versatility of cast iron.

In our home, when I need to replace things, I am looking for things that I can obtain that will not wear out.  I would rather buy something second hand, save the money and never have to replace that item again.  I am not as concerned with fashion as I am concerned with quality.  My goal on our homestead is to be self sufficient and purchase as few things over time as possible.  Using cast iron fits these goals perfectly because it is a one purchase item.  With proper use and care, I will never be replacing my cast iron and never have to worry about replacing a cheap or inexpensive nylon coated pan that will go into the trash dump.  Cast iron is a win/win in my book!

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