Is there anything more satisfying than the heft of a sturdy cast-iron skillet? In a world full of flimsy, disposable products, finding a kitchen tool that’s both useful and indestructible is rare. But an iron pan pulls it off with aplomb. Simple, classic, and incredibly useful, cast-iron combines all of our favourite things: hearty cooking, environmentalism, and timeless style.
Any time you enter a kitchen and see a well-seasoned cast-iron pan, you know you’re in good hands. So if you haven’t already, now is the time to get one of your own. Here are a few reasons to add this powerhouse to your kitchen.
1. It lasts forever
Unlike your teflon pan, your cast-iron skillet isn’t going to be rendered unusable if you use a metal spatula or leave something to settle on its surface too long. Cast-iron pans are like cats: they have nine lives (at least). Even the rustiest, most disused pan can be revived with a little elbow grease. You can remove rust and buildup with steel wool, wash it, re-season it, and you have a good-as-new pan. If you look after a cast-iron pan properly, it should outlive even you.
2. It’s the best pan you have for creating a nice sear
For most of us, wintertime means no more barbecuing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make all your favourite barbecue meals inside with your cast-iron. Pan-searing is a great alternative to the grill, and cast-iron pans heat up and hold their temperature in ways other pans just can’t match, so when you drop a cut of meat or some veggies in, the surface will caramelize and char on contact. Trust us, that sizzle is the best sound in the world.
3. No chemicals!
It’s sadly rare to use a kitchen tool that doesn’t have any plastic parts or chemical coatings, but a cast-iron pan manages to be a versatile instrument made of just a single material. It doesn’t need any special spray-coatings because seasoned cast-iron is non-stick thanks to the oils and fats it has absorbed over its lifetime. If you try to live an all-natural lifestyle, there’s no other way to go.
4. It gets better each time you use it
Most kitchen items slowly degrade as you use them, but cast-iron pans are like supervillains: the more you throw at them, the stronger they get. Every time you cook, your pan gets more seasoned, pulling in oils and becoming a repository of flavours. You should avoid washing a cast-iron pan with soap because that permanent fatty sheen is what makes it great.
5. Seasoning a cast-iron pan is a great ritual
It’s a fast-paced world, but a cast-iron pan is a reminder to slow down. Seasoning a pan is strangely satisfying. Just hand wash it without soap, dry it immediately, and coat it very lightly with an oil of your choice. It’s a simple task, but one that’s almost meditative. In time, you may find yourself developing a relationship with your cookware.
6. You can toss it in the oven
Making corn-bread? You don’t need a special dedicated pan. Just bake it in your cast-iron (you’ll end up with the perfect crispy crust). Likewise, if you’ve made a meal and need to throw it in the oven to keep it warm, you don’t need to dirty any new dishes. You can just pop the entire pan in the oven. Just make sure to use an oven mitt when you retrieve it!
7. It actually adds iron to your diet
It sounds like a myth, but experiments have shown that foods cooked in cast-iron are higher in iron than those that aren’t. Iron helps transport oxygen through your body and helps you maintain higher energy levels. It also helps with the development of healthy hair, skin, and nails. So your cast-iron skillet doesn’t just look cool, it’s good for you too. Cast-iron: what can’t it do?
More from Cottage Life:
How to clean a cast-iron pan
Words you only hear in Canada: Canadian bacon
How to re-season rusty cast-iron pots