Over the last three and a half years I’ve transitioned to using cast iron cookware for the majority of my cooking. I’ve come to really appreciate what I feel are many key advantages that cast iron provides. However, like so many other things, there are some trade-offs. For me, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, but I thought it would be good to provide an honest assessment of “Pros and Cons” to help inform others who might be considering an exploration into the world of cooking with cast iron. Here is what I came up with:
- They hold their shape and don’t warp; Cooking fat/oil distributes evenly across the bottom, and doesn’t pool around the edges like a lot of teflon-coated pans.
- The large mass of solid iron absorbs a lot of heat energy, which makes it easier to maintain steady cooking temperatures. This can benefit all sorts of cooking but is especially advantageous for deep frying and searing meats.
- Superior for browning, creating crispy edges (e.g. potatoes, french toast), or getting a nice sear on a steak or roast to seal in the juices.
- Can go from the stove-top directly into the oven without skipping a beat.
- Stuck-on food residue releases easier when cleaning (food still sticks but not in the same way as teflon-coated or SS – a short soak in hot water will release even the most stuck-on residues)
- Used dry, works great for pre-toasting/roasting various types of seeds or gains in a traditional way, such as toasting sesame seeds for making humus, toasting buckwheat groats for making kasha. Can even be used to toast bread or grilled-cheese sandwiches.
- No soap or detergents required for cleaning/maintaining; better for the environment and the wallet.
- Peace-of-mind knowing you are cooking on a more natural surface which has been used by advanced civilizations for thousands of years.
- Studies have shown cast iron cookware can increase the iron content of foods and help to prevent iron deficiency anemia in susceptible populations.
- These suckers are heavy. Doing a lot of cooking and cleaning with these is like lifting weights, and like lifting weights, you’ll want to use good posture, good form, and use two hands if you need to in order to minimize strain on your your hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.
- Because they are so heavy, transferring food to plates or bowls tends to be less efficient and more messy, particularly with the larger pieces, as it is often difficult or impossible to hold the piece with one hand over the plates/bowls, while using the other hand to transfer the food. Such instances require leaving the pan/pot on the stove or on a trivet, while transferring food to the plates/bowls one at a time.
- They’re tough on the stove-top grates; Regular use has worn down the paint/coating on my grates exposing bare metal where contact with the cast iron occurs. I’m not sure if higher-end ranges may be resistant to this effect depending on how the grates are coated or reinforced.
- Fitted cast iron lids are usually not included, may be hard to come by, and tend to be expensive. I usually improvise and use glass lids that came with other non-cast-iron pieces that I own.
I hope this may be helpful to some of you who may be curious about cast iron cookware. Thank you for reading and let me know your thoughts or any questions in the comments below. Cheers!