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Jan 8, 2011 08:10 PM

Cast Iron Club

I am a great fan of cast iron cookware. Whether it's my Dutch Oven, my Aebleskiver pan, one of my many frying pans or some other cast iron vessel, I just love to use the stuff. But there are conflicting points of view among professional write about such things so I'm wondering what others on this board think about it. Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen) describes what it's made of and list some advantages; Robert L. Wolke (What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained) says "... it's not the general purpose tool"; Alton Brown (I'm Just Here for the Food) says the list of things it's good for is too long and that it's easier to list what it isn't good for - "boiling pasta". Except for the fact that I don't think cast iron is the right selection for cooking high acid foods (spaghetti sauce) I tend to live in Alton Brown's camp on this subject.
I wonder how many others have a fondness for (or, if there are any, distaste for) cast iron cookware.

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  1. Cast iron rocks. I like to buy vintage already seasoned pans--use them ALL the time.

    1. Cast iron is the best. My favorite things to use it for are searing scallops and steaks. I also flip it over and cook Pizza on the back of it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hammered

        Hey Hammered,
        How do you cook pizza on the back? Do you heat it first or use it as a pizza stone in the oven? I'd love to know more!

        1. re: JeremyEG

          I'm not "hammered" but I will share my techniques for pizza in cast iron. I use the bottom of the cast iron pan (a 12 inch pan) that has been preheated. I use it much like I would use a baking stone. I also use the preheated pan (not blazing hot but just hot enough to allow me to handle it) for deep dish style pizza - of course, that's inside the pan and not on the bottom. My deep dish pizza formula is nearer a Foccacia than a Neapolitan thin crust pizza.

      2. I have a big fondnness for non-acidic cast iron cooking, braising, baking, high heat searing. I admit to not having read " What Einstein Told His Cook" or "Just Here for the Food" These books are pending reads on my "read soon book" list or my silly bucket list, which is terribly short. If Robert L Wolke, a guy I admire greatly, says "it's not a general purpose tool" he must have qualified that statement in some manner; can you quote further?. What is Alton's Brown camp, and what does it mean to you, culinarily speaking?

        So, my point is I like cast iron in large ways, have used it since the early 70's whe I first started cooking, although I don't like it for everything, but for most things. In my life I have used it both professionally and at home. I realize that I'm vague on technique, but if the cast iron area is ashy grey, and it's it red hot, well...strike.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Like you, I too admire Wolke's work. To quote him further (page 276) responding to a question about selecting a high-quality, general purpose pan:
          "Thus, ... an excellent pan for certain specialized uses in which a high uniform temperature must be held for a long time. No true southerner would make fried chicken in anything else.
          You should certainly keep one handy for domestic fouls and domestic fouls, but it's not the general-purpose tool you inquired about."
          It's the end of that paragraph that I have an argument with. Cast iron is my "general-purpose tool". My other cookware is used only for "specialized" cooking operations where cast iron might not work as well - (quoting Alton Brown) like "boiling pasta."

        2. Love it. I use them almost everyday. Regarding the acid issue, I think sometimes that's exaggerated. I certainly wouldn't make a marinara or something with lots of citrus, but I like to make paella and that starts with some onions, garlic and tomato. I saute those for around 10 minutes and I always taste it just to see if the sauce tastes funny from the pan. It never does. It just tastes like the ingredients and there's certainly no unpleasant taste once the dish is finished.

          Anyone do any baking in their cast iron pans?

          2 Replies
          1. re: JeremyEG

            spoonbreads and cornbread would be the classic cast iron baked goods, and you can bake/roast main dishes in a cast iron pan also.

            1. re: JeremyEG

              Only cornbread, and only the savory kind. For some reason, I bake my sweet cornbread in a baking pan, and my savory cornbread (also Tex-Mex cornbread) in a cast iron skillet.

            2. I like cast iron cookware quiet a bit. I won't say cast iron is an universal metal for cookware, but it is a very useful . Cast iron cookware are inexpensive, relatively nonstick, and durable. They are humble and true.