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Why Cast Iron? Another reason .....

We periodically discuss the advantages (and the few disadvantages) of cast iron cookware on Chowhound. Those who love it sing its praises while those who dislike it tend to heartily berate it.
I just discovered that one of my non-stick pans needs replacing. As I took it out of the cupboard I noticed my extensive collection of cast iron on the shelf next to the non-stick and it occurred to me that I typically find it necessary to replace a non-stick pan every few years and I've never had to replace any of my cast iron - some of which is over fifty years old. Just one more reason why I love that stuff.
Do you love it or hate it?

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  1. I love it, esp. for making pasta sauces.

    I'm borderline anemic, and it's a great way for me to get iron into my system without supplements (which makes my innards do somersaults as if they were punch-drunk).

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I've done pasta in my De Buyer Mineral pan but, pasta sauce really peels the seasoning off. I agree with you though, cast iron is a great way to add iron to a diet for those lacking other natural sources in their diets. Myself, I'll stick to meats and saute's with some occasional cornbread.

    2. Love it. I buy my cast iron at estate sales so all of the pieces I own are 50+ years old and beautifully seasoned. I have cast iron that is probably twice my age and in excellent condition.

      1 Reply
      1. re: weezieduzzit

        I wish I lived in an area with more estate sales :) I love my cast iron. I even bought a smallish stovetop griddle to replace an old "nonstick" one. I also like enameled cast iron.

      2. I agree about the durability and the possibility of picking up iron in my diet. I tend to run anemic too.

        However, I have experienced a cracked vintage skillet. I continued to use it until packing for my move. The crack had increased slightly in length, and I didn't want to send it to my new home, so I put it in mixed recycling.

        Nothing lasts forever. But CI could outlive its first owner. But it might not. You never know.

        1. <I typically find it necessary to replace a non-stick pan every few years>

          That is pretty good if only every few years. Many people replace their every 1-2 years.

          As for cast iron, I do like cast iron cookware very much. Based on many responses, it seems many people who do not like cast iron (or carbon steel) cookware have trouble with the seasoning. Either they have trouble putting the seasoning on or they have trouble keeping the seasoning on.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I prefer cast iron to cook in. I never use non stick stuff any more and I can not fry in stainless steel without it sticking. It seems from reading this board that those who do not like cast iron are those that learned to cook in non stick, which is easier to use.

          2. Hi, todao:

            Neither love nor hate. For what it is (cheap, durable, and versatile) it is great.

            I only use it for high searing and baking no-knead bread these days. Oh yeah, my 1875 waffle iron is CI, too.


            1. I have Griswolds ,Favorite Piqua, Wapak, Sidney and Martins. ( I'm not an expert in cast iron-just got caught up in collecting after I cooked in my first one!). I love the older ones as they are not heavy as the new Logde and other skillets are . Any two of the above are always on my gas range, with me using mainly sizes #9 and #10. They are so easily cleaned with some Kosher salt- then literally rinsed, dried thoroughly, then wiped sparingly with spray oil. My outdoor kitchen has a dutch oven that doubles as a fryer if needed, and a long griddle that's great for Sunday breakfasts. Read more about care and seasoning at the Griswold/Wagner cast iron society website.

              1. Love it. Seasoning cast iron is like BBQ in the South-everyone has their own version & they swear it is the best. Before you go shopping, try to breathe new life into your cast iron: heat the pan on the stove until it just starts to smoke, cover the bottom of the pan with coarse salt, turn off heat. Add a few tablespoons of oil, using a few paper towels or a cloth(pan is HOT), scrub the inside of the pan hard for 3-5 minutes, wipe clean. Wipe on a thin film of oil. This should make your cast iron non-stick. It is a true joy to watch eggs slide around in a cast iron pan.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Pietime

                  <Seasoning cast iron is like BBQ in the South-everyone has their own version & they swear it is the best.>

                  I agree. In some ways, this is confusing for newcomers to cast iron because many of these methods are opposite of each others. Most noticeably, many people have claimed cast iron cookware should be seasoned at a relatively low temperature (400oF), while others have stated that high temperature seasoning yields a more durable surface. On the other hands, this diversity of idea also suggests that cast iron seasoning is forgiving and flexible -- since very different methods have worked for many different people.

                2. I won't go so far as to say I hate it but I don't understand the love of it.

                  The only non-stick pan I have is for eggs and I use it so infrequently, it will last me another 10 years. 99.99% of my cooking is done in stainless.

                  I have mentioned it before on this site - where I grew up and still live, every farmhouse has a pile of rusting cast iron under the basement stairs or in the barn. Or, in my families case, put into use in the garage for soaking machine parts. My grandmother and her sisters never looked back once they were able to buy "new" Out went the cast iron, in came the Revereware.

                  Not that long ago, cast iron pans where sold in box lots at auctions for a $1 or 2 for the entire box. Over the past couple of years, there has been a slight increase in prices as dealers/collectors from outside the area have recognized it as a source for old cast iron at cheap prices. My friend in the business says the large Griswolds easily top $100 but they are few and far between.

                  I have three cast iron pieces, all purchased specifically for cooking over an open fire. They work well for that purpose but I haven't been tempted to put any into regular cooking rotation.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cleobeach

                    >I won't go so far as to say I hate it but I don't understand the love of it.<

                    I too stopped using CI for several years. Except for baking cornbread in. Non stick and the microwave was so much more convenient. Then the day came that I decided to drag out all my CI and put it to use. My oh my. I had totally forgotten how much better the food tasted and smelled in the CI. Not to mention the texture and consistency of beef stews, vegetable soups, and chili's made in the Ci dutch oven instead of the stainless. And absolutely nothing can turn out gravey like a CI skillet. I grew up eating gravey made from any meat that was cooked in a CI skillet or dutch oven. The same for breads. Breads baked in CI is the best of all. The same for green beans and leafy greens. Dried beans turn out better too.

                    I think it just boils down to how you like to cook and what kind of food you like to eat. I am from the south, so CI is essential for proper southern cuisine. I do love my SS though. I use it a lot for boiling and steaming. Everything else goes in the CI. And now that I have enameld CI, I can do my tomato sauces in CI too. So my CI is used more than ever now.

                  2. Middle of the road - wouldn't want to be without it, it's great at searing a steak or browning baby reds, baking cornbread and do use a CI Pizza pan, but don't really like cleaning them and having oily pans in the cabinets waiting for the next use. Have had some ugly experiences with blackish tinted spaghetti sauce, a berry clafouti that had off flavors of meat, etc., so not my favorite for many things, but it can't be beat for some uses.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Cam14

                      Your pans should not be oily, you are using too much oil or not allowing them to thoroughly heat up when drying. I use solid fat not oil in pans and they are never oily when I put them away. The only thing that is oily is the inside of the pot while I'm cooking with oil.

                      1. re: rasputina

                        I just set them on a burner to dry after washing, spritz with Pam and wipe it around with a paper towel. The pan is shiny with oi. Is there something different that should be done?

                        1. re: rasputina

                          "blackish tinted spaghetti sauce, a berry clafouti that had off flavors of meat"

                          You either need to clean or season your cast iron better or, even better have two skillets: One for meats and oily/wet cooking and another for drier cleaner cooking.

                          1. re: Sid Post

                            Really don't need another heavy skillet, but I do line it with parchment paper when cooking clafoutis now. Also line the camp oven with parchment for desserts too. Live and learn.

                        2. re: Cam14

                          >and having oily pans in the cabinets waiting for the next use. Have had some ugly experiences with blackish tinted spaghetti sauce, a berry clafouti that had off flavors of meat, etc.,<

                          I never, ever put my CI away oily. They are dry as a bone. Totaly understand about the spaghetti sauce. So i cook spaghetti sauce in SS or now in my new enameled CI. CI is definately not for every thing. But I don't know any type pan that is. Some things just cook better in certain types of pans. I just happen to eat a lot of foods that do very well in CI. Popcorn even taste better popped in my CI dutch oven.

                        3. I love cast iron. I even have cast iron sauce pans, loaf pans, waffle iron and muffin pans plus more in my collection. I do have some clad stainless too but I don't use it as much, except for my 12qt stockpot. I love the way cast iron cooks food and how easy it is to clean and that as long as I don't abuse it it will never need to be replaced. The only non stick I currently own is a few cake pans and my rice cooker bowl.

                          1. I have a 50-year old cast iron pan. I don't love it or hate it. It's just a pan. I use it.

                            1. Try searing meat in a rental apartment kitchen with anything other then cast iron.

                              I've said it before and I'll say it again: An ancient weak stove and oven that heat and cook unevenly can be lived with only with cast iron if you eat at home. Put a skillet on that weak electric coil the moment you get home from work and a half hour later that sputtering lukewarm burner will get the skillet hot enough to sear your meat of choice. Same goes for bacon or sausage for breakfast in the morning. Add a nice "dutch oven" for that weak oven and you can make everything from great stews and chilli to wonderful roasts and similar things.

                              1. I love CI for its relative permanence. I'm no wonder cook and there are many many cooks making dishes I'd be delighted to eat and experience with non-stick light weight cookware. I daresay they are using it and replacing as necessary. For me though it takes the joy out of or greatly diminishes cooking and preparing food.

                                Ditto, cutting boards and knives, mixing bowls, tea-towels, grinders, the whole lot.

                                I just get a big kick out of collecting and learning to use my cookware and I hate to throw it out or wear it out.

                                1. "I now pronounce you, Cook and Skillet". My latest acquisition is a Lodge Wedge Pan. Since I didn't have enough corn meal on hand, I opted for making drop biscuits in it. Great biscuits with a nice amount of crust. Plus their wedge shape just begged for a tv segment in which someone would undoubtedly exclaim, "Oh, those are so cute!".

                                  My latest not so common use that I really like is a cast iron grill pan on a portable induction burner on the outdoor upper deck of a townhouse. No scuba gear required as is sometimes contemplated when I grill on the stove.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: SanityRemoved

                                    May you live happily ever after! :)

                                  2. todao, I love cast-iron, use t for many cooking jobs. Tonight I used a cast-iron skillet to saute sausage, onon, garlic, some chicken stock and fresh sage to add to pasta. The night before I sauteed chicken breasts and in a separate skillet made oven roasted fingerlings. For the type of cooking I do, cast-iron is second nature.