Kitchen Appliance Advice

Cast Iron Cookware Buying Advice

Cast iron is a combination of steel and iron that has been cast in a form and allowed to cool. The result is a dull gray, rough textured pan that doesn't look like you could ever cook anything in it. Because cast iron will react with or stain many foods, bare cast iron cookware must be seasoned. To be sure you will have a good pan when it has been seasoned, start with good quality. While any unseasoned cast iron pan will be rough, a good one won't be uneven or bumpy. Cast iron cookware is also available with an enamel coating - this cookware doesn't need to be seasoned.

Cast Iron Cookware
Although cast iron cookware takes a while to heat, the advantage is that, once heated, it will remain very hot for a long period of time; as such, foods that require high heat are best cooked in cast iron cookware. Iron being a reactive metal; it has disadvantages in that acidic foods should not be cooked in it.

Most Americans don't get enough iron in their diet. If you cook a couple meals a day on iron pans, the small amount that is absorbed into the body by the food represents only about 20% of the recommended daily dosage. Added benefits from cooking with cast iron are a good workout for you (they're heavy), a light workout for your wallet (they're very inexpensive), and a slightly increased bodily intake of an essential mineral.

When the cast iron cookware is still new, you can wash it with hot soapy water, rinse very thoroughly and towel dry. Then season it right away with a chop of far meat. To clean after cooking, wipe with a paper towel or cloth or use hot water and stiff nylon brush. Then use a towel to dry. If you're not going to reuse the pan for a prolonged period of time, give it a light coating of oil before storing. When well seasoned, it becomes black and markedly more stick-resistant, but since the seasoning coat absorbs flavors and odors, these pans are best reserved for a single kind of food. A little rust should not worry and throw away the pan. What you need to do is just to sand down to the bare metal and season the cookware again.

Some iron cookwares that are covered with porcelain enamel keep food from reacting with the metal and require more care. They can't take the high heat you can give raw iron pans, and they will easily chip if banged or dropped. But they do make great serving pieces and also retain the same heat distribution qualities as raw iron.

Buying Tips:
Besides the texture of the cookware surface, you also need to pay attention to the color. A good quality cast iron pan will be uniformly gray with no pale or dark blotches, speckles or shadows. The color should be the same inside and outside of the pan. Turn it over and look at it from different angles. If the color varies, it means that the metal wasn't heated evenly and could break or warp. Don't buy a cast iron cookware with wooden handles. They won't last through the oven, campfire and stovetop, and you'll end up with a useless pan no matter how well the cast iron quality. The bottom of a frying pan or kettle should be smooth and without ridges to conduct the heat evenly. This is especially important if you're going to use it on a smooth cooking surface such as an electric range or wood cook stove.

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