Cast iron skillets: 11 absolute truths you need to know

“Non-stick vs cast iron”? You’ve surely seen those commercials on TV trying you to buy the latest “miracle” frying pan, but I call bullhooey.

Let me tell you something: After you read this article, if you still use choose to use nonstick cookware, that’s completely up to you, but I will question your sanity. There are too many reasons to ditch those chemical-coated skillets. I counted eleven to be precise. Count with me please:

1. It’s super healthy. Cast iron cookware fortifies your dishes with natural iron. It is the only cookware that gives you nutritional advantages. It delivers a tiny amount of iron into your food every time you make a meal. Cast iron cookware will help increase your iron levels, particularly when you are cooking with very acid foods such as tomatoes.

2. It is blissfully toxic-free. Cast iron is utterly safe, unlike most non-stick cookware which releases heavy metals and man-made poisons into your food when the nonstick layer gets scratched. Even if you’re the most careful person in the world and treat your nonstick cookware like a treasure (for example, if you’re like my mother who uses a silicone spatula) the natural wear and tear will result in the metallic layers from leaching into your food over time.

3. It is extremely long-lasting. That is an understatement. It’s made out of the stame stuff as Iron Man. IRON. With little to no real care, cast iron can last a liftetime. Of course, you’ll want to baby your cast iron. Luckily for you, you can easily recondition or “pre-season” your cast iron pots and pans as many times as you want.

4. It’s extraordinarily economical. Naysayers can shush now. You can purchase a new, pre-seasoned cast iron skillet online for as little as $20, but if you keep your eyes out locally, you can often find quality cast iron on sale — especially around the holiday season. Now, don’t be tempted by those slick “copper coated” pans being hocked on TV. Cast iron is different. Not only is it inexpensive, you’ll have it for a lifetime.

5. It makes all your food taste better. Here’s a little secret most nonstick users don’t know: Pre-seasoned cast iron cookware requires less oil to cook with (less calories and fat), but the food comes out flavorful. You can get the best crust on your food and it simply tastes much better. If you’re “roasted veggie” person, then you know how much tastier your dishes are if you use cast iron.

6. It’s got history behind it.  Cast iron has been used for many thousands of years dating all the way back to the 4th century BC. (That’s 400 years before Christ was born.) Here in the United States, cast iron is a part of our pioneer culture. I don’t know about you, but whenever I think “cast iron” I think of a skillet on an open fire with a cowboy playing a harmonica. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how many fond memories I have of Grandma cooking on her cast iron, too. I think we all have stories like that.

7. It’s actually non-stick. When you properly season your cast iron, food seldom if ever stick (unless you burn it, so don’t!) See, the natural oils from the previous cooking permeate the semi-porous surface of the cast iron giving it a natural non-stick coating.

8. It saves energy . This is my favorite reason and the reason why I prefer cooking with cast iron. Heat is evenly distributed, and once you have cooked with cast iron, you’ll learn how to control the heat very easily and with precision so you will end up using less electricity/gas. That’s the beauty of cast iron. Thin, mass-marked non-stick pans don’t keep the heat, resulting result in hot and cold spots.

9. It is so simple to clean. First, you don’t have to worry about scratches, so it’s simple to clean. Hardcore cast iron folks will tell you that don’t even need to use soap when you wash your cast iron. All it takes is a sponge and some hot water (I use soap still).

10. It is incredibly versatile in so many ways. You can take it with you if you go to a BBQ party or if you go camping, and cast iron cookware is at home on a charcoal grill or even directly on wood coals. Try that with a non-stick skillet. Of course, most of us would never let our cast iron cookware leave the house, but let me tell you how handy it is on ANY grill outside. It’s perfect and it dramatically expands your culinary possibilities.

11. It’s timess and will last many lifetimes. Your cast iron cookware will become a treasured heirloom. You won’t just be cooking, you’ll be making memories. You know here’s someone in your family who would absolutely treasure your cast iron as much as you do. Who knows how many generations will look back and remember you when they sit down to have a meal. That’s a lovely thought, isn’t it?

Now whether you’re an experienced cast iron chef or if you’re just getting started with your cast iron cookware collection, you need to watch this video. Don’t think you don’t! You really need to watch this even if you think you know EVERYTHING about cast iron cooking. For the beginner, this will tell you what you need to know.

For the expert cast iron chef, there are at least 3 solid gems in this video that make it worth watching all the way through. Do NOT be fooled by the simple title. Watch the video. You’ll thank me later.

P.S. The part where she puts the skillet in the oven upside down is important. She doesn’t mention it, but the reason is to prevent oil from pooling in the bottom. Your grandmother and my grandmother did that, too, I assure you.