The well-known non-stick cookware surfaces — Teflon and hard anodized aluminum — should be avoided because of health concerns. Teflon, by DuPont, and other similar surfaces, “may release little bits of inert plastic into the food when cooked, as well as toxic fumes over high heat,” according to Earth Easy. The other non-stick alternative — hard anodized aluminum — is offered as a superior choice to teflon because its aluminum surface is treated to become hard and non-reactive. However, according to the World's Healthiest Foods, many hard anodized aluminum pans also have a “specialized non-stick surface” with “potential toxicity problems.”
Cast iron cookware does not offer cons such as these. It assumes a non-stick surface when seasoned properly, is an excellent heat conductor, and it contributes iron, a necessary mineral, to one's diet. Those who already have an excess of iron in their bodies, should avoid the use of cast iron cookware. The better the seasoning (layer upon layer of oil coatings), the more non-stick the surface. The seasoning also prevents rust.
Good places to look for cast iron cookware is at thrift stores or yard sales. Some shops realize its value, though, and unfortunately price it exhorbitantly. There's one such thrift store in my area that charges an arm and a leg for cast iron and I wouldn't buy there. However, I've been known to buy a skillet (that I don't need) at a good price to give to a friend. Be on the lookout and you'll probably bump into some that suits your budget. One can also buy new cast iron. Watch for sales.
When should one use cast iron? Practically anything can be cooked in cast iron, but it is especially helpful in cooking those foods for which you'd normally use hard anodized aluminum or teflon. For me, this means –> tortillas, eggs, pancakes, refried rice or other grains, refried beans, sauteed vegetables, crispy tofu, and more. If you've never used cast iron before, I encourage you to get ahold of a piece, used or new, and give it a shot!
My 8-inch cast iron skillet was passed on to me by Jeff's mom. She and Jeff's dad got it as a wedding gift, and I love that it has that history. It is still going strong! I also have a cast iron wok which I purchased new at a department store during after-Christmas sales. And then I have a cute little skillet from the Goodwill Outlet that cost me $1.99 and is the perfect size to fry one or two eggs at time. Each of these receive daily use. I am looking for a Dutch oven and a griddle, but the ones I've seen are far too expensive. I'm holding out for a good deal!
© Copyright 2008 by Wardee Harmon
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