Cooks seeking alternatives to toxic non-stick cookware often find themselves in a bind. Stainless steel, which seems to be the healthiest alternative, is expensive, and it does not lend itself well to cooking eggs, pancakes and other dishes that non-stick cookware typically excels at. For campfire cooks, stainless is not suitable at all – cast iron is the most logical choice because it withstands the intense heat of open-fire cooking.
If you have not yet discovered the benefits of cast iron cooking, here are 10 reasons to buy and use cast iron cookware – both at home and for outdoor cooking.
1. Replacing a non-stick skillet or pot with a cast iron one allows you to avoid the toxic fumes that accompany most non-stick cookware. Cast iron can also replace aluminum cookware, which may also pose health hazards.
2. Besides the stove, you can use cast iron in the oven, and over the open fire, at any temperature.
3. It is nonstick. Surprisingly, a preheated cast iron skillet rivals the qualities of non-stick cookware, as long as it is properly seasoned and cared for.
4. Cast iron is easy to clean up. Not only does food easily lift off well-seasoned cast iron cookware, soap is not needed or recommended, since it erodes the seasoning.
5. There are health benefits. You can actually boost your iron intake from eating food cooked in cast iron cookware. This vital mineral is crucial for maintaining energy levels, and it helps strengthen immune systems.
6. It is inexpensive. Cooks looking to replace non-stick cookware often investigate stainless steel. However, a high-end, 12-inch stainless skillet runs well over $100, while a similar-sized cast iron one costs less than $30 – and even less at flea markets or garage sales!
7. Food cooks beautifully. Using a cast iron skillet you can achieve golden brown, crispy exteriors. Contrast this with non-stick cookware, which makes browning nearly impossible.
8. Cast iron is sturdy and wears well. Since it does not scratch, there is no need to use plastic utensils, and there is no fear of using your metal utensils to stir or scoop. It lasts for so long that many people still use cast iron cookware inherited from their parents and grandparents.
9. In an emergency, cast iron cookware can be used over any heat source. As such, many disaster planning lists include cast iron as the survival cookware of choice.
10. It has been used for thousands of years. New technologies are often the least healthy, while those used by earlier generations are often more beneficial and more in line with how we are designed. Our cookware choice is no exception.
Although there are many benefits to cast iron cooking, make sure to understand the drawbacks before you start: cast iron pans are very heavy; they require intentional maintenance in order to keep them rust-free and non-stick; and care is needed if you have a glass-top stove at home. But if you're on this site, chances are you're interested in open-fire cooking. For that, there is really only one choice. Cast iron.