Cast iron skillets have proven to be tried and true in the culinary world. And why not? They are affordable, last forever and transfer from stove top to oven very easily. I have to say that I love mine and not only because of all the above mentioned. Cast iron skillets also provide some additional benefits, and my favorite one is that I get more iron in my diet by cooking with it!
As a health conscious vegan, I have to carefully monitor my iron levels and make sure I am getting enough. As a woman between ages 31-50, I should get 18mg/day (men ages 31-50 need less and should have only 8mg/day). Low iron levels can lead to anemia, which is where the red blood cell count is lower than normal. When we don’t have enough red blood cells, this depletes the oxygen level in the body. Anemia can cause pale skin color, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, weakness, brittle nails, decreased appetite or headaches.
Cooking with cast iron gives us trace amounts of that essential mineral, iron! This is especially true if you cook something acidic, such as tomatoes or tomato-based sauces.
Choosing cast iron cookware can be pretty affordable, too! New and fancy pots and pans (such as steel or Teflon) can be quite costly, and if you are buying a whole set, you may have to consider taking out a loan! Cast iron is dirt cheap in comparison and is such a worthwhile investment as they seem to last years! It is said that George Washington’s Mother loved her cast iron skillet so much that she entrusted it in her will and wanted to make sure the right person got it!
Another wonderful thing about cast iron cookware is that it’s naturally non-stick! And the more you use it, the better it is to cook with. Many of those “other” pots and pans contain nasty chemicals to help them do their job. When we use those pots to cook, we are getting a serving of harmful chemicals in our food as well. Also, you can cook virtually fat-free since you don’t need to use oil, butter or lard to do any cooking in a cast iron pot or pan, if fat is your concern (I happen to think we need healthy fat!). 🙂
Cast iron cookware can be used for any and all culinary uses such as browning, baking, frying or stewing and it comes in all shapes and sizes.
One important thing to note is that you need to “season” your cookware properly so it can serve you better and do right by your food. To season you pots and pans, here is what you need to do:
1. Coat it with a very thin layer of oil or fat (unrefined coconut oil would work well!)
2. Place the pan in an oven heated to at least 300 degrees F, upside down. Make sure you line the bottom of your oven with some kind of lining such as aluminum foil or a baking pan to catch the drippings.
3. Heat the pan for thirty minutes to 1 hour. Once the pot or pan has cooled down, you can begin cooking with it. You can also repeat the seasoning process for a more secure bond.
So, what can you cook in a cast iron skillet? Just about anything you like! Use it as you would your other cookware. Just be aware it is a bit heavy. We like a good work-out in the kitchen though, don’t we? Works up an appetite! 😉
Please share your favorite recipes to make with your cast iron cookware (even if they aren’t vegan). I’d love to hear from you!