As part of my Kitchen Essentials series, I want to talk about cast iron skillets. These simple pieces of cookware are so versatile and easy to use, they are a mainstay in many kitchens today. Cast iron skillets have many advantages over other pots and pans, though they do require some maintenance. With proper care they can last hundreds of years, and only get better with time. Here are five reasons you should own and use a cast iron skillet.
1. They Retain Heat Very Well.
Whenever you are cooking, keeping the heat up is essential. The only way to get proper caramelization and crusts on your meat and vegetables is to make sure the cold food doesn’t drop the temperature of the pan too much. Because cast iron is heavy and a good conductor, it will keep the heat better than most other pans.
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2. They Transfer Wonderfully
When cooking most proteins, professional cooks start it off on a burner and then transfer it to the oven. For non-stick pans this has temperature limits, even other pans will void the warranty if the oven is over 400º. Not so with cast iron. Because it is so low tech, it can be thrown into any over, and temperature. As an added benefit, they can be preheated in the over, transferred to the burner, to perfectly sear your steak, and placed back in the oven to finish it to perfection. Making restaurant quality Filet Mignon is a cast iron pan away.
“These simple pieces of cookware are so versatile and easy to use, they are a mainstay in many kitchens today.’
3. They Are Versatile
Not only can you make perfect protein with a cast iron skillet, you can bake in it too. It is a wonderful vessel for making cornbread, deep-frying chicken, and perfectly cooking vegetables. Because they don’t require water to clean, they make for the ideal camping instrument. They can be placed right on the fire without having to worry about them in the least. They can even be used to smash garlic, pulverize spices, and tenderize meat. There really is very little they can’t do.
4. They Are Easy to Clean
Because cast iron skillets season themselves over time, you don’t have to worry about cleaning them all that much. All the grease and oil from your food will make them better. Simply wiping them down with olive oil and some paper towels or clean dish rag does the trick. Who can argue with that?
5. They Will Last Forever, Almost
Cast iron pans are hard to break. They season themselves. They require little maintenance. They can take any heat you can throw at them. They make their own natural non-stick coating. They can take any abuse you throw at them. They can even take being thrown. It is really hard to ruin them. Even if you clean them with water (which you shouldn’t), you can re-season them. They don’t need to be treated delicately. The more you use them, the better they get. There isn’t another kitchen essential that is so durable.
For all these reasons and more, everyone should own and use a cast iron skillet. For a great guide to purchasing your own, check out this article by Apartment Therapy.
What is your favorite part of using a cast iron skillet?