|You can even cooks eggs without sticking in cast iron!|
It didn’t take me a terribly long time to decide that there were problems with inexpensive non-stick cookware. The non-stick surface wears off within a few years, and you are left with pots and pans to which food will stick. I was left wondering where those tiny bits of non-stick surface went.
My favorite cookware is made of cast iron or stone. A couple of my cast iron skillets were picked up at garage sales or estate auctions, while some were passed down from my parents, and I bought others. Cast iron cookware will last practically forever—it is not an exaggeration to say that it can last a hundred years or longer. It can also be used on top of the stove or in the oven. A cast iron Dutch oven lets you brown meat for a casserole on top of the stove and pop it into the oven for the final baking. A cast iron skillet can be used on the stove, and it can also be used as a pan for baking a cake or cornbread in the oven.
One of the things I love about cast iron is that it is naturally non-stick, but you have to know how to use it. Patience is key because you need to cook over low to medium heat. New cast iron was probably pre-seasoned, but if the label does not indicate that, or if you bought it used, you should put a thin coating of oil on it before using it. It is also a good idea to put a very thin coating of oil on it regularly after washing and drying.
Never put cast iron in a dishwasher or let it air dry because it will get a small amount of rust on it. Although this won’t harm it long term, you’ll have to wash it again before you use it, which is a waste of time. Because a tiny bit of black will rub off when you dry it, you can either have a towel dedicated to your cast iron cookware or use a paper towel that you toss into your compost. The black residue is not harmful when cooking, and studies have shown that additional iron winds up in your food, especially acidic foods, when you cook in cast iron. After washing my cast iron pans, I set them on one of the burners of my gas stove so that the bottom is definitely dry before I put it away.
Almost all of my baking pans are stoneware. Most are unglazed because like cast iron, stoneware is porous, which means it can become seasoned and naturally non-stick. The only caveat about the non-stick part is that if you have absolutely zero fat in a recipe, such as the French bread in this book, you will need to spread a thin layer of cooking oil on the stone before baking, or you will have a bit of a challenge with the baked bread sticking to the pan.
Glass is another environmentally friendly option for baking, but food will stick to it if you don’t oil it. Food also seems to cook a little faster in glass, so be sure to check for doneness about five minutes before the recipe suggests doing so.
Savings: Although you can easily spend more than $100 for a high end non-stick skillet, I recently saw one at a discount store for $29. A new cast iron skillet at the same discount store costs only $16. Before discovering the beauty of cast iron, I’d buy the less expensive non-stick skillets every two or three years, replacing them as the non-stick surfaces wore off—and it wasn’t just a single skillet. I had entire sets of non-stick cookware, which wound up costing me more than $100 every few years to replace.
From my new book, EcoThrifty, which can be purchased here or at your favorite local book seller.