“There’s nothing quite worse than diligently working in the kitchen to prepare a wondrous meal, only to have your foods stick to the pan. While there are many ways to alleviate this situation, such as spraying the pan with olive oil, many choose to forego this method by cooking with non-stick cookware. Although the concept of such cookware seems wonderful – being able to cook to your hearts content without ever having to worry about sticky, burnt food bits – the reality of using such devices is far more dangerous and toxic than what manufacturers and promoters wish to divulge.
Evidence suggests prolonged use of non-stick pots and pans may cause:
- Increased risk of liver cancer, testicular cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.
- Low birth weight in newborns
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Abnormal thyroid hormone levels
- Weakened immune system (a major concern for those with compromised immune systems)
- Liver inflammation
An effective alternative is one of the most traditional forms of stove top cooking – cast iron skillets. A cast iron skillet is the preferred cooking pan among many professionals. They are durable, require less cooking oil then other high-end pans, will last practically forever and are a chemical-free alternative to nonstick pans. They do, however, require a bit more maintenance. Cast iron cookware can be used over any heat source. Use it on the stove-top, in the oven, or over an open fire. Cast iron is perfect for everyday cooking and is the survival cookware of choice during emergencies. Here’s the important part that many don’t know: Part of the success of cooking with cast iron cookware is that you must properly season and care for it.
Because cast iron is not the type of material that can sit overnight to soak or be tossed in the dishwasher for a quick clean-up, cast iron cooking may not seem as attractive as its shiny stainless counterpart. The resiliency and versatility of cast iron has long been understood in common households and famous chefs’ restaurants alike. Also, there are a few recipes and cooking techniques that can only be achieved with the use of cast iron cookware. Cast iron cookware heats slowly, but once hot it maintains its temperature beautifully and cooks evenly.
Start with a bare cast iron Dutch oven or skillet and place it on the eye of the stove at a low temperature. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply oil to the pan’s surface in a thin layer. Season the outside of the pan and any lids as well. The outer surfaces do not require the non-stick surface that the inside of a pan does, but they need protection from rust. Place the pieces in the oven upside down on the top rack, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch drips. Expect a bit of smoke. After an hour, turn off the oven and leave the cast iron pans inside to cool off. The barbecue grill is an alternative hot spot for seasoning cast iron, and will keep the smoke outdoors.
Don’t expect to fry an egg that will slide out easily after the first seasoning, The non-stick surface will only come after many repeated seasonings. Making recipes that require oil will speed up the process. Frying a big batch of bacon is a good start
Cast iron will rust if not treated properly, so it requires a different washing method than other cookware.
Begin with a pan that has most of the oil and loose food removed, but reserve a few tablespoons of oil in the pan, or add the oil if needed. Add boiling water to a hot cast iron pan. If cooked-on food remains on the bottom, use a scrubber designed for Teflon to remove it. Do not soak the pan. Discard the water, then wipe with a towel until dry
Put the pan back on the burner at low heat for about five minutes so it can dry thoroughly. Reapply a thin layer of oil or lard, if needed, before storing the piece in a dry place.
Cast iron, if treated correctly, is a cook’s most treasured utensil in the kitchen. Cast iron lasts for many generations. The best thing about cast iron is that it bounces back from abuse with the resilience of iron.
IN FACT: the only disadvantage I can see in cast iron is IT’S REALLY HEAVY – but hey – it keeps my arms toned.
HERE ARE A FEW CAST IRON RECIPES FOR YOU TO TRY.
CAST-IRON SKILLET CHICKEN POT PIE
One Hour Roasted Chicken
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
FUDGY DOUBLE CHOCOLATE SKILLET BROWNIES
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