Cast Iron Cookware

If, during a spring-cleaning spree, you come across an old cast iron griddle that belonged to your mother or grandmother, please don't throw it away. As long as it has no cracks or nicks, you can clean it, and the effort will be worthwhile. Trust us, cast iron is top-grade cookware material because, not only does it heat evenly and consistently, cast iron is cheap and will last a lifetime with proper care. We will look at the care aspect a little later, but first, why cast iron cookware?

  • It is the old-fashioned way to cook fat free. A well-seasoned cast iron pan is stick-resistant and requires no additional oil. Food will slide out of it as easily as from a non-stick pan
  • It goes from stove to oven with equal ease.
  • It does not warp
  • It is incredibly easy to clean
  • Its heat retention qualities allow for precise control of cooking temperatures

Where to Buy

Cast iron cookware is available for sale on the Internet, at cookery stores everywhere, economy stores, flea markets, tag and yard sales, the lot. If a cast iron pan is rusty or grease-coated, you can still buy it. Not only will you enjoy a lifetime of fat-free cooking, you can pass the pan on to your children and grandchildren.

A Myth Busted

Most people will tell you that they do not like cast iron cookware because everything they cook sticks. Well, if food sticks to your cast iron pan, it has not been seasoned properly and needs re-seasoning. As we mentioned earlier, cast iron is a natural non-stick surface and if your pan is seasoned correctly food will not stick to the surface at any cost.

Buying Guide

Skillet/ Frying Pan: When buying a cast iron skillet griddle or pan, choose the size most comfortable for you. Most people feel the 10-inch skillet is the easiest to handle.

Griddle: If you possess one of these, you will soon become renowned for your pancakes and crispy French toast. Cast iron griddles work very well on electric or gas ranges, but they are equally handy over a campfire.

Dutch Oven: Cast iron Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years. Perhaps no cookware material maintains a good, even temperature better than the heavy metal of this pot, and you can set it on stovetop or oven without a second thought.


  • Preheat your skillet before you begin cooking. Water droplets should sizzle and then vaporize from the heated surface. If the water vaporizes immediately, the pan is too hot. If water only bubbles in the pan, it is not hot enough.
  • DO NOT pour large amounts of cold liquid into your hot skillet. This can cause the cast iron to crack.
  • Don't forget to use potholders. Cast iron cookware gets extremely hot when heated.
  • All new cast iron pots and skillets have a protective coating on them, which you must remove. Most American companies use a special food-safe wax, while imports are coated with shellac. In either case, scrub the cast iron cookware with a scouring pad, using soap and hot tap water.
  • Never boil water in cast iron cookware because the hot water will remove small bits of oil from the surface, which you can see floating around. This causes the seasoning (explained later) to break down and the cast iron cookware to rust.


  • The most important part of maintaining cast iron cookware is 'seasoning' or 'curing'. Your food will never stick to the surface and the cast iron will not rust if it is properly seasoned. Besides, it becomes easy to clean as well.
  • Seasoning means filling the pores in the metal with grease, which is subsequently cooked in. This provides a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside. The best way to do this is to lightly oil the inside of a pan with neutral cooking oil while the pan is still hot and on the burner. Then, remove from the burner and lightly wipe the excess oil off the pan.
  • If the cast iron cookware is not seasoned properly or part of the seasoning wears off, it should be properly cleaned and re-seasoned.
  • It is best to clean while it is still hot using warm water and soap, and scraping when necessary. However, do not soak or leave soapy water in cast iron cookware. Rinse thoroughly and dry well with a dishcloth. To make sure the cookware is completely dry, place it on the heated burner of your stove for a minute or two.
  • Store with the lids off, especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause the cookware to rust.
  • In any case, place a few paper towels inside a pan/skillet to make sure that any moisture will be absorbed. Dryness is of paramount importance.
  • If your food gets a metallic taste, or turns dark, it either means that your pan has not been well seasoned, or you are leaving food in it well after it is cooked. So, do not store food (particularly acidic food) in cast iron cookware, as the acid in the food will break down the seasoning.
  • If your old or new cast iron cookware displays light rust spots, scour the rusty areas with steel wool, until all traces of rust are gone. Wash, dry, and re-season.

Important: If too much oil or shortening is applied to a pan in the seasoning process, it will gum up when the pan is heated. In this case, the grease can be scraped off and some more grease rubbed over the spot, or the pan can be re-scrubbed and re-seasoned.

Tania Penwell provides information on cast iron cookware and other kinds of cookware for A1 Market - the site for the savvy shopper.