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Cast iron cookware has been around much longer than Teflon® and silicon cookware. In fact, cast iron cookware predates the electric oven. There are many different types of cast iron cookware ranging from cast iron pots and skillets to muffin and cake pans. Though the invention of lightweight, non-stick cookware has in a sense obviated the use of cast iron cookware, many people still prefer cooking with cast iron.
Cast iron skillets and frying pans remain the most widely used type of cast iron cookware. Similarly, dutch ovens are also popular. The natural properties of cast iron make cast iron cookware preferable for preparing slow cooking dishes because cast iron diffuses and retains heat, even at very high temperatures. Another useful property of cast iron cookware is the ability to use it both on the stovetop and in the oven. Stews, gumbo, cornbread, meat, and stir fry are just a few examples of dishes for which cast iron cookware is useful.
Cast iron cookware of all types requires seasoning in order for its non-stick properties to appear. Seasoning also prevents rusting. Seasoning cast iron cookware requires layers of fats and oils to cook into the iron. A well-seasoned piece of cast iron cookware will have a smooth, black surface rather than the shiny surface present when new. Though older pieces of cast iron cookware didn’t come pre-seasoned, most modern pieces do.
Another variety of cast iron cookware includes enameled cast iron. Enameled cast iron has had an enamel glaze applied to it and thus eliminates the need for seasoning. Dutch ovens and pots are frequently enameled, but they do loose some of their natural properties.
Though new cast iron cookware can be found alongside other metal and glass cookware, some people prefer to use older pieces for cooking. Much older pieces are also often collected for their antiquity value rather than use in the kitchen. Though the cooking properties of cast iron cookware are often preferred, they do have the disadvantage of being much heavier than other metals and are considered more difficult to clean.
Oh, cornbread is just the best in an iron skillet! There's no other way to get that beautiful, browned crust!
The Lodge company based in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, is still in business and they make their cast iron right there. I have one of their Lodge Logic pre-seasoned pans. It is wonderful. It comes with that great surface already on the pan! They cost a little more than the regular non-seasoned pans, but the convenience is worth every penny! I love my cast iron pan. I also like the "helper handle" on the opposite side of the actual handle. Makes it much easier to carry. I'll deal with the weight. Cast iron is a necessity in my kitchen!
Cast iron isn't difficult to clean at all -- it's just different. You don't use soap on it -- just scalding hot water and a scrubber. Then you do have to dry it completely, and if you're diligent, wipe it down with a little vegetable oil.
However, if you've just made bread or something equally non-sticky in the pan, usually, just brushing the crumbs out is sufficient. For the most part, food residue comes right out if the pan is well-seasoned, and you just have to rinse it and dry it.
Nothing conducts heat like cast iron, and the pans are nearly indestructible. I'm using a skillet that belonged to my grandmother. She bought it in the 1920s. It's perfectly seasoned and I don't use it for anything but cornbread. I wouldn't trade anything for that skillet!
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