What I Like:
* You get "non stick" without the nonsense of PFOA, the nasty chemical that makes Teflon easy to clean but also health threatening.
*Once cast iron is seasoned (a simple process), it cooks beautifully. I make lots of sticky stuff in my pans, like omelets, sautes, and stir fry. I use just a little bit of oil to lubricate the surface, then gradually heat the pan. It cooks like a dream.
*The pan can be cleaned with hot water and a scrub brush only. No soap, please - these pans need to remain "seasoned" to work properly, so you never want to try to remove all the oil that bakes into their surface.
*Finally, cast iron really holds the heat. If I'm cooking a soup or stew, I can turn the heat completely off ten minutes early and the heat in the pot will keep the ingredients bubbling along. That also makes it a great serving dish. You won't have to worry about food cooling down once it's put on the table if you serve it in a cast iron pot. NOTE: If you don't like the black hue of cast iron, you can pay a little more for enamel covered iron ware that will look very pretty on your table.
The downside? Cast iron is heavy. You'll need two hands and a little bit of muscle to lift a full cast iron pot. I'm no Amazon and I can manage it, so you probably can, too. Also, to avoid rust you should dry cast iron with a towel, rather than let it air dry.
Product and price comparison:
Lodge is probably the best-known cast iron manufacturer, as well as the cheapest. Several other brands sell enameled cast iron, including Le Creuset. Staub, and Mario Battali Cookware. Here's what several consumers had to say about the various enameled cast iron lines available. If you don't care about the color of the pans, the most economical choice is the plain cast iron from Lodge. Otherwise, shop sales (or ask for the fancier enameled cast iron for a birthday or holiday gift).
NOTE: Scanpan now produces Green Tek, a PFOA-free cookware line it claims is environmentally friendly. This looks promising, but the manufacturer's claims have no third-party validation, and I haven't tried it myself yet.
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