Self-Care Challenge (Day 116): Using an Iron Skillet

Iron Skillet, 900Cast-iron cookware is fantastic–once you learn its quirks, that is. The trick is that it must be properly seasoned before use, otherwise food will stick and you’ll be cursing rust spots later.

There are several potential benefits to using iron cookware:

1. It’s durable

Cast-iron is solid (and extremely heavy), so it won’t bend or warp. For that reason, these skillets last for years and years and years, which also means they don’t often end up in landfills like many other throw-away pots and pans. Because of its durability, it also cooks more evenly than its alternatives.

2. It increases the iron content of food

Research has shown that foods cooked in cast-iron pots contain higher levels of iron than foods cooked in other types of cookware. This has led many health professionals to believe that there may be additional nutritional benefits. In fact, I’ve worked with physicians over the years who have written orders to use cast-iron to prepare foods for patients who have low iron levels.

When it comes to actual bioavailability, though, the jury is still out. Our body doesn’t appear to be able to use all of the iron that leaches into food from its cooking vessel. Several studies have looked at cast-iron as a potential treatment of iron-deficiency anemia, but most of the results haven’t shown significant improvements. Even so, there have been a few studies that show promising results in certain populations; and while the impact may not be significant enough to treat or correct a medical condition (anemia), it doesn’t mean there aren’t still health benefits.

3. It’s versatile

Iron cookware can be used on the stove-top, in the oven or even over a campfire. The culinary possibilities are endless: sautéing, baking, broiling, simmering, steaming, you name it. This alone makes it easy to see why many cooks consider this cookware to be essential.

So, what are the drawbacks?

For one, cast-iron is quite heavy. Many times I’ve nearly dropped a pan after picking it up, forgetting that it can be unwieldy. Also, unlike many modern pots and pans on the market today, cast-iron cookware is a solid piece of metal, which means a pot-holder is a must to avoid burning yourself. A third drawback is that they can be challenging to clean. Using soap removes the coating that’s formed during the seasoning process, so rinsing with water (and sometime scrubbing with salt) is all that’s needed. I often forget, though, and that sometimes leads to another round of seasoning.

All in all, for many cooks, cast-iron is the gold standard when it comes to cooking equipment. With many questions still looming about the safety of modern coatings like Teflon, cast-iron is a much simpler, tried-and-true option as well.

Self-care comes in many shapes and sizes. Even the selection of our cookware and cooking methods can play a role in our overall health.

What has been your experience using cast-iron cookware (Amazon Associate Link)?

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