Updated: Jul 24
After the Teflon debacle with non-stick cookware, what is the best kind of pan to cook in? Cast iron cookware is the best for multiple reasons, although it does take a little more maintenance.
Cooking in Cast Iron adds Iron to your Diet
For those with iron-deficiency anemia, this is a great way to increase iron absorption. About one-third of the world population has iron deficiency anemia and women and children are the main ones affected.
Risks for iron deficiency anemia include diets low in iron, menstruation, blood loss due to trauma or injury, major surgery, frequent blood donor, peptic ulcers, vegetarian or vegan diets, cancer, heart failure, and drinking more than 16 ounces of cow’s milk a day for children.
Food Cooks more Evenly
The temperature of cast iron pans is more consistent than aluminum pans. The cast iron increases in temperature and stays hot for long periods of time. This is helpful for cooking anything that needs to be heated and stay warm.
Additionally, most cast iron is safe in ovens up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The seasoning starts to burn off at around 800 degrees, but to decrease the risk of potentially warping your cast iron cookware or causing a crack, keep the upper temperature limit to 500 degrees.
What not to Cook in Cast Iron Skillets
Tomatoes and other acidic foods can damage your cast iron cookware, so they are better to avoid and use a ceramic non-stick pan instead. Scrambled eggs can also get messy in a cast iron skillet, so stick with hard boiled, over easy, or sunny side up!
Delicate fish can flake easily, so tilapia may be better on an alternative pan. A thicker fish with skin is a better choice for cast iron cooking. Lastly, sticky desserts. You want to wait until your pan has been properly seasoned for a long period of time before trying out any sticky buns.
How to Season your Cast Iron Cookware
If you have a cast iron pan that you haven’t used in a while or is showing signs of rust, use a fine steel wool pad and scrub all over to clean it out. Wash residue with hot water and a small amount of soap if needed. If there is a crack in your cast iron pan, it must be discarded because of the expansion and contraction of metal during heating and cooling.
Once clean, rub the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil, canola oil, or olive oil all over. Bake the pan in the oven upside down at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Then turn the oven off and leave the pan inside to allow the seasoning to cure for another 30 minutes to an hour. Your pan is now seasoned and ready to go!
Sample Cast Iron Meal
Cornbread is the perfect recipe to try out in your cast iron skillet. Collect the following ingredients:
-1 ¼ cups coarsely ground cornmeal
-¾ cup all-purpose flour
-¼ cup granulated sugar
-1 tsp salt
-2 tsp baking powder
-½ tsp baking soda
-⅓ cup whole milk
-1 cup buttermilk
-2 eggs, lightly beaten
-8 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F with your cast iron skillet inside.
Whisk together all dry ingredients and then add wet ingredients, saving 1 Tbsp of butter for later.
Take your skillet out of the oven, reduce oven to 375 degrees and coat the inside of the skillet with your excess butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place in the oven.
Bake for 20-25 minutes and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Cornbread goes perfect with chili, crockpot beans and ham, chicken noodle soup, and more. The cast iron skillet recipe for cornbread goes above and beyond anything you might cook in an aluminum or glass pan.
Vitamin C Helps your Body Absorb Iron
Iron and vitamin C go together like ‘peas and carrots.’ Your body is better able to hang on to the iron you consume if you also have vitamin C. If you don’t get enough vitamin C from your diet, vitamin IV therapy can help you get hydrated and receive your daily dose of vitamin C.
At Away Clinic, our Myers Cocktail provides a big boost of vitamin C to help your body absorb iron and solidify your immune system. Make an appointment at our Mesa location to get the nutrients you need to feel your best.
A few caveats
Cast iron and cancer. Some say that cooking with cast iron causes cancer. This idea is not really supported by any evidence. There are some studies showing that either too much or too little iron in one's diet can contribute to cancer, but they are also not super conclusive.
Getting too much iron. It is possible to get too much iron in one's diet, particularly if you take oral vitamin supplements. Signs that you may be getting too much iron in your diet include symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, joint pain, abdominal discomfort, digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea, and changes in skin pigmentation. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and to determine whether excessive iron intake is the underlying cause.
Kumar, Aditi, Esha Sharma, Alexandra Marley, Mark A. Samaan, and Matthew James Brookes. "Iron deficiency anaemia: pathophysiology, assessment, practical management." BMJ Open Gastroenterology 9, no. 1 (2022): e000759.