Do you want iron or chemicals in your body?
In this blog, I am going to share my experience of cooking in cast iron cookware. I grew up in a family that used iron kadai and iron tawa for everyday cooking. Non-stick cookware was not common in India back then. Other than iron, aluminium kadai was also used. Little did we know the benefits of iron utensils or harmful effects of aluminium at that time. In 1993, upon graduating, like many others of my generation influenced by the West, I too was drawn to non-stick cookware. At that time, non-stick cookware was used by only a few affluent families in India because they were quite expensive. In fact, having non-stick utensils at home was considered a status symbol.
In 1997, I went to US and my kitchen was filled with non-stick cookware. I was very thrilled to have access to them. Honestly, at that time I felt proud to own such utensils. Even then, good quality non-stick cookware was not readily available in India. During my visits to India, I would bring non-stick cookware for my extended family. When I returned to India after five years, I acquired a wide variety of non-stick cookware and used them for quite some time.
Looking back now, I realize how foolish I was. First, non-stick cookware is harmful to our health. Secondly, they are expensive and ideally should be replaced after one year of use.
Over the past 10 years, there has been a growing awareness of health in India. It was during this time that I began to appreciate the benefits of our cast-iron cookware, which we had previously overlooked.
Cast iron cookware, when properly seasoned, can indeed provide a natural non-stick cooking surface and reduce the need for excessive oil.
What is the disadvantage of non-stick cookware?
- Potential Chemical Exposure: Non-stick utensils have harmful chemical coating. These chemicals can damage your health in the long run.
While the industry is evolving and trying to move to new chemicals there are still concerns about the safety of these alternative coatings.
- Susceptibility to High Heat: Non-stick coatings can degrade at high temperatures, typically above 500°F (260°C). When exposed to extreme heat, while cooking, the coating may release toxic fumes, potentially causing respiratory problems.
- Limited Durability: Non-stick cookware can scratch or wear off over time. The flakes or particles from damaged non-stick coatings may contain chemicals which are not safe for consumption. Non-stick coatings are not as durable as the materials used in other types of cookware. This can lead to food sticking to the surface and the need for replacement.
- Limited Browning and Searing: Non-stick surfaces are not ideal for achieving deep browning or searing, as the coating inhibits the formation of a desirable crust on certain foods. This can impact the texture and flavour of dishes. For example, dosa made on cast iron tawa is crispy and tastes much better than one made on non-stick pans.
- Extra Care Required: Non-stick cookware requires gentle handling to prevent damage to the coating. Metal or abrasive cleaning tools can scratch or chip the non-stick surface, compromising its effectiveness. Extra care is necessary to maintain the longevity of the cookware.
- Expensive: Non-stick cookware can be expensive initially, and it is generally recommended to replace these pans after approximately one year of regular usage.
It is important to weigh these disadvantages against the advantages of non-stick cookware and make an informed decision based on your cooking needs, preferences, and health considerations.
What is the advantage of Cast Iron cookware ?
- Health Benefits: Cooking with cast iron utensils is beneficial for our health. Cast Iron cookware are 100% natural and adds the desired iron nutrients to your body.
- Cost Effective: You can expect to pay a similar price for a cast iron kadai as you would for its non-stick counterpart. However, a cast iron kadai, known for its durability, can last a lifetime, whereas harmful non-stick cookware needs to be replaced every year.
- Ease of Cooking: The original purpose of using non-stick cookware was to facilitate easy cooking without food sticking to the surface and using less oil. The same convenience can be achieved with cast iron cookware, along with the added health benefits.
- Heat Retention: Cast iron cookware is known for its exceptional heat retention capabilities because the cookware is heavy. When a cast iron pan is heated, it effectively stores a significant amount of heat. This property results in uniform cooking and minimal loss of nutritional value in the food being prepared.
- Scratch resistant: Iron cookware is highly scratch-resistant, allowing you to confidently use a metal spatula while cooking. Its durable surface can withstand the use of metal utensils without compromising its quality or appearance
- Faster Cooking: With its excellent heat retention cooking in cast iron can be faster and more efficient, leading to potential savings in fuel consumption. The ability of cast iron to absorb, retain, and distribute heat allows for more efficient cooking, reducing the time needed to cook your meals. This can be particularly advantageous for dishes that require longer cooking times or simmering.
- Tastier food: Food in iron vessels comes out tastier because it can be roasted well. Vegetables are beautifully roasted in iron utensils, enhancing their overall texture. And how can we forget the yummy, crispy parathas cooked on an iron tawa.
- Gets Smoother with use: Iron cookware develops a smoother surface with regular use, which enhances its non-stick properties. As you continue to utilize and maintain the cookware, it further improves its non-stick capabilities.
Cast iron cookware is versatile and can be used to cook a wide variety of dishes, including restaurant-style delicious well-roasted gravies, perfectly sautéed vegetables, flavourful noodles, pastas, and even vermicelli. The heat retention properties of cast iron allow for even cooking and the development of rich flavours, making it a great choice for preparing these dishes to perfection.
What is the disadvantage of Cast Iron cookware ?
- Cast iron pans are heavy, which may not be preferred by some individuals.
- Cast Iron cookware needs seasoning initially. If not maintained well can get rusted and would need re seasoning. So, it needs some amount of special care.
- Cast iron cookware can break, if dropped from a considerable height. Due to its brittle nature, a significant impact can cause the cookware to fracture or break. However, if properly maintained and cared for, cast iron cookware has the potential to last for generations.
Can we reuse Cast Iron cookware once its rusted?
If your cast iron cookware has rusted, there’s no need to worry. Once you have removed the rust, your cookware will be ready to use again. To remove the rust, you need to re season it. For knowing how to season a cast iron cookware please read the blog “All you need to know about iron and cast iron cookware”
Different types of cast-iron cookware are:
- Cast Iron Kadai
- Cast iron skillet
- Cast iron grill pan
- Cast iron Appam Pan
- Cast Iron Paniyaram Pan
- Cast Iron Tawa/ Dosa Tawa
- Cast Iron flat bottom Pan for Induction
Where to purchase Cast Iron cookware from
I have purchased a significant amount of iron and cast iron cookware from reputable brands like Zishta and Indus Valley, and I must say that I am extremely satisfied with the products. These items have become an essential part of my daily cooking routine, and they have exceeded my expectations in terms of performance and durability.
The iron and cast iron cookware from Zishta and Indus Valley are of exceptional quality. I appreciate the fact that these brands prioritize traditional and sustainable manufacturing methods, which adds to the authenticity and value of their products.
You can find average reviews for cast iron products on Amazon. Some negative reviews often complain about the food turning black or the iron cookware rusting. However, these issues can be easily addressed with proper seasoning and patience during the initial use. After a few cooks, you’ll find cast iron cookware very easy to use and maintain.
Warning: Be cautious when purchasing iron and cast iron cookware. Some sellers may apply a coating to the cookware to give it a smooth appearance, making it appear like genuine iron. To test its authenticity, they may use a magnet to convince you that it is indeed made of iron. However, this coating can gradually wear off with use and cooking.
To ensure you get authentic iron cookware, it is best to look for items that have a rustic and not overly smooth or shiny appearance. Authentic iron cookware tends to have a more rugged and traditional look. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to buy from reputable and trusted sellers who are known for selling genuine iron cookware.
Food for thought, indeed. When it comes to choosing between cast iron and non-stick cookware, it’s essential to make an informed decision. Cast iron cookware, when seasoned well, offers the convenience of a natural non-stick surface while promoting the use of less oil in cooking. This can be beneficial both for your cooking experience and your health.
In contrast, non-stick cookware, while convenient, may have potential health risks associated with its coatings. Considering that cast iron can provide similar benefits without the potential harm, it’s worth considering whether non-stick cookware is truly necessary. Ultimately, prioritizing your health and well-being should be a key factor in making the right choice for your kitchen.
Decide for yourself whether you want iron or chemicals in your body?
This post includes affiliate links. If you click the link and buy the iron cookware, I may receive a small fee from the seller. This small fee goes towards maintaining the site so I can continue to give you great content.