I've had these skillets just about forever. Inherited from my grandmother, I couldn't bear to part with them. But I didn't use them, either, aside from camping trips (where they're perfect over a Coleman stove or atop a wood fire).
On a whim, one day about a year ago I sautéed a salmon filet in one of Grandma's old skillets. It turned out perfectly, lightly-seared and with a lovely color--better tasting and prettier to look at than the same filet cooked in one of my revered (and expensive) alloy pans.
With that, I was hooked. Over the last year I've used the cast-iron increasingly in jobs that require sautéeing, stewing, or simmering, and I often use them in the oven.
A few reasons to consider using this amazingly durable yet quite inexpensive cookware:
- Cast iron heats slowly but then retains heat while distributing it evenly across the entire surface. No hot spots, no cold spots, and everything in the pan cooks at the same rate.
- Cast iron adds the mineral iron, which makes red blood cells, to our diet. Small amounts of iron leach from the pan into the cooking food; this is particularly true with acid-based foods like tomatoes.
- Keep your cast-iron pan well seasoned, and it will act just like a teflon-coated pan: use just a thin touch of oil, and the food won't stick...and you don't have to worry about a man-made coating (such as Teflon) breaking down and adding toxic substances to your food. To learn how to properly season a pan, visit a culinary website I enjoy, What's Cooking America.
- If you, like me, use a pan inherited from a family member--well, there's just something really nice about that.