Posted by: A Part of the Solution | October 20, 2010

Cast Iron Cookware

A guest over the weekend just past watched as I heated my 14″ cast iron pan, preparing it for a Brobdingnagian heap of hash browns to heat through. He asked wryly if my pots and pans were organic ‘too’. Apparently, he’d read or heard enough about the mattresses, pillows, towels, sheets and cleaning products to suspect few aspects of life on the farm are untouched by our mania for ‘clean and green’ living.

I stared at the cast iron pans occupying my stove-top and answered the guest, “Why yes, since they’re made of a single element–and the process of casting them doesn’t alter their atomic structure, I suppose they are organic ‘too’.” This may not seem like such a big deal, to have pots and pans which don’t carry a heavy carbon footprint in their assembly, but it matters to us.

Our cast iron cookware mostly comes from garage sales, and the bottoms of other people’s cupboards–where they’ve stowed, and forgotten, some fine pieces of gear. Even bought new, most of the cast iron for sale in this country is made in this country. And it doesn’t cost much either. I find that the low price makes some people suspicious of the product. How ironic, to have quality of that caliber at one’s fingertips and to reject it for not being as overpriced as so many cookware options are these days.

This stuff isn’t imported from across the globe. Cast iron doesn’t require patented chemical slicks to be poured across it at specific temperatures to form a desirable cooking surface. It doesn’t have any rivets, or handles made of a different weight or composition of materials to stay cool. Cast iron isn’t dishwasher safe. It will rust in a damp environment if it isn’t lightly coated with oil (a wipe with an oiled paper towel or rag will do the trick). It isn’t one hundred percent non-stick, though over time it develops a virtually non-stick patina of minute molecular layers of naturally forming creosote.

Cast iron does contribute absorbable mineral iron to one’s diet. It is ideal for persons on a vegetarian diet, or prone to anemia. It will last, with minimal care, for generation after generation. It heats evenly, and holds heat ideally. Cast iron works fabulously at low temperatures and at absolutely scorching temperatures. It is oven-safe. It cleans easily and is marvelous as a defensive weapon against home invaders. Plus it represents an outstanding work-out assist right in the kitchen. Cooking with cast iron on a regular basis tones and firms the upper body, due to its great weight.

So get out your cast iron and cast a vote for ‘organic’ cooking as well as organic food to be cooked. Rub away the rust, re-oil the pan and heat it through in the oven. Wipe it down when it’s cool enough and you’ll have a burnished pan ready to get back to work on your behalf. And your food will be that much more tasty and nutritious. Plus you’ll have biceps to write home about.



  1. *standing ovation*

    It’s also my preferred camp cookware. And you can find the worst, most crapped-up and tossed-out cast iron pan, with a measurable thickness of rust….and since it’s just iron through and through, a bit of labor-intensive wire brush scrubbing followed by a regular cleaning and then a re-oiling….and you’ve got a beautiful thing. They’re virtually indestructible.

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