Friday, February 27, 2009

Wherein I make the case for cast iron skillets over teflon

About a year ago I made my first forays into using cast iron skillets in an effort to get away from non-stick pans (here's a link to that post, "The Cast Iron Skillet -- Nature's Teflon"). After a year, I've completely ceased using my non-stick pan and am thinking about getting a 10" iron skillet to complete my collection of 3 bears skillets -- it would be the mama skillet.

There is a certain satisfaction when you can slide sunny-side up eggs out of a cast iron skillet with a minimum of fuss, and I say to all those in the non-stick pan camp that it is much easier to use cast iron. Here's my bullet-list of points I'd like to make about why i heart cast iron skillets:

  • They cost less to buy new, and even less to buy used. You might have to take a bit of sandpaper to a used one, depending on how much it has rusted, but ultimately they will cost a third of what you would pay for a high-end non-stick coated pan.
  • They last longer. I've used the baby bear skillet off and on for over 10 years, whereas I've gone through about 3 non-stick pans in that same amount of time. Two of the pans eventually got scratches, one of them had the bejeezus burned out of it, making it completely unusuable. And, honestly, how many of us have used a non-stick pan even after it's gotten a scratch, full-well knowing that teeny-tiny microscopic flecks of coating would be leeching into food? I know I have, because the dang things cost so much money to replace.
  • You can use forks, metal spatulas, hunting knives, whatever you have on-hand to cook with when using a cast-iron skillet, whereas you have to use plastic or silicon with a non-stick pan. Actually, I've gotten around that by using bamboo rice paddles, but with mixed results.
  • Cast iron skillets give you the added bonus of a little bit of iron in everything you cook, whereas non-stick coatings have no nutritional value whatsoever (and I refer you to the second bullet-point to illustrate what you don't want in your food when cooking with non-stick pans).
  • If you read the post I wrote a year ago, Tracy left a great reason in the comments for not using Teflon or other non-stick coated skillets: Her birds are highly suseptible to the toxic fumes from an overheated non-stick pan.
To those who think, "oh, but all that grease you have to use with cast-iron skillets...." I say, "pshaw!" Once your pan is properly seasoned, you don't have to use much butter or oil at all to cook. And, who doesn't like butter?! Using good quality butter in your cooking is a small price to pay next to any negatives that come with using non-stick pans.
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