Friday, February 27, 2009

Why Switch from Teflon to Cast Iron Cookware?

My partner and I stopped using teflon-coated pans last year based on reports that the chemical used to make the teflon coating, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), was carcinogenic. I also read that studies had shown that the coating tended to break down and release toxic particles and gases when exposed to temperatures higher than 400 degrees.

I replaced our teflon pans with reasonably priced cast iron skillets from Lodge, which I love. Although our cast iron skillets came preseasoned to make them non-stick, I still seasoned them prior to their initial use. Below are the steps I used to season the new cookware.

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Wash the skillet with a mild soap and water and dry thoroughly.
3. Rub a thin coat of canola or vegetable oil all over the skillet (inside and outside, including the handle) with a paper towel.
4. Stick the skillet upside down on the upper rack of your oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack below the skillet to catch any drippings.
5. Turn off the oven after a couple of hours. Leave the skillet in the oven while it cools down.

During the seasoning process, the heat opens the "pores" of the cast iron, which are then filled with the oil to create a slick surface.

When you use your seasoned cast iron cookware for the first time, you may still experience some sticking. In that case, I suggest you fry (preferably deep fry) something - anything - in your cast iron cookware. What I did was fry my morning eggs with a little extra canola oil in a skillet for about a week, after which time they began sliding out of the skillet as easily as they had when they were cooked in a teflon-coated pan.

Caring for cast iron cookware could not be easier - warm water and a sponge. (A colleague of mine just wipes down her cast iron cookware with a paper towel.) Do not use soap. Soap will remove the seasoning, as will certain acidic foods, such as tomatoes. Last Saturday, I was making an omelet, and I decided to dump some leftover crushed tomatoes into the cast iron skillet. Within seconds the seasoning was completely stripped from the skillet, and I had to re-season it using the steps above. Lesson learned.

1 comment:

Rayne Today said...

There's an enormous difference between cast iron pans, although more contemporary pans are consistent in quality. I inherited a 10-inch frying pan from my MIL, who'd inherited it from her MIL. It is superior in speed and uniformity of heat, compared to more than a dozen other cast iron pans I've owned.

If you are up for it and serious about using cast iron, perhaps you and your partner could take a daytrip and do some tag sales, garage sales, antique stores to hunt down older cast iron pans. (Do research antique cast iron pans before you go, though.)

And do shop for a griddle; I have two round ones that are superb for making quesadillas or flatbread.