Cookware (or, Cast Your Vote for Cast Iron)

When I married the CaveHusband (update: nearly three years ago now), we had a heck of a time with the registry.
(Life is sooooo hard).
We had our food intake down, but were just beginning to explore the other areas of our lives in need of a Primal makeover. We were learning about liver (as in, eating it), genetically-modified foods (Seeds of Deception and The World According To Monsanto blew our minds), the joy of knowing our farmers, and the relationship between quality sleep, eating seasonally, and health. We had our Eat Primal merit badges, but there’s always more to learn.

The Eat Primal merit badge, right next to the I Saw A Movie Where The Main Character Reflects America’s Health Crisis badge.

So, with those boxes checked, the question plaguing us – not to mention mankind – was what kind of cookware should we put on our wedding registry?
While everyone seems to cook in non-stick pans these days, googling (tee-hee…”googling”) non-stick safety yielded far too many conflicting ideas about long-term safety issues. So we decided to remove ourselves from that fray altogether. While the new “non-stick” pans are touted as “safe” with the caveats Don’t Scratch, Don’t Use Near Wildlife, Don’t Overheat and Don’t Get Mad At Us In 50 Years When Your Brain Starts Growing Out Your Ear, we decided to opt for a few more established players. Besides, it says right on the Calphalon website “Cooks with little to no oils or fats.
If fat-free cooking isn’t against my religion, I don’t know what is.
I understand the convenience of non-stick cooking, but if I’ve learned anything, “convenience” products are generally wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sure, learning a new way of cooking can be a mild inconvenience for us habitual food-burners, but I’d be remiss if I let my own incompetence lead me to campaign for the Froot Loops candidate. Practice makes perfect – and, in honesty, cooking without non-stick isn’t all that difficult.
Enter the three (non-Caveman) Loves of my Life. Stainless Steel cookware, porcelain-enameled Dutch oven, and Cast Iron Skillet(s).

We registered for Stainless Steel cookware because the good glass cookware (the safest, in my opinion, behind cast iron) has mostly been discontinued; and is a bit too risky given the fact that not only did we have to move everything cross-country, we also needed cookware that would stand up to Anger, Frustration, Klutziness, and I Touched The Hot Handle Without An Oven Mitt-ness. While extended use with acidic foods like tomato sauce can cause mild breakdown and leeching, I’m not concerned with the after-effects of sautéing my onions in a gallon of coconut oil. SS is also perfect for re-heating dishes when you’re trying to reduce your micro-wave load. Or avoid your co-workers’ special brand of Crazy.
“Please clear any unused time off the microwave when you are finished. Some of us have OCD and leftover time drives us crazy.” Crazy is right.

We picked up the Dutch oven (a misnomer) in Greece on our honeymoon. It was made in a little stoneware shop using traditional techniques combined with Le Creuset precision and we got it at 1/4 of the standard DO price. It’s porcelain over iron and, since my crock pot went kaput, I’ve been using it for everything from soups to oven pork shoulders. I am proud to say that I know my Dutch Oven farmer.
My number one favorite is the cast-iron skillet. It’s old-school, good for baking, heats evenly, makes everything delicious, and it would be perfect for beating the snot out of an intruder. (If only these folks had one.) All you have to do is season it, love it, and remember to use an oven mitt when you touch the handle. I’ve cooked everything from stews and frittatas to bacon and hash in it, and we store it in the oven because…our kitchen is precisely the size of an oven mitt and we use all the storage space we’ve got.
Meatballs cooking perfectly in the cast iron.

You can take it camping and use it over the fire or a charcoal grill when tailgating. While you can get seriously old-school cast irons like Griswold on ebay, Crate & Barrel carries pre-seasoned Lodge brand which seems to work quite well. What else do you cook with?

The Cast Iron goes anywhere!

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8 Responses

  1. I absolutely love my two cast iron skillets…both are about 65 years old and were my grandmothers. They are both smooth as glass and since I have gone paleo, they only have animal fat touching them. The have none stickiness has improved dramatically with the use and seasoning with tallow and lard.
    Take care of your cast iron and they will take care of your food.
    Here’s a pic of them http://plixi.com/p/58891088

    1. They look so well-loved and well-seasoned! I need to pick up a mid-size cast iron for the smaller dishes. I’ve even seen teensy single-serve ones for individual dishes. Love it. I hope to pass my cast iron down as your grandmothers did.

  2. Husband and I just decided to throw our nonstick away (goodwill) and start over with stainless (and now maybe a cast iron). Then I read this… its like I have ESPN or something… (name the movie)

  3. so informative, thank you! i’m sure cast iron is widely used in the UK, I just haven’t seen it as much in the high street shops (though the same is true if you go to Macy’s in the US). We have to be mindful of budget at the moment but fully intend to snag a cast iron pan sometime soon 🙂

  4. I love my cast iron skillets and my enamel-over-cast dutch oven. I have some heirloom skillets and always buy the nice, old, machined ones if I see them at a second-hand store. I strip them, re-season them, and use them.
    I suggest getting some of the Lodge hot handle holders so you don’t have to grab a hot pad. Makes it much easier if I’m cooking with multiple pans at once.

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