Cast Iron Cookware
Back when I first started cooking, I didn't know that there was such a thing as non-non-stick cookware. (Stick cookware?) Non-stick cookware made for easy clean-up! It let you use less oil and butter in your cooking! It was pretty much the best invention ever, right?
And then suddenly you started hearing bad things about non-stick cookware. Although they say it's perfectly safe to use as long as it's not scratched, my cookware was constantly scratching. It made me kind of uneasy, so I decided to switch out my non-stick pots and pans for cast iron. Since cast iron tends to be a little bit pricier, it's been an ongoing process, one that began before I even started blogging. As my old pots and pans wore out, I replaced them with new cast iron versions, usually scouring discount stores and the Le Creuset outlet for good deals. I've finally replaced my last few pieces with cast iron and I've learned a few things along the way:
Cast Iron Is Expensive (In the Short Term)
The biggest hurdle for me in switching to cast iron was the cost. But if you're replacing your non-stick cookware every few years like I was, in the long-run, cast iron ends up being cheaper because when cared for properly, it should never need to be replaced.
Cast Iron Cooks Differently
When I first started using cast iron, I was burning a whole mess of food. I felt frustrated and wondered if maybe I made the wrong decision. Well, I should have read the little booklet that came with my cookware—cast iron retains heat better than other cookware, so you need to keep the temperature a little bit lower than you would with your non-stick cookware.
Cast Iron Cleans Differently Too
Enamel cast iron, like Le Creuset, can be washed with soap and water just like other kinds of cookware. Black enamel can be either rinsed in hot water or cleaned with soap; with use, it will develop a patina, which looks a little bit like rust, but it actually helps keep food from sticking. Regular, non-enamel cast iron skillets should be rinsed with hot water or scrubbed with coarse salt; once dry, the skillet should be coated with a thin layer of cooking oil. This takes some getting used to—I still have a nagging feeling that my cast iron skillet isn't clean after I use it. For this reason, I prefer using enamel cast iron.
Cast Iron Is Super Convenient (Really!)
My absolute favorite thing about cast iron cookware is that it goes from stove to oven. When I make mac & cheese, instead of transferring it to a casserole dish, I can just leave it in the pot, top it with breadcrumbs and cheese, and pop it in the oven to bake. You can even use cast iron Dutch ovens to bake cakes and breads.
I used to make quesadillas on my panini maker, but after a few mishaps where more cheese ended up on the grill than in the tortilla, I've started making them in my enamel cast iron skillet instead. I use just a little bit of oil to get them perfectly crispy on the outside. These Broccoli Quinoa Quesadillas are a simple, kid-friendly meal, ready in under 30 minutes.
- ¼ cup quinoa cooked in vegetable broth according to package directions
- ½ cup frozen broccoli thawed and chopped
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- salt + pepper to taste
- 4 medium whole wheat tortillas
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Combine quinoa, broccoli, and cheese in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide mixture evenly onto one half of each tortilla; fold top of tortilla onto filling.
- Heat one teaspoon of oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat; swirl to coat.
- Place 2 quesadillas in skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes on each side. Add another teaspoon of oil to skillet and repeat with remaining quesadillas.
- Cut into wedges and serve.
Disclaimer: Although I bought almost all of my cast iron cookware myself, Le Creuset sent me a few pieces to finish out my set. This had no influence on my opinion of their products--I have used them for years!