Posted by Abby on 4/12/2013
Cast iron is able to withstand very high cooking temperatures which makes it ideal for searing or frying foods! It also has great heat diffusion and retention, so it's a good option for cooking stews as well. Cast iron can develop a non-stick surface, so another great use is for baking, like making cornbread and cobblers! Most cast iron is made from a single piece of metal, which provides great distribution of heat. The down side, is that cast iron is a very slow conductor of heat and can form hot spots if heated too quickly or placed on an undersized burner. But it has great retention properties, so be careful, the entire pan will become very hot, including the handle(s).
A study found that using cast iron cookware can up the percentage of iron in your food, depending on the food itself, its acidity, its water content, and how long it was cooked. Those with iron deficiencies can benefit from this effect!
You should never clean your cast iron with a scouring pad or in a dishwasher. This can damage the seasoning on a bare cast iron pan. To clean your cast iron, simply wipe them out after use, wash with hot water and a brush, mild soap and water, or with coarse salt and a paper towel or clean rag. Once clean you will want to re-season your pan. To do this, you will want to be sure the cast iron is completely dry. Coat the pan inside and out with lard, Crisco, bacon fat or corn oil. Be sure to put a piece of aluminum foil on a lower rack (to catch drippings) and place the pan upside down in your oven at a high temperature (300F - 500F) for at least an hour. Seasoning protects the pan from rust and provides a non-stick surface.