In recent years, the boyfriend and I have been taking gradual steps toward reducing our exposure to risky chemicals in household products. I could write a whole post about this, as it’s much trickier than it should be, but today I wanted to share my experience with a certain kitchen-related detail.
I’m not super proud to admit this, but until very recently I had always employed a non-stick skillet as a major part of my cookware arsenal. It’s been my easy solution for cooking eggs, pancakes, quick sautes and stir fries. While the EPA does not currently attribute health risks to nonstick cookware, the potential concerns of the surface materials are enough reason for me to avoid them if possible.
Over time I’ve tried traditional Teflon pans as well as a variety of PTFE/PFOA-free cookware. While these new “greener” alternative surfaces may be promising, they also have limited research regarding their long-term safety. And as you may have guessed from my track record, I’m not only dissatisfied with the potential health implications, but I’ve also become really tired of replacing them practically every year as they wear out and lose their non-stick qualities.
So, when the surface on my last pan had reached its limit, it was time to consider my options:
- Continue to grudgingly replace non-stick cookware and acknowledge the potential health risks? No… the madness must end!
- Stainless steel? Maybe, but I feel like certain sticky foods will pose a challenge and I’ll find myself adding much more oil when cooking.
- Carbon Steel? What am I, a millionaire?
- Raw cast iron? When well-seasoned, it is a natural non-stick surface. It’s regarded for its even heat retention and unique ability to create a beautiful extra-golden crust. It even has the benefit of providing extra dietary iron with regular use. So many cooks love using cast iron… maybe it’s time for me to be one of them!
Embracing cast iron was something I should have done a long time ago, but there were a few things that made me hesitate before taking the plunge. First, I had some slight bewilderment regarding the cleaning process. I mean, no soap? …ever? This seemed problematic, but I convinced myself that the thousands of cast iron devotees out there must have a workable solution (duh). My second point of reluctance was the fact that cast iron pans are quite heavy, and that I am sort of a wimp. Terrible excuse, right?! Once I thought about it, I decided to look at this as an advantage… you know, a chance to incorporate upper-body conditioning into an activity that I actually enjoy!
I ended up buying this classic Lodge 12-inch skillet for a steal on Amazon, and I’m totally happy with the purchase so far. It’s hefty, definitely, but the weight hasn’t been a big issue. I can’t exactly toss sauteed veggies in the air like I might with a lighter weight skillet, but it doesn’t bother me to toss them around with a spatula instead. And the cleaning process? After happening upon a video by RD blogger Wendy Jo – a cast iron veteran – I already feel like a pro! Check out her easy technique for using salt as an abrasive to scrub out the pan after cooking!
All in all, I wish I had made the switch years ago. Tell me, what’s your favorite kind of cookware? If you’re a cast iron fan, do you have any tips to share with a beginner like me?