Monday, November 4, 2013

Cast-Iron Skillets: Three Reasons They’re Great

Learn how to care for your skillet and reap its benefits.

Chicken in cast-iron skillet
Three reasons to use a cast iron skillet.

Ever wonder what the big fuss is about when it comes to cast iron for your everyday cooking? There are plenty of benefits in using cast iron. Here are the top three:

  1. Nonstick properties: When properly cared for, cast iron has a naturally nonstick surface that minimizes the amount of oil you need to cook.
  2. Iron Fortified: Cast iron also increases the iron content of food up to 20 times, especially when it’s an acidic food such as tomato sauce. The longer the food has contact with the pan, the more it absorbs. Iron is an important mineral and is beneficial in producing red blood cells.
  3. Versatile: Cast iron's third great strength is its versatility. You can use it for sautéing, deep or shallow frying, stir frying and baking. It can be used on an electric or gas stove, on an open fire or in an oven. Another bonus is that the pan evenly distributes heat, promoting uniform cooking.

To season your pan properly, follow these simple steps:

  • Hand-wash the pan with hot water. No soap is needed. Never place a cast-iron skillet in the dishwasher due to the detergent’s effect of removing the seasoning.
  • Remove burnt-on food by scrubbing the pan with coarse salt and a nonmetal brush.
  • Dry the pan immediately after each wash and lightly coat the surface with a neutral oil such as canola or coconut oil.

Although there are many benefits in using a cast iron skillet, be aware that these pans are heavy and require a little bit more attention than a typical pan. To find out more about cooking with cast iron cooking, visit

By Diana Tran, MSN, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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