Content of the material
- Step 1: Wash out the pan
- Is cast iron cookware carcinogenic?
- The Myth: If a cast-iron pan gets rusted, it’s ruined
- Canning tomato sauce
- I like cast iron non-toxic cookware because it contains no lead
- With the right use, your cast iron can serve as safe non-stick cookware.
- How does seasoning cast iron pots and pans work?
- Is cast iron safe? It depends.
- The Myth: One of cast iron’s greatest advantages is that it heats really evenly
- Is it OK to boil water in cast iron?
Step 1: Wash out the pan
You may have heard that you should never ever use soap on cast iron. That’s not entirely true—a well-seasoned skillet has enough of a coating that a little surfactant won’t hurt it. Still, in general, plain water is the way to go—unless you’re about to reseason cast iron.
In this case, you want to get rid of any little food particles and bits of rust on the surface before you season, so you can create the smoothest possible coating. That means you should use soap. If your pan is rusted out, take some steel wool to it and scrub that red color off. Really go for it, and feel free to scour the outside of the pan as well—it can’t hurt.
Is cast iron cookware carcinogenic?
The coating on a properly seasoned cast iron pan is polymerized oil; usually flax seed oil. It is not carcinogenic. The healthiest cookware is that in which you prepare nutritionally balanced meals.
The Myth: If a cast-iron pan gets rusted, it’s ruined
THE TESTING: Because cast iron is so durable, old cast-iron pans are a common find at thrift stores, antique shops, and flea markets. But older cast iron may not always be in tip-top shape. To find out whether even the most damaged cast iron could still be salvaged, we took the most abused skillets we could find; completely stripped them of all their dirt, rust, and ruined seasoning by sending them through the self-cleaning cycle on our oven; and then tried reseasoning them from scratch.
THE TAKEAWAY: It takes a lot to kill a cast-iron skillet. If yours has a crack in it from improper use or storage, or if it has literally rusted through, it’s time to throw it out, but unless the structure of the pan has been truly compromised, there isn’t much that can “ruin” a cast-iron skillet. Even if the seasoning gets seriously marred or the pan starts to rust, you can clean it off and start fresh.
Canning tomato sauce
The good thing about pressure canning tomato sauce is that you don’t need to pre-sterilize your jars. Just make sure that they are clean.
You can use either pint or quart jars here. Fill them with the hot tomato sauce, leaving a one-inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a wet paper towel, cover with lids and tighten the bands finger-tight.
Process pint jars in a pressure canner for 60 minutes at 10 lb weighted gauge for 0 – 1000 ft elevations above sea level and 15 lb weighted gauge for elevations above 1000 ft. Process quart jars for 70 minutes at the same pressure levels.
I like cast iron non-toxic cookware because it contains no lead
To start with, cast iron is made of an alloy comprised of over 90% iron. As you may know, cast iron cookware has a long history of use in Asia, Europe, and the US. It was especially popular during the first half of the 20th century because it was cheap and durable. Therefore, most American households had at least one cast-iron cooking pan at the time. Even though it fell into disfavor, it is now seeing a strong comeback as non-toxic cookware.
For example, according to Tamara Rubin, a leading lead-poisoning prevention advocate, cast iron has a much higher melting point than lead. As a consequence, simple cast iron pots and pans almost never have any lead as it is unlikely for the metal itself to contain lead. The two exceptions, though, are cast iron cookware with a decorative high-temperature enamel finish and some antique cast iron cooking items (source).
With the right use, your cast iron can serve as safe non-stick cookware
Although cast iron cookware does not carry “non-stick” marketing labels, it has non-stick properties. All you need to do is learn how to use it correctly. When you do, your non-stick cast iron will serve you long and well.
First, make sure you heat the pan well before you add any food. A few drops of water dancing across the surface as they boil off are a good indicator.
Second, season your cast iron after every use. For example, after washing my cast iron, I put it back on the stove in a wet state. Once the water has boiled away, I take it off the stove and apply a thin layer of avocado oil (the best oil to use at high heat). When it cools down, I wipe any excess with a paper towel before putting it away.
How does seasoning cast iron pots and pans work?
Apparently, heating the cast iron opens small holes, or pores, in its surface. These pores collect and trap the oil as it cools and contracts, making it act as a non-stick surface the next time you use it. And if you do not do this, the cast iron may rust. But you can restore even a rusty pan with some elbow grease and a new seasoning.
Don’t let the need to season your cast iron cookware after each use intimidate you. It is easy to do once you get in the habit. Besides, a cast iron skillet usually comes with instructions on how to season it before the first use. And there are lots of videos online as to how to do it.
Thus, with the right treatment, your cast iron has a potential to become your favorite safe non-stick cookware. Based on experience, I can say that non-stick cast iron is perfect for pancakes and other potentially sticky food. After a couple of months, our cast iron skillet became non-stick.
Is cast iron safe? It depends
Cast iron safety is a moot point. First of all, cast iron leaches iron into food during the cooking process. Thus, studies show that the amount of iron varies from 1.7 mg per 100 g to 26 mg per 100 g. In addition, acidic foods, high moisture content, and the long duration of cooking increase the release of iron significantly. Therefore, not to overdose on iron, it is best not to use it frequently or at all for acidic food that requires long cooking time, such as tomato sauce.
Can iron cause harm to our health?
On the one hand, iron is a necessary substance for our health. Therefore, cast iron cookware may help with iron deficiency when the diet is poor in iron or when the iron does not absorb well. Clearly, we should not consider this safe non-stick cookware the only source of iron, though.
On the other hand, too much iron is toxic. Accumulating too much iron can be due to a genetic disease called hemochromatosis. But many people do not know they have this disease. In fact, symptoms of iron overload can be very few, or can include joint pain, fatigue, general weakness, weight loss, and stomach pain.
So, how much iron do we need?
Basically, the amount of iron we need daily depends on age, gender, and whether a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding. That is to say, the range is between 7 mg to 27 mg daily. And pregnant women need the highest amount. For more details, please visit here.
Therefore, I recommend that you determine your iron needs before making cast iron pots and pans your primary cookware and use it accordingly.
You can do that by asking your doctor for some blood tests. For example, Myrto Ashe, MD, MPH, IFMCP, who reviewed this post, recommends getting both a ferritin level and a serum iron and TIBC (total iron binding capacity). The ferritin is a measure of iron storage, but it is also a measure of inflammation and insulin resistance. Thus, the ratio of iron divided by TIBC gives you the information you really need. When the ratio is too low, there is likely iron deficiency. When the ratio is too high, there is iron overload. How high is too high? There is a debate: 35% is safe, 40% less so, 45% probably too high. When the ratio is too high, the protein that carries iron is a bit overwhelmed. It drops iron in various places in the body, which is harmful as it causes oxidative stress.
The Myth: One of cast iron’s greatest advantages is that it heats really evenly
THE TESTING: We were interested in this question because it would affect the way we went about preheating our skillets for cooking. To see just how the pans reacted when placed over heat, we designed a test that would give us a visual indication of the way heat traveled through the cast iron. We spread 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour in both our favorite cast-iron skillet and a traditional stainless-steel skillet and heated them over medium heat until the flour started to toast. As the flour browned in the hot pans, it essentially created a map of how each skillet heated up. THE TAKEAWAY: While the flour in the stainless-steel skillet toasted evenly to a uniform golden brown (below, left), the flour in our cast-iron skillet started to burn in some spots before other areas of the skillet had any browning at all (below, right). It turns out that because cast iron is such a poor conductor, it in fact heats very unevenly on the stove—and more or less so depending on the level of heat you use. To work around this, we preheat the skillet in a 500-degree oven when we need a really good, even, fast sear. The better heat distribution in the oven helps the pan heat more evenly, creating a superior surface for searing. For recipes where a strong sear isn’t necessary, we preheat the pan for either 3 or 5 minutes over medium-high heat on the stovetop, which we found to be the best way to get relatively even heat without too much work.
Is it OK to boil water in cast iron?
You can boil water and liquids in your cast iron without any issues. It will not ruin the seasoning or create rust. For example, I simmer sauces and I use boiling water to clean my cast iron skillet. As long as you don’t soak it for long periods, your cast iron will be OK.