Have you ever wondered why a lot of chefs use cast iron pans?
It seems like a trend to me as everywhere I look the cast iron pan is the way to make the food looking so appetizing.
Though the cast iron pans are not a new creation of a modern food industry.
They have been known for a long time. And by long time I mean really long time.
So it looks like the cast iron pans are returning its popularity back.
The best cast iron pans review will not only provide you with the top 5 cast iron pans recommendations.
Here we will also equip you with some valuable information regarding the benefits of using the iron cast pans and some recommendations on how to choose and maintain them.
What Are the Benefits of Having A Cast Iron Pan?
It looks like every kitchen must have an iron cast pan.
But what exactly makes it so popular?
There are numerous benefits of having a cast iron pan in the kitchen and here are the main ones:
It takes some time to heat up an iron cast pan (approximately 5-7 minutes).
However, the metal retains heat when you place the food on it and the temperature of the pan will not drop drastically compared with the aluminum pans.
What it means to you is that you will have a thicker and crisper crust and you will need less oil to use since the heat retained will reheat the oil.
Yes, you can use it freely in the oven.
It works fantastic if you are making a one-pot meat pie.
Moreover, cast iron pans are amazing in baking as the pies come out truly crisp on the bottom no matter how moist was your filling.
The golden rule of a cast iron pan is the more you use it the better it gets.
The surface of the cast iron pan gets smoother the longer you use it and acquires its nonsticky qualities similar to Teflon-coated pans, though without any toxic chemicals used.
Cast iron pans are made of a single piece of metal, so there are no welded joints to wear out too.
As I have mentioned above you can cook pretty much anything in cast iron pans from the golden brown steak to crispy pies and pizzas.
What Are Disadvantages Of Having A Cast Iron Pan?
Even though cast iron pans have all these benefits there are certain disadvantages of using them as well, in particular:
All cast iron pans are extremely heavy.
It is a problem for some people who have bad wrists.
Whenever you are shopping a cast iron pan watch for the one with helper-handlers to be able to grab a pan from both sides and ease the heaviness of the pan, especially loaded with food.
The proper amount of seasoning needs to be built in
Even with the modern cast iron pans comes usually pre-seasoned, it takes time for the proper layer of seasoning to be built in.
As mentioned earlier without proper seasoning the food might be sticking to the surface.
Though if you use a cast iron pan very often, then the seasoning will be built in faster and you will get a perfect non-stick surface.
No acidic foods
Acidic foods tend to react with the iron and give food metallic taste.
Until the proper seasoning layer is built in, you might not want to use recipes where wine or tomato paste is involved.
Iron is not the greatest conductor.
What it means is that you would want to make sure to use a burner that will be the same size as your iron cast pan.
If you use a burner of smaller size, the edges of the cast iron pan would never be hot enough to cook food.
Requires special cleaning
In order for the iron cast pan last longer it needs a special maintenance which includes gentle cleaning, drying, and proper seasoning.
A cast iron pan can rust if not dried completely or scrubbed too much.
A Cast Iron Pan Buyer’s Guide
If you decided to follow the trend and try a cast iron yourself, there will be couples of things to consider before making your choice:
As it has been mentioned earlier cast iron pans are heavy.
You might want to adjust your cooking habits in order to you not to lift the pan very often.
When you look for a cast iron pan, look for the ones that have that extra hand support on the other side of the main handle.
Double handles will also balance the weight of the pan out for more even heat distribution.
The beauty of this cookware is that you can buy it either new or second hand.
The new pan for occasional cooking would cost you as small as approximately $20.
The set will cost you more.
Now, do you remember that the older the pan is, the better it gets?
You could look also for a pan in a thrift store. The fact that there was somebody else food in there should not scare you as you could always clean the pan properly and reseason it yourself at home.
Bare or coated
Bare cast iron pans do not have any extra coats on top except for the seasoning. Though it takes time for the proper layer of seasoning to be built in, the pan will last you pretty much forever.
If you do not want to wait, the other option available is enamel coated iron cast pans. These come already with a non-stick coat for your comfort. The price for this comfort will be higher.
Another thing to consider is that all coated pans need a gentle cleaning because if the top coat is damaged, the pan cannot be used anymore.
That is a big difference with the bare cast iron pans that will not be worn out as they do not have any extra pieces to be worn out.
The coated pans are great to use if you need to simmer food while bare iron cast pans are great for frying and baking.
5 Best Iron Cast Pans – Editor’s Choice
It is a great size pan that will suit almost any need of yours (frying, baking).
The pan comes already seasoned and with a silicone hot handle holder for grabbing the pan from the oven.
The skillet has a good level of seasoning though yet it is far away from being smooth. So you would want to use this pan quite often at the beginning to build in the proper seasoning layer.
The pan is also relatively big, so if you do not have a necessity to cook a big steak or you have a really bad wrist you might want to look for a pan of a smaller size (like #4 offers skillets of 10.25″).
This is probably one of my favorite coated cast iron pans.
The pan will cost more compared with the bare cast iron pans, but it comes with the double porcelain enamel coating that will prevent food from sticking to the surface.
Also, the coating is quite thick so the pan will last you for quite a while,
This model comes with the lid and will suit perfectly for simmering and baking.
The pans come in different colors and sizes.
This is a great set of 2 cast iron pans where the flatter one could also be used as a lid.
Both pans come pre-seasoned.
However, compared with other pans under review I found that this set has the roughest surface, therefore will need more time to get the surface smoother and non-sticky.
Specifically for this set, I would recommend reseasoning the pans at the beginning as there were couples of reviews claiming that the pans show rust spots right after cleaning.
Honestly, it is not a big deal as you can reseason the pan very easily at home.
Also consider that the price for the 2 pans is relatively low, so if you have patience it is the matter of reseasoning the pan at the beginning and making sure to use it very often to build a proper layer of seasoning.
Cast Iron Skillet by Lodge is probably one of my favorite cast iron pans.
The best thing about this pan is that it comes pre-seasoned and it is a quality seasoning.
What it means is that the pan has a nice smooth surface compared with other models under review.
It also means that you could start cooking in the skillet without being afraid that the food would stick to the surface.
It has a nice size, however, there are different size options available within this model. It also comes with the silicone handle holder.
This is another budget-friendly cast iron pan.
The pan comes pre-seasoned though I found that it is still rough and will need extra seasoning before the food will stop sticking to the surface.
Great size and quality for the price offered.
How To Maintain Cast Iron Pans
If you look closely at the surface of a cast iron pan you will see little pores and cracks.
When you cook, the food actually getting stuck in that pores and make it stick to the pan.
Now in order to prevent these from happening, you need to fill in these pores with fat.
When the oil is heated it creates a coating on the surface of the pan that prevents food from sticking to the pan’s surface.
Moreover, the more you use the pan, the thicker the coating, the less the food will stick to the pan’s surface.
Here are some tips on how to maintain a cast iron pan and build in the seasoning:
Use the pan very often to build in extra layers.
Use the pan mostly for frying or searing for some time. Once the pan got a smooth surface, then you could use it for simmering as well.
Make sure to let the pan cool down before pouring the water in. Pouring the water, especially cold one, will crack the surface of the pan.
For the easy clean let the pan cool down and add water with a little of soap and let it sit minutes minute at least.
Then gently scrub the food from the surface using the soft sponge.
Avoid tough abrasives
Do not use metal scrubby pads and detergents like Comet on a cast iron pan.
It will scrub the seasoning out and damage the surface.
Let it dry
After rinsing the pan, let it dry.
The best way to dry it in the oven.
Rub the entire surface of the pan with oil and bake at 350F for 60 minutes.
Take off and let it cool to room temperature.
Doing it couples of times will create an extra layer of seasoning and with time will make the iron cast pan surface smooth and non-sticky.