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Cooking with Cast Iron— Brutal Pleasure for a Chef……

As a chef you always look for new ways of doing things, rather, better ways of cooking things in your kitchen. It is always fascinating to cook using the latest and the modern cookware whether its non-stick appliances or anodized cook wares, etc…….

Recently I started taking a keen interest in Vedic ways of cooking or in layman’s parlance, Ayurvedic Cuisine. While studying this very scientific and natural cuisine, I looked up on the cookware used for cooking the healthy Ayurvedic foods. One of them was cast iron. Cast iron cookware was the cooking utensil of choice for our forefathers; it was readily available, inexpensive, extremely versatile, and nearly indestructible.

However, cooking in cast iron or for that matter any iron cookware was always looked as “desi” method.

During my early professional years, except for Kadhai used for frying, iron cookware was looked down upon in Modern Kitchens. Growing up as chef… we were more focused on hygiene and sanitation in cooking and hence iron cookware were always relegated to least and last of the options…Rust, maintenance, bulkiness and heavy weight were some of the reasons for not using them anytime…

I recently bought a set of Earthenware and Cast Iron Cooking vessels at my home. Again after the initial excitement of learning how to use them and seasoning them for the next use, they were back in some corner in the kitchen… not used at all!!

This pandemic break has really come as a blessing in disguise as I started exploring many ingenuous methods at home.

Now as of yesterday, I made use of all the cast iron cookware, the indomitable tawa (skillet), the frying pan, the kadhai and even the small deep round spoon used for tempering!!

The occasion was my daughter’s 25th Birthday!!

So had to cook something special for dinner… here we go…

  • made some watermelon cooler,

  • Herbed Grilled Chicken in the cast iron fry pan, here is the video…

  • Layonnaise Potatoes with cheese in the cast iron kadhai and

  • Garlic Bread. 

And my wife made some wonderful Dosa’s using the Cast Iron skillet in the morning. Let me tell you…. It’s such a pleasure cooking on Cast Iron…. You get wonderful texture and aroma from your food… you will love the way your food comes out… with minimum of fat…

If you follow the strict rules of how to use cast iron cookware, it’s as easy as using a non-stick pan… that’s the first takeaway…

I will link you to some great links which will tell you how to take care of your Cast Iron Cookware…

Second you have to control your heat... things can really go wrong if you do not.. although it’s a misconception that cast iron heats evenly…. there are cold spots… but clear advantage is once heated, the heat stays there for a long time…

Third benefit of cooking on cast iron is the healthy aspect of it.. You get much needed iron in your food… https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/the-health-benefits-of-cooking-with-a-cast-iron-skillet-article

This metal cookware has many varieties. Types of cast iron cookware include:

Frying Pan

Kadhai

Dutch Oven

Skillet

Griddle Plate

Crepe Makers

Tetsubin

Wok

Potjies

Waffle Iron

Kadla (Tempering Spoon)

Advantages of Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware

The recent resurgence of the gourmet cooking has got the use of cast iron cookware back in trend. Cast iron is versatile enough to fry, sear, bake, saute, and more, all in the same piece of cookery. It can be used over a gas flame or on an electric stovetop, in an oven to bake/broil, or over an open fire. Over time cast iron will develop its own non-stick coating if kept properly seasoned without the use of chemicals. (Commercial coatings on non-stick pans, such as Teflon, may leech into food particularly during high heat applications.) When you use cast iron cookware with proper care, it should last a lifetime or more. I will definitely recommend it to you as “must” in your kitchen.

Disadvantages of Cooking with Cast Iron

It is a fact that cast iron is heavy and may not be manageable for some, especially those with arthritis and other joint problems. Cast iron will easily rust if left wet even overnight and so must be completely dry except when in use. Finally, care must be taken when cleaning cast iron (and is approached somewhat differently than modern cookware), as it is possible to remove the “seasoning” which gives it its non-stick surface.

I found some good sites to highlight the myth’s associated with Cast Iron Cookware. One of them is here: https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/11/the-truth-about-cast-iron.html

I will recommend few recipes that you can try at your home. You can cook some great recipes using this metal, go ahead and explore: https://gearpatrol.com/2020/03/19/best-recipes-cast-iron-skillet/

One thing is for sure…. Although difficult to handle on daily basis, you can definitely try it for your “specials”!!

Happy Cooking with Cast Iron

Chef Atul Gokhale Director SSCA

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