Why cast iron cookware is good for your food and for you

Cast Your Vote for Cast Iron Cookware

by Leanne Ely

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If you feel that cooking in cast iron is more your grandmother's speed than your own, you might want to rethink that outdated belief. Cast iron is an efficient way to cook and it's a healthy option, too. I think those old-fashioned cast iron skillets deserve a place in even the most modern of kitchens.

I don't recommend cooking in non-stick pans because of all the chemicals required to prevent food from sticking. When the surface of those non-stick pans is scratched, you're ingesting those chemicals that are linked to cancer, early menopause, liver damage, and even developmental problems. Even the fumes are harmful when those pans are heated up at high temperatures. (If you don't want to worry about food sticking, but you can't get into the idea of using cast iron, look for ceramic-coated pans.)

Let's take a look at a few more reasons why cast iron is a good choice.

Heat conduction - Cast iron skillets conduct heat like a dream. You don't get hot spots like you do with other cookware. Cast iron can also conveniently go from the top of the stove to the oven without any problem. There's no plastic handle to worry about.

Long lasting - If taken care of, cast iron will last a lifetime. In fact, even with daily use, a cast iron skillet is likely to outlive you.

Use less oil - When a cast iron skillet is seasoned properly, it's essentially non stick. That means you only need a scant amount of oil to cook with.

Fortify your food with iron - The cast iron pan you cook your steak (or eggs, or whatever!) in won't leech out chemicals, but it will release iron. When you cook tomato sauce in a skillet or another very acidic food like applesauce, you actually increase the iron content of that food by twenty times! A newer pan leeches more iron, so if increasing your iron count is important, don't depend on your great-grandmother's cast iron pan to help you too much.

Cast Iron Cookware

Now, taking care of your cast iron is important. Here's how you can extend its life.

How to season a cast iron pan

When you bring your cast iron skillet home, put a thick layer of kosher salt on the bottom of the pan and cover that with about half an inch of cooking oil. Put some heat on under the skillet until the oil starts smoking. Then, discard the contents of the pan and rub the inside of the skillet with some paper towels until it's nice and smooth. These steps will give you a nonstick surface forever.

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How to clean a cast iron pan

Never use soap to wash your cast iron cookware. All you need to use to get your cast iron clean is some elbow grease, hot water, and a stiff brush. Let it dry completely before putting it away.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular, FlyLady.net, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. SavingDinner.com. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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