Cast-iron cookware is here to stay despite the increasing number of pots and pans with high-tech designs and materials that supposedly helps improve your cooking skills. While cast-iron pots and pans are also wanting in the looks department, they still have a place beside artisanal cookware. Apart from versatility and durability, cast-iron cookware also gives you the option of cooking in a more traditional way, while enjoying other benefits that come with preparing meals with these types of pots and pans.
Williams-Sonoma offers a variety of cast-iron cookware including Dutch ovens and braisers, fry pans, grill pans, saucepans and specialty cookware. The offerings on the website also include cast-iron cookware sets from four-piece to 12-piece sets. Choose the four-piece cookware set and you get a fry pan, grill pan and a round cocotte with lid. With a 12-piece cast-iron cookware on the other hand, you get two au gratins and several more round cocottes with lids. Although this type of cookware usually conjures up images of crude pots and pans, the offerings on the website feature several coatings of enamel in different vibrant colors that make the cookware look like ceramic pans.
The versatility of iron as a material for cookware is evident in Dutch ovens and braisers. These cooking implements have been workhorses in the kitchen for several centuries. Dutch ovens and braisers work well on top of the stove or in the oven, and they shift easily from one to the other with hardly any problems at all. Dutch ovens also have the ability to retain heat longer and retain moisture. Use these kitchen workhorse for recipes such as stews, baked beans, roasts and even baked goods.
Cast-iron fry pans or skillets have a naturally nonstick cooking surface, which means you can use less oil when frying. Even with proper seasoning of the cooking surface, however, cast-iron skillets do not become as nonstick as other types of fry pans with a nonstick coating. One major advantage of cast-iron fry pans over those that have nonstick coating though, is that the former does not leech any dangerous chemicals into the food. What cast-iron skillet does instead is fortify the food with iron, which has a number of health benefits.
Cast-iron cookware has a high volumetric heat capacity, which means it has the ability of withstanding high temperatures and likewise retain the heat for a long time after removing it from the heat source. This gives you the option of using one of your cast-iron cookware items, such as the saucepan for instance, for slow cooking. Keep in mind though, unlike the popular myth, cast-iron cookware does not heat evenly; one workaround for this is pre-heating the pan for approximately 10 minutes. This is especially helpful when using the grill pans and griddles.
There are several considerations when purchasing cast-iron cookware and these include its weight, safety of use and maintenance requirements. Cast-iron cookware significantly heavier compared to aluminum cookware, and this means that working with this type of cookware is cumbersome. Cast-iron cookware is oftentimes a continuous single piece of metal, which means that their handles tend to get hot, especially during long cooking times. Make sure that you can manage the weight of this type of cookware before purchasing, and always remember to use a potholder or a dishtowel when handling them while cooking.
While some manufacturers claim that their cast-iron cookware is dishwasher-safe, it is still a good idea to hand wash the pots and pans instead. Use a mild soap and a non-abrasive sponge when washing the cookware. Regularly season this type of cookware, as it tends to rust without seasoning. Before washing them, make sure that it has cooled down enough. This helps prevent the cookware from warping or cracking. Allow the cookware to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry place.