Since writing about our new stove recently, I thought I would write about what we cook in. I made a tangential comment about hand washing our dishes & cookware, rather than using a dishwasher. One reason we do this is that we often cook with cast iron skillets and pots. These need to be seasoned, and thereafter not washed with soap, or they will rust.
Our first cast iron cookware was more decorative, in the country-fashion. Occasionally, we used them, but mostly they hung on the post behind our woodstove for atmosphere. After moving to our cabin permanently, we began to use the more often. In our move, we brought out our set of pots and pan, accumulated a decade or more, during pre-marriage days. But, over time the handles got loose, and other wear-and-tear warranted replacement.
About the same time, we began using goat milk regularly. In our research about making cheese, yogurt, etc, we learned that goat milk is best processed with stainless steel cookware. Rather than buy a set of stainless steel pots, we purchased specific pots in the sizes that we needed. This did not include a skillet.
Instead, we began using our cast iron skillets, as we had them about. Then on a whim, I wanted to saute some vegetables on the grill. I took one of our cast iron pan and used it on the grill. Delicious, and just as easy to clean, as if I had cooked it on the range. During the winter, we figured out that the skillet fit into our wood cook-stove. We were on the way to transitioning to cast iron cooking.
Cast iron holds the heat evenly and longer than other metals. This makes for crispy egg scrambles, stir fry dishes, and baking (we found a cast iron muffin tin at a flea market one time!). We now have stew pots of various sizes. We even have a 4 inch skillet, which makes two eggs into perfect sandwich size circles. You also get the added benefit of having a little extra iron with every meal.
Cast iron does require more maintenance than conventional cookware. First you must season the skillet or pot by heating it (usually to 350F), then applying a light coat of oil, which the metal absorbs. After this, you only wash it in hot water. The seasoning makes it non-stick, without chemical layers flaking off into your food. After each washing, you put it back on the range on low heat until it dries. Then apply another light coat of oil. This protects it from rusting and makes it ready for the next round of cooking.
Cast iron cooking is not fast food. But, if you enjoy your time in the kitchen, start your collection.