Cast iron pots have been the workhorses of the cooking industry for centuries. Hundreds of years ago they were used to hang over a fire and cook meat for hunters, travellers, tribes, armies, and families. When they arrived in South Africa, they were mainly imported by the Dutch. This is why they are also called “Dutch ovens”.

Later, during the Voortrekker days when the Dutch trekked across the country with ox wagons, the “potjie” was born. These were heavy, round, three-legged pots that traditionally hung underneath the ox wagons, and were hardly ever empty. Whatever vegetables, herbs, and animals were found or killed on the day were added to the contents of the pot, so it just continued to cook and feed the family for as long as the journey lasted. Cast iron pots, therefore, have an inherent place in South African history, and the “potjie” is still used as a popular South African cooking vessel today.

Since then, however, the shape and forms of cookware have changed. They have been modernised into skillets, pans, pots, and casserole dishes. Often, they are things of beauty, covered in different types and colours of ceramic glazing. Modern pots are now practically a vague reminder of the rustic, black old vessels that they were. Yet, the functionality and practicality of cast iron cookware still remain as valid and valuable as ever. There are, however, some burning questions that people ask about cooking with these pots.

Here we answer some of them.

  1. Is cast iron heavy to use? While the old iron-based cookware was very heavy, difficult to lift, and cumbersome to stack away, the modern versions are much lighter. They can easily be lifted and stacked, and as a result, they can produce many hours of pleasurable cooking!
  2. What is the situation with seasoning? The typical black, raw cast iron cookware was traditionally flavoured by the seasoning used during cooking. The pot seemed to absorb the oil and seasoning, and therefore produced more flavourful dishes. Often, these pots were not washed, but merely wiped clean with a cloth or sponge and water. With the new ranges, which are mostly coated in ceramic glazing, the seasoning is still somewhat contained, but it is necessary to keep them clean and wash them with a sponge and washing liquid, as one does with other dishes.
  3. Are cast iron pots non-stick? Yes, they are! A lot of modern cookware contains a coating that makes them non-stick. While these are great to use, the non-stick covering wears off after a while. This may leave traces or pieces of non-stick Teflon in the food, which is not pleasurable or tasty. Iron cookware is naturally non-stick after it has been seasoned. When the correct temperatures are used, they can be very easy to clean.
  4. If I purchase a non-ceramic cast iron pot, do I need to season it first? Yes, you do. In order to create a non-stick surface, it is vital that some oil is rubbed into the pot and left for a couple of days to make it non-stick. The best way to do this is to heat your iron cookware to a high temperature, remove it from the cooking surface, oil it with vegetable oil or sunflower oil, and then let it cool. This will help with the non-stick properties and ease of cooking in the long run to help you get the best from your cookware.

If you have any further questions about modern cookware, please contact our informative team at Snappy Chef. We will provide you with all the information you need to keep your pots in tip-top shape!