The Pros and Cons of Cast Iron Pots

Cookware comes in many different forms and can be fashioned from a variety of materials, each with its particular merits. For example, both stainless steel and aluminium have long been popular for the manufacture of items such as saucepans and frying pans, while the latter is still commonly used to make non-electric kettles and teapots. The value of the former is obvious from its name, but aluminium is lighter and resists corrosion due to the formation of a thin but tough surface layer of aluminium oxide that prevents any further atmospheric oxidation. Despite these relatively new materials, cast iron pots are still a popular choice for many cooks, and not just the potjiekos fans.

In practice, cooking vessels with non-stick coatings, such as Teflon and ceramic cookware, tend to be seen as the most hygienic option and at least as effective, if not more so, as steel and aluminium. It would, however, be a mistake to believe that despite being far older, the raw material under discussion does not share this particular virtue. In fact, this is a myth that is easily dispelled. When the metal has been properly “seasoned” with a coating of cooking oil, it can display excellent non-stick properties that both ensure that food is not easily burnt when cooked in cast iron pots and that these vessels should be no more difficult to clean than those made of other materials.

As with the meals they are used to prepare, it is the quality of the ingredients used to make these cooking vessels that makes all the difference. In this case, there is just a single ingredient and it is its quality alone that will determine how well it performs. As an excellent conductor, the metal ensures that the heat is distributed evenly and just as efficiently as is the case when using aluminium cookware. This, in turn, means that the cooking process will also be even and thus minimise any tendency for it to stick to the bottom or the sides of these cast iron pots.

From an economic viewpoint, they are a sound investment as, when cared for properly, they are virtually indestructible and should last a lifetime. The misbelief regarding its non-stick qualities, however, is not the only myth associated with the metal. For example, there is a belief that they can be spoiled by cleaning them with soap and water. This is not true. The simple act of re-seasoning it with an inner and outer coating of cooking oil baked at around 180 °C, for 30 minutes or so prevents rust and should see them performing like new again.

Another myth about cast iron pots is that metal utensils damage their surface. In reality, when used regularly, they can build up a thin layer of carbon which, if dislodged, could discolour the contents and create the false impression that the vessel is damaged. While the carbon is not harmful, it is better to use wooden or silicone utensils. Some manufacturers now apply a ceramic coating to the metal, removing the need for seasoning and making them easier to clean.

Although cast iron pots are a lot heavier than alternative types of cookware, their pros far outweigh their cons.