Cast iron skillets are always referred to as something of greatness. The legend of a cast iron skillet is known to be the end all, be all of cookware. But, why? Today, we’re going to dive into all things cast iron to really understand what these fabled skillets are capable of and how they can benefit your commercial kitchen.
What is a Cast Iron Skillet?
Cast iron is one of the oldest cooking materials. It has been used for decades due to its valued heat retention. A cast iron skillet takes the shape of a grill pan or fry pan, but is made completely of cast iron. This creates a heavy, durable, and sturdy cooking vessel that can cook just about anything inside of it.
Benefits of Cast Iron Skillets
So, why cast iron? Here are a few of the benefits that you can expect to receive when investing in a cast iron skillet.
1. Cast Iron Skillets Get Better with Age
Today, we are always on the hunt for the newest and best nonstick pans. These pans are coated with all kinds of different chemicals and materials to make magic-like surfaces where food seems to glide without hesitation along the surface. An aged and well-seasoned cast iron can become that pan over time. With constant and consistent use and maintenance, a cast iron skillet can become a nonstick, heavy-duty cooking vessel that can hold onto high heat and also release food easily. This takes tons of time and dedication to ensure that the pan is well seasoned after every use.
2. Cast Iron Maintains Heat
We have briefly mentioned this before, but it truly is one of the main benefits of cooking with cast iron. Once cast iron cookware gets completely hot, it will stay hot. This is something that we try to replicate with stainless steel pans, but it falls short in comparison. Stainless steel cookware can heat evenly, quickly, but cast iron can hang onto that heat throughout the entire pan for much longer. This makes for a more even and desirable result for foods like meats and steaks.
3. Cast Iron is Extremely Durable
Cast iron is truly the stuff of legend. Its use dates back decades and those first cast iron cooking vessels could still be used to this day. That cannot be said for some of the modern cookware that we see today. Stainless steel, nonstick, and copper cookware has a lifespan, but cast iron can last for years on end. They are virtually indestructible and only get better with every use.
4. Cast Iron Can Keep Food From Burning
One of the common misconceptions about cast iron skillets is that they burn foods. It’s true, but can easily be avoided. Cast iron has poor thermal conductivity. This means that the pan can develop hot spots when it first comes in contact with heat. But, if you let a cast iron skillet preheat, you will quickly get a completely even cooking surface. The pan can get really hot and maintain the heat all over to avoid food from burning in places.
Considerations (Cons) for Using Cast Iron Skillets
In the beginning, a cast iron can be a major adjustment for chefs. These pans are not the best right out of the gate. They require some time and a few uses to get where they need to be to create great foods. The size and weight can also be another challenge for chefs that are used to handling modern cookware. Cast iron is extremely heavy and can make handling a bit more difficult when you need quick and easy movement. As mentioned before, cast iron has poor thermal conductivity, which can be another challenge to get used to. Typically, you can cook right when a pan hits the heat, but with cast iron, it requires preheating to get the best results.
Cleaning Cast Iron Skillets
Cleaning cast iron skillets is something that modern chefs can have a hard time coming to terms with at first. Cleaning cast iron is unlike any other cookware. You can clean cast iron when it is still hot without ruining the integrity of the pan, but water can be a cast iron skillet’s worst nightmare. Leaving them in the sink or in water can ruin them in a heartbeat. Wash them as soon as you are finished cooking and dry it immediately.
To make sure your cast iron skillet provides you with all of the benefits listed above, it needs to be seasoned. This is a process that is completed after washing. The seasoning on the pan requires a bit of oil. To season a cast iron skillet, dip a paper towel into coconut oil or any oil of your choosing and rub the inside of the hot pan. Make sure that you are safe when you complete this and that your hands do not come in contact with the surface. Rub down the surface with the oiled cloth and then store the pan in a dry place.
Making the Investment
Cast iron skillets are great pans that can last your kitchen a lifetime. With constant use, they only get better, creating a unique and desirable outcome for your foods and for your restaurant’s reputation. To find the absolute best cast iron skillet for your kitchen, reach out to a professional. We can help you navigate through the advantages and disadvantages of cast iron and help you equip your space with the best commercial cookware.