This material is excellent for several reasons. It is cheap, it conducts heat evenly and retains it well, and it acquires a stick-resistant coating with long use. Because cast iron absorbs flavour with use, the pan develops its own flavour (not a flavour specific to the food cooked in the pan) which it lends to the food. Families will pass down cast iron pans through generations so that younger generations benefit from the flavour the pan has acquired with time. However, it requires more care and is quite heavy. Buy pans that can go from the stove top (hob) to the oven for dishes such as frittatas. These pans tend to be fairly thick.
Best for: Grill pans, griddles, omelette pans and frying pans.
Heat conduction: Great for cooking food evenly at moderate or high temperatures. It does not heat quickly but holds heat well.
Temperature change: Good.
Non-stick surface: Once seasoned, cast iron absorbs, gives flavour, and creates a fairly good stick resistant surface which means food is less likely to stick. The pan must remain well seasoned in order for it to maintain a stick-resistant surface.
Care: Cast iron is brittle and rusts easily. That’s why the pan needs to be seasoned before use and then again every time it begins to rust or pit. They must be kept thoroughly dry. If you do not use the pan often, coat it with a thin layer of vegetable oil. You can buy pre-seasoned pans to save time.
To season the pan: wash and dry the pan well. Coat it with a thin layer of vegetable oil, heat the oven to 150C, and place the pan upside down on a baking tray for one hour. Let cool, use kitchen paper to remove any residual fat, and repeat.
Clean: Because of its porous nature, you should not use soap on a cast iron pan. Scour the pan with salt until the food has been removed and then clean with water. Dry thoroughly.