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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Why Cook with Cast Iron



Whether you want to fry some bacon, sear potatoes, sear a steak, bake a cake, or stir-fry vegetables, one cast iron frying pan is all you need.

One of the main reasons why people choose a cast iron skillet for cooking is because cast iron cookware can be used for almost anything. There a LOT more reasons why cast iron dominates in my kitchen, and kitchens across the country.


Here are some reasons why you should be cooking with cast iron:


If you are extremely health-conscious or at least somewhat concerned about living a healthy lifestyle, then keep in mind that when you use cast-iron skillets, you avoid all the harmful chemicals and toxins that are prevalent in non-stick pans. The repellent Teflon coating that keeps foods from sticking contains perfluorocarbons (PFCs), a chemical that has been associated with developmental problems, cancer and liver damage. These chemicals are released as the pans are heated or when the surface gets scratched, and we subsequently ingest the fumes into our bodies.

More Iron in Food

Although cast iron doesn’t leak chemicals into your food, it can allow iron to saturate whatever it is that you are cooking, and that is truly a benefit for those who are iron-deficient and looking for natural ways to boost their levels of the nutrient.

Iron deficiency is fairly common across the globe, particularly in women. As many as one in 10 American women do not receive adequate amounts of iron; if you are looking for a different way to add iron into your diet other than taking a vitamin or supplement, cooking food, especially an acidic food like tomato sauce, in a cast iron frying pan can increase the iron content by as much as 20 times.

Women need 18 mg of iron per day

Note that if you use enameled cast iron (the kind that is coated) then you won’t be getting the same dietary iron benefits. (Bare Cast Iron versus Enameled Cast Iron…) But even trace levels of nutrients can make a difference.


When cast iron is properly seasoned, it has a natural non-stick surface of polymerized oil and fat. Basically, it is fatty and organic materials that are carbonized and super slick. Now, some may claim that cast iron is just as non-stick as Teflon – I don’t agree. It can be really slick (see the video of me frying an egg below), but if you do something silly, then things can stick.

Heat Retention

Cast iron skillets are ideal heat conductors. They have high heat retention, and those who swear by cast iron maintain that the food heats more evenly when compared to traditional pots and pans. The versatility of a cast iron skillet is unrivaled; you can use it on a stove, on a barbecue grill or even in your oven.

Now, I know that cast iron can get hot spots like any other cookware, but if you have an even heating source then you should be fine.

Cast iron can be preheated to temperatures that will brown meat and will withstand higher oven temperatures than what is considered safe for traditional non-stick pans.

Because cast iron skillets hold heat for longer periods of time and heat up more quickly, you actually save a little bit of money in electric or gas heating costs, whichever applies to your home.

One thing to mention is that high heat retention has its price: It takes longer to heat up cast iron compared to, say, copper. For me it is worth it!

No Fear of Scratching

See the 12 Inch Lodge Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder at Amazon.

Cast iron doesn’t scratch, so you can use virtually any cooking utensil on it without worrying about damaging the pan.

Unlike most non-stick pans on which you need to use rubber spatulas or special spoons to cook the food, you can use metal spatulas, rakes, shovels or nearly anything on cast iron. It truly is virtually indestructible.

Doesn’t Warp

Ever wonder how Grandma’s cast iron skillet still looks the same as when she used it decades and decades ago? One of the wonders of cast iron is that it doesn’t warp over time when repeatedly exposed to high temperatures.

Many traditional pots and pans can lose their shape, as exposure to heat and use over time molds the shape of the pan, yet cast iron continues to look exactly the same.

To be perfectly honest, cast iron is warp resistant – I’ve seen an old skillet that had a bit of a warped bottom. It was an old Wagner 1058.

Holds Flavor

Cast iron skillets hold flavor for longer. In fact, while some people may be grossed out the remnants from Grandma’s meal may still be in the crevices of the pan from a luncheon held 35 years ago, it is for this reason that cast iron enthusiasts adore the cookware.

Many maintain that the flavors are held within the pan itself, so when you cook something new, you are still adding a little bit of the flavors that were there previously.

For better or worse, cooking with cast iron can ensure a different flavor experience each and every time.

Cast Iron Skillet, Size #3 Used for Serving

Less Expensive

If you do not own a cast iron frying pan, it is well-worth your time and money to invest in the cookware. I see some of those premium brands, like All-Clad, and it blows my mind how expensive it can be (link to Amazon).

You can often find sales on the internet, and most stores carrying cast iron skillets that are pre-seasoned and ready to use. You can typically expect to spend fewer green-backs on a cast iron skillet, depending on the size, while you may be looking at considerably more for the same-sized stainless steel pan (See pricing at Amazon).

I see great deals for Lodge cookware at Walmart and many outdoor stores. When you think about how durable and versatile cast iron is, it is amazing that you can get cast iron so cheap!

Great for Baking

One of the main reasons people enjoy cooking with cast iron is that it is versatile – you can use these pans for baking, stir-frying, searing and deep frying. I have been on a kick where I bake pizza in cast iron and I am loving the crust.

Before the slow cooker ever existed, grandmothers around the world used cast iron Dutch ovens for all of their cooking.

Dutch ovens, used for hundreds of years, are notorious for cooking if you want an even temperature. Even better, a Dutch oven can go from stovetop to oven without missing a beat. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Great for Deep Frying

Deep-frying keeps your cast iron in great shape. And, fried food is really delicious!


Remember that cast iron can last for three generations or longer. Ever have a family fight or know of someone who desperately wanted Grandma’s pans after she passed?

Anyone who is anyone in the cooking world knows and appreciates the importance of a good cast iron skillet. If you don’t know of anyone in the family who is passing one down anytime soon, you can find vintage cast iron pans at a local flea market, thrift store, online auction site, and garage sales.

While you may worry that because these have already been used, they are disgusting and not worth the dollar you might spend, cleaning and restoring cast iron is relatively simple.

Use Less Oils

Did you know that cast iron frying pans are also healthier than non-stick pans? The lovely sheen that you see in the skillet is the sign of a well-used and well-seasoned pan, which translates into non-stick as well.

Fortunately, however, you will not need to use heaping amounts of oil to sear chicken or brown crispy potatoes while cooking with cast iron. In fact, if you use cast iron skillets regularly, you often don’t need to add any extra ingredients before you begin to cook.


Easy to Clean

Cast iron skillets are great in the kitchen and extremely versatile, but what about cleaning? Even for the most troublesome spots and caked on grease, oatmeal can do the trick, believe it or not.

While all you really need is a scraper to clean cast iron, if that isn’t working, you can sprinkle some oats on it and add a little water. The paste will absorb the leftover grease without stripping the pan of iron. However, if you are one that holds fast to the notion that the leftover flavors simply add to the next meal, cleaning a cast iron skillet truly is a breeze.

So Get Yourself Some Cast Iron

While cast iron may seem like an old-fashioned choice, this reliable cookware should be a staple in your modern kitchen. Please don’t throw away that old cast iron pan that has been passed down to you from generations.

As long as it has no major cracks, you can clean, season and use the pan for every single one of your cooking needs.

Cooking a steak? I’ve got some ideas about the best cast Iron skillet to use.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Bryce Heitman

Bryce is not a real professor, but he's real nerdy in the kitchen. He's been barbecuing, chopping, and generally blazing food for many decades. He thinks there's definitely a better spatula or utensil out there that hasn't been invented yet.

29 thoughts on “Why Cook with Cast Iron”

  1. Mmm. Want a cast iron skillet now! We were given a set of Scanpans for our wedding present. They come with a lifetime guarantee, which is a joke. After about 5 years of use they’re all burnt out and useless, and when you try and initiate the guarantee, they come up with a million excuses for why it’s not a valid claim. My favourite is ‘over-heating the pan’. I forgot you’re supposed to cook in a refrigerator.
    But these cast iron pots look great. Thanks for the info. :-)

    • Hey Erin, thanks for the comment. One day I was running low on salt but had plenty of oatmeal that was past its prime. :)

  2. Great post! I don’t own a cast iron skillet but my boyfriend has been trying to convince for quite some time now and I think it’s time! Especially after reading the benefits of having more iron in the food. I’ve had iron deficiencies since I was a teenager so I’m always looking for ways to get more of it into my food ^.^ However I’m a little bit unsure if it works that great on our ceramic stove top… I think most people are using cast iron skillets on gas stoves. Hmpf. I’ll have to look into that a bit more before making a purchase decision :D

    • Hey Bianca, I think it should work on that stove. I use my cast iron on my glass top stove without any issues.

  3. Thank you for this post! I’ve just recently acquired my first cast iron piece – a 10-quart Dutch oven with a lid. To be honest, I felt a bit intimidated by it at first, knowing that I had to season it first. Eventually that was done, and since then I’ve used it a few times. I’m satisfied with the way the food comes out, but the cleaning part still overwhelms me a bit, especially after reading too much advice of all sorts on the internet. These days I try to get the food out of the pot as soon as it’s done and clean the pot by lightly scrubbing it with a brush (I read that it’s easier to clean it while it’s still hot). Then I wipe off the excess water, put the pot on the stovetop and heat it up for a while to let all the water evaporate. Then I add a touch of oil and smear it all over the insides of the still hot pot and let it cool. By then my family is halfway through their meal :) Are all these steps necessary, or am I just overcomplicating the cleaning part?

    • Hey Alina,
      Whoa! 10 QTs is a beast. You need a forklift to move it around.

      It sounds like you have the cleaning down just right. You can wait until after you eat though! I got a little plastic scraper from Lodge that works really well in addition to a brush.

  4. I love my cast iron skillet! My favorite part is the ‘no fear of scratching’ and the fact that it goes from stove top to oven.

    ‘No fear of scratching’ makes it easy to clean – if there is anything ever stuck on there, I can just scrub away, unlike with all the other ‘non-stick’ pans.

    And the stove top to oven is great for minimizing the number of things to clean!

  5. Well, I would begin on a serious note, but, that middle of the night intruder cause for owning a cast iron pan gave me a sure chuckle! I’ve never baked a cake, nor I have I grilled with a cast iron pan, but you really have given me pause for thought here on trying both, and I’ve always wanted to make a nice cornbread in cast iron. Thanks for a well researched and presented article on the topic, always appreciated.

    • Hey Peggy,
      They are effective for many things and being heavy makes them good as weapons! :) Corn bread is one of the best things to make in cast iron.

  6. I’ve been really meaning to get some cast iron skillets, but I just never do. You just convinced me that I need to stop procrastinating!

  7. I love cooking in cast iron! I often give cast iron for wedding gifts to new couples. If I know them really well, I go ahead and season it for them and include care tips and a jar of lard to help them maintain it.

  8. I love cast iron and am trying to date a frying pan. I think is is a Wagner but it has no name. On the handle is the No. 5. On the bottom it says

    8 inch skillet
    Made in USA

    Any Idea what it is?

    • Hey Jean, Hmm. It’s hard to tell from that description. Did you have a reason why you thought it was Wagner? Like was it handed down to you? It may have been a store brand that was contracted out to a bigger manufacturer too – but hard to say. My parents have a couple of skillets from the 1970s, I think, and they are unlabeled. I have no clue what they are and I bet they got them from Sears or something back then.

      Anyway, let me know the story behind your pan.

  9. I am 76 years young & have been using cast iron for most of my life, I have quite a few about 20. They are all I use, love them. Thank u for the article, very informitable..

    • Hey Peter, Thanks for the comment! I pretty much use cast iron for everything, but I have fewer pans to choose from than you! :)

  10. I have a wagner ware cast iron skillet that was my moms..on the bottom it has 1058 D imprinted on the bottom..i have always assumed that to be the manufacture date. Oct0ber 1958…am I correct???

  11. Doug, I have a wagner ware cast iron skillet that belonged to my mom. On the bottom of the skillet, in addition to the wagner ware imprint— 1058 D is as well imprinted on the–is the 1058 D==I have always assumed that is the mfg date (October 1958)..am I correct??? Thank you for your time and knowledge

  12. I have never had any experience with cast iron and am trying to learn about it. I am a little confused by something in this article and hope you don’t mind me asking about it. You say here and elsewhere that cast iron is non-stick so long as it is properly seasoned. I did see the video where the eggs come out of the pan nicely without sticking. However, the video on how to clean cast iron shows you scraping off stuck-on spinach while saying that you feel the pan doesn’t need additional seasoning. I see you changed your mind after a rinse and added some oil to the pan, but if the spinach was stuck on, what made you feel like it was properly seasoned in the first place? Please note, I’m not trying to challenge you, I just want to understand.


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