There is a reason cast iron cookware has been the cornerstone of kitchens since the iron age (it would have been harder before then because iron hadn’t been forged yet – :-)). For one thing, it is sturdy. Secondly, it is relatively cheap (that absolutely appeals to the cheap Desi in me). Thirdly, it is versatile. It retains heat very well and as a result can cook foods evenly. I had stayed away from cast iron cookware mostly because it was an unknown and also because growing up I was used to stainless steel and aluminum cookware but not much else. So for the longest time I have been cooking on non-stick and hard anodized aluminum surfaces. I had briefly considered stainless steel but not gone that route because stainless steel requires the use of excessive amounts of grease to ensure that nothing sticks – which I don’t like. In the process of being cooked, I like my food to have stepped through a few puddles of grease, not swum across a river of it.
Then two things happened – we received a gift card to a cooking store (Sur la Table) and I realized that cast iron cookware, if properly seasoned, is virtually non-stick. That meant I could cook with less oil, which is my preferred method anyway. Curiosity piqued, I did some more research and found that cast iron cookware “leaches” or imparts iron to whatever is cooked in it. Added iron in the diet for the kind of food we eat is not necessarily a bad thing. So I went to the store, looked at the fancy French brands – Le Creuset and Staub and then the cheap Desi got the better of me and I got myself a 10 1/4 inch square ribbed grill pan made by Lodge. I figured, I can use this for grilling veggies with nice grill marks as well as for veggie burgers and panini sandwiches. Plus the price couldn’t be beat – it was under $20 with a price match.
So far, I have only grilled veggies and I like it. Unlike an electric panini maker, the veggies remain juicy but have nice grill marks. The pan has also been surprisingly easy to clean up.
Next thing for me to do is to try using a non-ribbed skillet for anything I use a regular frying pan for. I did use the balance of the gift card to get one of these. I will let you know what I find out but I know it will be a fun process.