Your grandparents were right: cast iron cookware rocks!



Lodge 26cm Cast Iron Skillet REVIEW

It turns out your grandparents were right all along and cast iron pans are healthier and much more resilient, writes PAT PILCHER.


A few years back, we bought a Jamie Oliver non-stick pan. Being celebrity endorsed, it was stupidly expensive, and after just a few years of use, it became sticky. Our Italian oven (the Italian Stallion) gas hobs can crank out serious heat, which led to the rapid demise of our expensive non-stick pan. I suspect even Jamie would have been pissed off.

Doing some research into why this happened was a very scary thing indeed. Non-stick pans are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. Studies found that old non-stick cookware that uses perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is linked to health issues. These include thyroid disorders, kidney/liver disease, testicular cancer and infertility/low birth weights.


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Researchers found that while most PFOA was burnt off in manufacturing, some remained. Although PFOAs are no longer used in non-stick cookware, other compounds, known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), are still used, causing growing concerns. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a statement on risks posed by PFAS, and the EPA has found that PFAS are showing up in rainwater globally.

If all that sounds a bit scary, don’t panic. There are good alternatives to non-stick cookware. It turns out that your grandparents may have been right all along. Cast iron really is the business if you’re serious about cooking.

I do a good deal of cooking in cast iron and recently got my pot mitts on a Lodge cast iron skillet. They’re a big brand in the US, where the merits of a good cast iron pan have long been known. As a brand, Lodge has been around for over 126 years, cranking out cast iron cookware using sand mould casting. Saying that they’ve perfected their craft is a bit of an understatement.

My Lodge pan is a solid small-sized pan that is perfect for knocking out bacon, pancakes, or toasting tortillas. It has a sturdy handle with a large hanging loop. This is handy if you have a pot rail and hook setup. Being a cast iron beastie means it’s a heavy pan. Still, a smaller handle opposite its large handle makes handling it a doddle (remember to use pot mitts as the pan can get extremely hot). Rounded pouring lips on both sides make pouring sauces, excess or leftover oil dead easy too.

Along with the skillet, Lodge bundle a small recipe book. Normally cookbooks bundled with appliances are pretty terrible, but the lodge cookbook is packed with recipes from culinary icons such as Dariush Lolaiy of Cazador, Glen File of Onslow, Sam Mannering of Homestead, Charlie Farrelly-Gruar & John Seymore aka the Eggplant Boys, Olivia Galletly aka The Hungry Cook, and Elien Lewis. All told, it’s bit of a gem.

It came pre-seasoned, so cooking with it meant food didn’t stick. In fact, the more I cooked with it, the more non-stick it became. Keeping it seasoned involves handwashing, drying and then a quick wipe of vegetable oil before storing. This is because cast Iron is like a sponge; it absorbs oils that oxidise to create a non-stick surface. Because seasoning builds up with use, it also improves food taste. Home-made baked beans made after bacon has been cooked in the Lodge pan are indescribably tasty.

While the lodge pan is heavy, like other cast iron pans I’ve used, it is virtually indestructible. Buying a Lodge pan mightn’t be cheap but it’s a long-term investment – expect it to outlive you and be handed down the generations.

The Italian Stallion’s gas hobs posed no problems for the Lodge pan: it could get super-hot, which was perfect for searing. It also worked well in my oven. Reading up shows they’re just as happy used on an induction element. The other big benefit of using cast iron is that the Lodge pan held heat far better than lighter steel pans, staying hotter for longer.

As mentioned above, the Lodge pan became increasingly non-stick over time. While it will never be as non-stick as its Teflon counterpart, it works fine for most dishes (and shouldn’t give you cancer). Then there are its health benefits. Cooking with a cast iron pan can (in theory) give you an iron boost. Iron is essential and is used to transport oxygen throughout your body. Cooking with a cast-iron pan releases iron into the food you’re cooking, theoretically boosting your iron intake.

If cooking a steak is your goal, you must use a cast iron pan. Searing causes the Maillard reaction, which gives steak an amazing flavour and is something a cast iron pan does with ease.

So, the verdict? If I could, I’d give the Lodge pan an 11 out of 10 – yes, it is that good. With all the good bits of a non-stick pan but being a million times more durable, cooking with cast iron is a complete no-brainer.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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