Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: cast iron pans

I thought it might be time to look at some more rustic side of both camping and survival. I've covered some light-weight cookware  before which is just the thing if you are humping a pack into the back country, or making a roost half way up a mountain, but they just don't have the feel of home cooked cookware, nor do they have the feel that comes of more solid construction.

Modern pans, with ceramic, teflon or even enamel coating, with a variety of metals as the base, aluminium, steel, sandwiched copper, but some are delicate, some warp and some don't do well in open flame.

However, cast iron is a tried and true material, in common use for pans from 200BC until the 1970's.

Cast iron has the ability to withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures, and its excellent heat retention makes it a good option for long-cooking stews or braising. A well seasoned pan will have a layer protecting the cookware from rusting, providing a non-stick surface for cooking, preventing food from interacting with the iron of the pan. This forms essentially a renewable "non-stick" surface.

Frequent use of acidic foods such as tomato sauce or the harsh cleaning of the pans will remove the seasoning and the cookware will need to be re-seasoned frequently.  This is one of the reasons cast-iron has fallen out of favour, it requires attention. They can also rust, when neglected.

It's also heavy. The 9" all-iron pan weighs 1050g (2.3lbs), the
10" wooden handled pan 2000g (4.4lbs), where as the teflon coated red handled 10" pan under these
weighs half that.  That said cast-iron pans are bomb-proof. The wooden handled one I picked up in New Zealand, and brought home rather than discarding, the all iron pan, I found at an op-shop.

I heartily recommend anyone who spends time outdoors, and can hump a bit of extra weight, to pick up a cast iron pan. They cook really well without burning, warping or leaching nasties into your food. They can take a fair bit of abuse and, with some very easy maintenance they'll last a lifetime.

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