If you’re still cooking with non-stick, it’s time to treat yourself to a cast iron upgrade. Cast iron cookware offers more heat, a naturally non-stick surface, and a dose of iron with every meal since the foods you cook in a cast iron pan absorb some of the iron and pass it on.
There are, of course, several downsides, but if you start with high-quality cookware, cast iron makes sense. Here’s what you’ll need if you’re looking to make the switch.
1. First, get a decent cast iron skillet.
Let’s start with the basics. A decent cast-iron skillet will quickly become your favorite piece of cookware, and you won’t have to break the bank to get one. This 12.5-inch skillet from Utopia Kitchen comes with a silicone handle cover for a secure grip, and it’s pre-seasoned, so you can use it as soon as it arrives.
2. If you’re cooking with cast iron, you’ll eventually need a quality scrubber.
Cast iron requires more maintenance than other types of materials, especially when food gets stuck to the bottom of your pan. You could use a sponge or scouring pad, but you probably won’t get very far—plus, you generally don’t want to use soap on cast iron.
This chainmail scrubber cleans away food and rust, giving you a clean cast iron surface reading for seasoning. Plus, when you use it, you’ll feel like one of the characters from Little House on the Prairie.
3. Use a decent cast iron cleaner to keep your cookware in great condition.
To be clear, you don’t necessarily need a cast iron cleaner, as you can often get by with a decent cooking oil. Still, Camp Chef’s cleaning liquid makes cast iron maintenance a little easier.
It breaks down sugars and proteins, effectively cleaning your cast iron without causing rust. Most importantly, you won’t taste it in your next meal.
4. You’ll also want a decent cast iron conditioner for seasoning your pan.
Again, you could just use a heat-tolerant vegetable oil, but this conditioner packs in a few quality organic oils (including palm, coconut, and sunflower seed oils) and citric acid to make seasoning a bit easier.
And don’t forget to season your cookware after every use. Remember, cast iron cookware is one single piece of iron, so you’ll need to cover the entire pan with a thin layer of oil when seasoning. Towel off the excess, and you’re ready to store your pan.
5. If you’re interested in cooking with cast iron outdoors, this griddle is awesome.
Cast iron is a favorite cooking surface of campers. The material holds heat well, so you can cook at high temperatures even with a modest fire.
Of course, you can take your everyday skillet camping, but we prefer a specialized piece of cookware designed for the task.
The Bayou Classic 17-inch griddle couldn’t be easier to use. Put it over your campfire, allow it to heat up, and start cooking. If you haven’t had eggs cooked over a real fire, you’re in for a treat.
6. Cast iron is also amazing for pizza.
Here’s something that a lot of home chefs don’t know: To cook a great pizza, you need a lot of heat. That’s why cast iron makes for a great pizza pan.
Of course, you could just turn your cast iron skillet upside down and cook your pie on top of it, but that can leave you with a messy oven (and a fairly small pizza). This inexpensive pizza pan is a nice alternative. Most importantly? The raised lip keeps all of that delicious cheese from melting away.
7. Cast iron cookware isn’t always huge and heavy.
This little melting pot is an essential piece of gear for barbecue fanatics. It’s also great for melting butter, frying garlic, or cooking incredibly small chickens (alright, we’re stretching a little on that last one).
Regardless of the size of your cast iron cookware, remember to season and clean it properly. That’s especially important for anything that regularly holds liquids; otherwise, you’ll wind up dealing with some rust.
8. Yes, you can stir fry with cast iron, provided you’ve got a decent wok.
Why would you want a wok made from cast iron? To get a great stir fry, you need heat, and cast iron can provide it over almost any cooking surface. You’ll need to pay close attention to your dish, of course, and because most woks are relatively thin, a cast iron wok works differently. We’d recommend starting with a simple vegetable stir fry to test it out.
The Lodge P14W3 wok is an excellent choice as it features a flat base and a relatively light weight. It comes pre-seasoned, and it’s also great for deep frying. If you’ve got an induction stove, you absolutely need one of these.
9. If you’re new to cast iron cooking, be sure to get a decent infrared thermometer.
A good thermometer will help you learn how to cook different types of foods efficiently, and it’s extremely important if you’re deep frying.
This model couldn’t be easier to use: Point it at your pan, press the trigger, and check the digital readout. There’s even a built-in laser pointer to show you where you’re aiming (and to drive your pets crazy).
10. When you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time for cast iron biscuits.
Yes, you can bake with cast iron. Great seasoning is crucial, otherwise you’ll end up with a caked-on mess, but Lodge’s L7B3 biscuit pan is pre-seasoned, so you can upgrade your biscuit game as soon as it arrives.
11. We almost forgot about Dutch ovens.
How could we forget about Dutch ovens? They’re the second only to skillets in versatility. They’re wonderful slow cookers, perfect for soups, roasts, and anything else that needs to sit cooking all day. Granted, they’re also heavy, so be sure to have some decent oven mitts on hand (pardon the pun).