We’re all aware of the importance of getting enough vitamins and minerals, but how many of us are cooking with our iron levels in mind? It turns out that cast-iron skillets and pans are much more convenient than we thought! But are they really that much healthier to use than our other cookware? Keep reading to learn the health benefits of cooking with cast iron, some top-rated pans and skillets to try, and how it can potentially add more iron to our food.
The Health Benefits of Cast Iron Cooking
It’s not just a frying pan.
Cast iron pans are great for frying food, but they also retain heat for a while. That means plenty of healthier food preparations, such as water-based methods like braising, poaching, quick broiling, and grilling. Another bonus of cooking with cast iron is that it requires very little oil. Just be sure and preheat it properly before adding your food — these pans tend to get hot spots.
You’re cooking with fewer chemicals.
Nonstick pans have plenty of uses, but they also typically contain chemicals that can be toxic once they’re broken down at high temperatures. One chemical in particular, perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, has been deemed “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. The United States has mostly phased this chemical out of its production, but it’s possibly still lurking in imported cookware or older nonstick pans in your cabinet.
It doesn’t require harsh chemicals to clean.
Never clean a cast-iron skillet with soap or put it in the dishwasher! Instead, clean it immediately after use with hot water and a sponge. After rinsing, wipe with a paper towel to clean or dry it on the stove over low heat.
You’re getting more iron in your diet.
Cooking with cast iron will add more iron to food, but it’s still unclear how much. A frequently-cited 1986 study compared 20 foods cooked in a seasoned iron skillet and Corningware dish and found that 80 percent of the foods had increased iron levels when cooked in the skillet. The study concluded that foods with more acidity and moisture tended to absorb more iron from the pan, which we will cover more below.
It’s a healthier way to cook meat.
Research has shown that grilling meats at high heat can cause carcinogens heterocyclic amine (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form. Cast iron’s ability to distribute heat makes it a great (and safer) solution. Simply place the skillet directly over the flame and allow it to heat for ten minutes before adding meat.
It adds more iron to acidic foods.
High-acid foods tend to benefit more from iron absorption than other foods cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Usually the greater the acidity of the food and the longer it’s cooked, the more iron it will have. However, don’t cook tomato sauce in a cast-iron skillet. That acid will react with the metal and it won’t taste great.
Shop Top-Rated Cast-Iron Skillets
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron, $224.99
Try This Cast Iron Recipe!
Cast Iron Rolls via Mealthy
Homemade, buttery rolls can be yours in under an hour thanks to a quick-rising dough! Baking these rolls in a cast-iron skillet gives them a crunchy exterior and pillow-soft interior. Brushing the dough with a lightly beaten egg ensures a shiny finish, and helps adhere the topping to the bread. The rolls are then topped with an addictive mix of chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley, lemon zest, and grated Parmesan cheese for savory, delicious bread to go alongside roast chicken or grilled steak. For extra flavor, serve with salted, softened butter that’s been mixed with more chopped herbs and lemon zest.
All in all, cast-iron skillets should have a special place in every healthy kitchen. They’re easy to clean, do not contain harmful chemicals, season and cook food evenly, and even add iron in some instances.
Vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in the way our bodies function. And if we were to rank vital minerals in order of importance, zinc would come in second right behind iron. Here’s why your zinc levels are so important.