Recently, a reader commented on our story about the benefits of cooking in an iron skillet. “Sometimes iron, sometimes steel, sometimes clay pot… it’s confusing the viewers,” said Mr Verma and we agree.
So, here we are, taking the comment in the right spirit and explaining what kind of utensils can be used to cook what type of food.
What can cast iron skillets be used for?
Iron requires a little maintenance, but in the long run, it benefits you by adding mineral value to your food. You can read about it in detail here.
Pots and pans made from cast iron are cheap and versatile. Once seasoned well, they are practically nonstick and can be used to cook food with less oil.
Iron skillets are also great to fry food in. Clay does not support this type of cooking, and if you have tried to use a stainless steel pan to fry anything, you know that the oil gets overheated very quickly. Iron, on the other hand, retains heat and allows you to turn the stove off but keep frying.
Iron skillets are also great for slow but consistent roasting and baking.
What not to cook in a cast-iron pan?
Although it’s not wholly harmful, avoid cooking food that sticks stubbornly to the skillet. Iron should not be soaked in water for long and these stubborn bits may result in rusting.
Cooking with vinegar or wine should also be avoided. When the cast iron is seasoned well, you can cook tomatoes, meat or fish in it but if you have other options, try avoiding cooking acidic food in iron.
Acidic food may result in stripping the seasoning and discolouration of the iron pans. You don’t want to have that red pasta with some iron garnish now, do you?
Is it safe to cook in clay pots?
Safe and healthy too! Clay pots are amazing to cook in, and you can read in detail about it here. They can be used to prepare delicious curries, stews and even biriyani! Not only do they give the dish a smokey flavour, but also restore the pH value of the food.
Essentially, any food item that needs slow, consistent and closed heating can be cooked in clay. Since clay is heat resistant, it will not suck away the moisture from your food and keep it hot (without burning it) for more extended periods.
Good quality earthenware can be used on a stove or inserted inside an oven, and it will give equally good results in both. You can shop for these utensils by clicking on this link.
What to avoid with a clay pot?
Clay pots are not meant to fry food. So your fritters, fries, pakodas, vadas, nuggets should all go in an iron kadhai and not in clay. Do not preheat the oven because that will make the clay pots crack. Also, make sure you season your earthenware regularly to avoid cracks.
Also, keep in mind these two necessary precautions:
1) You cannot use soap to clean a clay pot as the soap will soak into the pores of the clay and then leach into your food. Instead, use scalding hot water and a stiff brush to clean the pot. You can add a pinch of baking soda or salt as well.
2) Do not cook on a high flame. Start with a low flame and gradually increase it. Because it retains heat, a clay pot will continue to cook and stay warm for longer than a steel pot.
Now that you know the basics of cooking in either material, go on, stack them in your kitchen and make even regular food taste more delicious!
You may also like: How Do You Clean Brass, Cast Iron Utensils? Here’s Your Eco-Friendly Answer
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)