browniesinskilletIt has been a goal of mine for several years to swear off non-stick cookware. I believe that the potential health risks are just too concerning. Knowing that people have killed their pet birds by accidentally leaving a non-stick pan on the stove, creating toxic vapors, just makes me wonder what it does to me.

And, the warnings that come with these skillets- to never use them on high heat- worry me too. Who can cook without ever going above medium heat? I feel that even using great caution with the pans still leaves the risk that molecules of non-stick chemicals are making their way into my food, every day, in small quantities. There are so many chemicals in our environment that we cannot avoid or control, I want to minimize the ones I can control.

So, we’ve been building an inventory of cast iron and stainless steel pans over the last year. Thus far, I prefer the cast iron, it seems easier to clean. It works great for baking- I’m tending to choose my 12″ skillet for brownies (shown in the photo) and cornbread over a 9″ square baking pan. The cast iron makes a nicer crust, and the product comes out clean and easily.

We’ve adjusted well enough to the new pans to have finally given away our old Teflon pans to a charity. The only trouble we’re still having with the cast iron is cooking delicate things, like fish and eggs-over-easy. They stick to the pan too much, and scraping them off the bottom gives them a rough, unattractive appearance. Teflon clearly wins in performance here. Anyone have suggestions on ways to cook fragile foods in non-non-stick cookware?

What I was suprised to learn is that cleaning cast iron isn’t as much work as I thought it would be. After the pan has cooled a bit, I give it a good scrub with a metal scrubber under hot water. I pat dry, then apply a thin film of olive oil, spreading it with a paper towel. We keep a bottle of olive oil out on the stove, with a pour spout, so oiling the pans to keep them from rusting is easy. Next, I’d like a nice over-the-stove ceiling rack on which to hang them. Since we use them almost every day, I leave them sitting out on the stove. But it’ll be nice to have a better place to store them sometime in the future.