Is cast iron right for you? Expert shares the pros and cons of using this versatile cookware

Kanika Malhotra, a clinical dietician and certified diabetes instructor reveals the benefits of using iron cookware along with why it is good for those suffering from iron deficiency

Cast iron cookware has been an essential part of Indian kitchens since time immemorial. Known for its durability and heat retention, cast iron is considered to be great for cooking delicious meals.

But, due to its bad rep when it comes to cleaning, maintenance and storage, many have chosen other types of cookware including those made with aluminium and non-stick teflon coating.

It is worth considering that after getting used to the cleaning and maintenance process – which includes ensuring that it is kept dry at all times to avoid rusting – it gets significantly easier to use cast iron cookware.

Benefits of using cast iron cookware
Kanika Malhotra, a clinical dietician and certified diabetes educator, says that cast iron cooking helps add more richness and flavour to the food. She mentions the following benefits of using the cookware:

Flavour enhancement
Even heat distribution: Cast iron is known for its even distribution of heat which in turn enhances the flavours of a dish by maintaining consistency in temperature throughout the cooking process.

Seasoning retention: The accumulation of seasoning on cast iron pans over time enhances the flavour profile of dishes, elevating the taste of meals prepared using them.

Caramelisation and browning: Cast iron can retain heat and provide an evenly distributed cooking surface that helps in caramelisation, resulting in a richer flavor and amplifying the overall taste of the food.

Texture improvement
Crispy and golden exterior: The heat retention of cast iron helps provide a crispy, golden exterior to foods such as fried chicken, giving a desirable texture to dishes.

Juiciness and moisture retention: Due to the even cooking capabilities of cast iron, the food retains its natural juices and moisture making it tender and juicy.

Searing capabilities: Cast iron is the best cookware available for searing proteins, as it provides a crust packed with flavours and locks in juices, resulting in superior flavour and texture.

In addition to these, Malhotra also mentions how cast iron cooking contributes to more enjoyment and satisfaction in the kitchen. Enhanced cooking experience due to hassle-free cooking, the convenience of creating several delectable dishes in one pan, as well as versatility of using cast iron for several methods of cooking, are just some of the added advantages.

Cast iron cookware for better health
Cooking with cast iron can prove to be particularly beneficial to those “prone to deficiencies like iron deficiency anemia”, Malhotra reveals, as it helps retain essential nutrients such as iron, “particularly in acidic, moist, and longer-cooked dishes”.

“The porous surface of cast iron allows small amounts of iron to leach into the food during the cooking process, enriching the meal with this vital mineral,” she says.

She adds that for people following a strictly plant-based diet, it is important to include cast iron cookware for your daily cooking activities. This can help them meet the “recommended daily iron” requirements.

Everyone needs to balance things out with proper, nutrient-dense food intake and not rely completely on cast iron to fulfill nutritional needs. Malhotra also recommends that people take precautions to avoid “excessive iron intake”, which can lead to an “iron overload”, especially for those who are suffering from certain health issues and restrictions in their diets.

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