Condo Blues: Why Use Cast Iron Griddle?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why Use Cast Iron Griddle?

Husband and I had a Teflon coated griddle an old roommate left behind after moving out. Of course using what you have, especially if it is second hand, is green and saves money. However, neither of us were too crazy about the nonstick coating on the griddle. Especially now that the coating is starting to flake off.

April’s One Small Green Change is replacing the last of our Teflon coated pans with a round cast iron griddle. I’m pretty happy with the shape because it fits on the stove burners better than the old square griddle – no cold spots on the cooking surface anymore. My cast iron griddle came preseasoned and started life with nonstick qualities, cast iron retains heat more evenly, and even though it's Calaphon, it wasn’t very expensive at all. In fact, I bought our new cast iron griddle at Target. The more I use it, the more I fall in love with cast iron.

The only drawback is that I can’t put the cast iron griddle in the dishwasher. Since the rest of our pots and pans are stainless steel and can go in the dishwasher, I can live with cleaning cast iron by hand  even though I hate hand washing dishes.

The thing makes a darn fine pumpkin pancake too.

Why Not Use Teflon?

I’ve had two sets of Teflon cookware in my life and I have to admit that the nonstick coating is a nice thing to have. But as far as longevity is concerned, even with proper care and babying, meaning nothing but a wooden spoon or spatula touched its insides and I hung them on a pot rack - the pans didn’t nest in a drawer, the coating eventually began to chip and wear off.


And set Number Two was not a cheap set of pots and pans I may add.

As far as buying quality, taking care of it, and keeping it forever, I give Teflon a thumbs down (as always your mileage may vary.)

As far as health concerns go, it’s been documented in studies by both DuPont (the makers of Teflon) and the Environmental Working Group  that at very high temperatures – between 500 and 700 degrees (F) (depending upon whose study you are reading) Teflon coated pans can off gas and cause flu like symptoms in humans and has been known to kill pet birds.

Really? How likely is that scenario? Let’s do some math.

  • A pot boils water on a stove at 212 degrees (F) 
  • A baking a pan is usually heated to 325-400 degrees (F) 
  • Most folks pan fry meat at 400-470 degrees (F) (I tend to cook it a lower temperature because I do a lot of sautéing and stir frying. Uunless you are my Mom. She like to crank the burner up to full blast when she cooks.)
Personally it’s unlikely that I will cook anything at a high enough temperature to turn Teflon to the gel stage which is between 680 to over 700 degrees (F) (again depending upon whose study you are reading) where Teflon is at its most dangerous for pets or people in the room, but why take a chance when I can buy a cast iron griddle once and keep it forever?

What do you think about cast iron or Teflon coated pans? Love them or hate them?

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Robj98168 said...

Just don't do like my dad.. He borrowed mom's cast iron Bundt Cake pan to catch some oil, forgot about it outside, and of course being seattle, it rained , and the bandt pan was a ruined rusty mess. Then the old fart tried to blame it on me!!!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Thanks for the tip Rob! The only possible non food use for my griddle would be to bonk a robber on the head if he tries to break into my house during the night. I learned everything I know about home defense from Wile E. Coyote.

Anna said...

We made the switch to cast iron after we learned about the possible health risks of Teflon. A guy I used to work with has a wonderful, informative blog all about cast iron:

Unknown said...

If you haven't seen The Non-Consumer Advocate's Love Letter to Cast Iron Pans you just HAVE to go and take a look.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Barb S - That letter is the funniest thing I've read all day! And I agree with it. My mom has my grandmother's well seasoned and used cast iron frying pan and if it's ever up for grabs, there's going to be a serious fight. Mom says she'll put the winner's name in her Will. The "loser" gets her house :)

Anna - I've read his blog. I had questions about enameled cast iron and it was very helpful. I love the recipes too!

dymphna said...

i've always used cast iron, because that's what my mom used too. When my kids were babies a nurse told that food cooked in cast iron absorbes some of the iron. Just another reason to use it!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, cast iron is on my list of things to eventually buy. I don't use any Teflon either, but this means I have nothing that is non-stick. It's really frustrating at times!

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