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HomeWorld newsThe (cast) Iron Chef buyer’s guide - National

The (cast) Iron Chef buyer’s guide – National


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We all start off with a set of metal pots and pans, but home chefs who want to up their game eventually hear the call of cast iron. High quality, well-maintained cast iron cookware is incredibly durable and can last a lifetime. More than that, it’s versatile, at home on stoves, in ovens, atop grills and sometimes even over campfires. It also distributes heat evenly for better frying and baking, and even has a surprising non-stick quality when properly seasoned. If you’re looking to make the leap to cast iron, we’ve got some options.

 

Best budget cast iron skillet

This inexpensive cast iron skillet from Lodge is a workhorse. Use it for eggs, cornbread, searing steaks and just about anything else you might want to do with a pan. And it’s safe for everything from stovetops and ovens to barbecues and campfires. It even has side spouts for pouring liquids and an included silicone handle slip. Just be aware that it’s very heavy (nearly 3.5kg!) and may emit some smoke.

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Whether you’re making sourdough or instant yeast bread, this French-made Dutch oven is the pot you want. It fits a family-sized round loaf, is coated with enamel (the bread just falls out) and is insanely durable. When you’re not using it for bread you can roast meats, make a stew, or whip up some pasta sauce. And it’s so pretty in bright apple red that it’s more likely to live on your counter than in the cupboard.

 

If you want an authentic, restaurant-quality stir fry, it all starts with a good wok. And it’s hard to beat this spacious 5.7 L pan from Staub. It’s at home on any type of stove top and can be safely slid into the oven when needed. A grilling rack is included—handy when adding meat or keeping veggies crisp—along with a glass lid so you can keep an eye on your grub when not stirring.

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Tend towards simplicity in your cooking? Just like to throw proteins, vegetables, and sauces into a single pan and let the flavours come together? Then this brasier—suited for any type of stovetop and oven safe—is probably the cast iron cookware for you. It’s got plenty of space, a high rim, a solid lid that retains heat and an enameled interior to make cleaning simple. Bonus: It won’t break the bank.

 

Barbequing isn’t always a viable option, but you can replicate it (at least to some degree) indoors with a cast iron grill. This simple pan from Cuisinart is great for grilling shrimp, chicken or even steak. The melted fat falls into the metal grooves, and the finished product will sport some attractive searing lines. It even has a handy little spout for draining excess liquid.

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More Recommendations

This piece of high-end cookware from the legendary iron casters at Le Creuset might be the last pan you ever buy. If you need to fry anything—shrimp, tofu, eggs, noodles, whatever—this skillet will do it with perfect heat distribution and minimal stickage. It has all the features you need in a cast iron pan, including spouts and a large loop helper handle, and it’s beautiful to boot. It’s even dishwasher safe for when you’re feeling too lazy to clean by hand.

 

Cast iron cookware isn’t essential for sauces, but it does have the benefit of evenly distributing heat, which can be useful in ensuring you don’t end up with burnt sauce rings at the bottom of your pot. We recommend you go with something relatively inexpensive, like this 2-litre Hamilton Beach saucepan. It’ll do the trick nicely for everything from pasta sauce to gravy, and since it’s enamelled you can even try acidic reductions like bordelaise (typically a no-no for bare cast iron).

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Like to bake big, hearty casseroles? This deep Staub baking dish punches that ticket. Tuna casserole, chicken casserole, cheeseburger taco casserole—it does them all. And as an added perk it looks great as a serving dish while keeping the casserole piping hot (great for second helpings!). Tip: It takes a while to heat up cast iron, so warm it in the oven before adding the ingredients to achieve an even, thorough cook.

 

Best for kickstarting your cast iron collection

Home chefs determined to dive headfirst into cast iron cookware will be well-served by this four-piece set, which includes a dutch oven, braiser, grill pan, and lid. That’ll let you start making bread, cooking delicious one-pots, and grilling up a storm. And since this set is designed to safely stack, it’s much easier to store. It’s a big investment, but Staub is one of the best names in cast iron, and these pots will last so long they may end up becoming family heirlooms.

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