Construction: Thick and heavy, the high-sided frame is composed of 97 to 98 percent iron and 2 to 3 percent carbon. Its pebbly surface contains relatively deep nooks and crannies that tightly grip seasoning, which, with continued and careful use, will become a naturally nonstick patina that protects the surface from rust and releases food readily.
Why We Love It: Once it’s hot, cast iron holds heat exceptionally well (even when cool food is added), which makes it ideal for frying, searing, and roasting. Its tall, straight sides also make it well suited for deep-dish applications such as cornbread, pan pizza, and even fruit-packed pies. The patina is endlessly renewable and also protects the metal from rust. You can hand down cast‑iron pans for generations.
Limitations: Its relatively high percentage of carbon makes cast iron a brittle alloy; molding it into a thick, hefty frame makes it durable—but a beast to maneuver and notoriously uneven as it heats up. Like carbon steel, its patina requires gradual buildup and careful maintenance and will react with acidic foods.
Tip: How to Preheat Cast Iron
To ensure that the pan heats thoroughly and evenly, place it on the middle rack of the oven (its convective heat minimizes hot spots) and heat the oven to 500 degrees. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, use pot holders to set the pan over a moderate flame on the stovetop to maintain the heat.