Cast iron cookware has been with us for thousands of years….since the dawn of the Iron Age. Though, interestingly, it was initially only for the wealthy. (It’s hard to believe now, but it took centuries for the price of scarce iron to come down to make it widely accessible.)
But what about the modern cook? There's been a big surge in popularity of cast iron in the USA in the last 5 years or so, partly because they cook everything so well, with the even heating and best browning, their multi-generation durability, and also because of the health benefits. Here’s the LA times on the comeback of cast iron in the USA: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/24/food/la-fo-cast-iron-20121124
All the health benefits of cast iron are well known to American cooks, but less well known in Australia with the popularity of cast iron just recently beginning to build strongly here (according to our gourmet retailer friends).
Mark Henry, the engineer/founder at Australia’s only locally-made cast iron chef’s cookware company, SOLIDTEKNICS, said, “When it comes to health, we can’t be advising chemists or toxologists: there are plenty of experts on the web (and quite a few ‘amateurs’ to watch out for)! However, our job is to produce innovative cookware from clean Australian iron, and we have all the controls in place to ensure that is achieved. All I will say is that from our research, we wouldn’t recommend anything with a synthetic coating….or from a questionable source of iron….and we’ll leave it at that!”
There's also said to be the benefit of the iron itself that naturally migrates into food: it's said to be great for anyone low in iron, and no problem for those with regular blood levels (not so good if you've got iron overload though).
See some links at the bottom to start searching online to make your own educated judgement on the health benefits/risks of the myriad cookware choices out there.
There hasn’t been much press about cast iron in Australia yet, and cooks are also not as familiar with the care of cast iron, many with a little trepidation about the cleaning and seasoning. It can at first seem like a ‘dark art’, but it is really simple, once you’ve seen it.
See this simple seasoning video from SOLIDTEKNICS: http://youtu.be/LSEKhflHDnI
And more detailed seasoning and care tips: http://www.solidteknics.com/australian-fonte-pan-detail/
The key thing is that if you want the healthiest material to cook on, it will be seasoned cast iron. And the healthiest is made from clean iron from trustworthy sources. If you keep your pans well-seasoned you can have a coating that is almost as non-stick as the synthetic and ‘fad-coated’ pans, and quite corrosion-resistant, with none of the potential toxins.
So it seems that seasoned cast iron is still the only way known to achieve all those benefits without the question of chemical coatings……after all these years of modernisation efforts!
Some links to continue the iron research: