Cast iron cookware has been an integral part of Indian kitchens for centuries. Its durability, versatility, and ability to retain heat have made it a staple in traditional Indian cooking. From humble homes to high-end restaurants, cast iron cookware continues to be cherished for its exceptional performance and the unique flavors it imparts to dishes. In this article, we will explore the diverse uses of cast iron cookware in India and shed light on what not to cook with these iconic utensils.
The uses of cast iron cookware in India are endless. Let’s delve into some of the most popular ones:
1. Tadka or Tempering:
Aluminium Hard Anodised Tadka Pan
Tadka, the process of seasoning oil or ghee with spices, is an essential step in Indian cooking. The even heat distribution of cast iron pans ensures that the spices are perfectly roasted, enhancing the aroma and flavor of the dish.
2. Deep Frying:
Kadai for Deep Frying with Strong Wooden Handle
Cast iron kadai (deep frying pan) is widely used for frying snacks like pakoras, samosas, and vadas. The heavy base and excellent heat retention allow for even frying and crispy results.
3. Slow Cooking:
Indian curries are renowned for their rich flavors, achieved through slow cooking. Cast iron Dutch ovens and handis are ideal for simmering curries, as they distribute heat evenly and retain it for a long time, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes.
Cast iron skillets and pans are excellent for baking bread, cakes, and even pizzas. The radiant heat from the iron imparts a unique crust and texture to the baked goods, making them more delicious.
5. Dosa and Roti Making:
Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Dosa Tawa
Cast iron tawas (griddles) are the go-to utensils for making dosas and rotis. The even heat distribution ensures that the pancakes and bread are uniformly cooked, with a perfect balance of crispness and softness.
Despite the numerous advantages of cast iron cookware, there are a few dishes that should be avoided when using these utensils:
1. Acidic Foods: The high iron content in cast iron cookware can react with acidic ingredients like tomatoes, tamarind, and vinegar, resulting in a metallic taste. It is advisable to use stainless steel or non-reactive cookware for such dishes.
2. Delicate Fish and Seafood: Delicate fish and seafood can stick to the surface of cast iron pans, making them difficult to cook and possibly ruining their texture. Non-stick pans or stainless steel alternatives are better suited for these ingredients.
3. Quick Stir-Fries: Cast iron pans take longer to heat up compared to other materials. Therefore, quick stir-fries that require high heat and fast cooking may not yield the desired results. Lighter pans with better heat conductivity are more suitable for this purpose.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in cast iron cookware in India, with many appreciating its health benefits. Cooking with cast iron can increase the iron content in food, which is particularly beneficial for individuals with iron deficiencies. Additionally, the non-toxic nature of cast iron makes it a safer alternative to non-stick cookware, which may release harmful chemicals when heated.