We have a tradition to cook food in iron vessels. Modern science has proved that, when you cook food in iron vessels, it reacts with the metal surface and iron gets released in the food. Start cooking in iron vessels to make the food more iron rich. Now, the next question is which one to buy? Iron or Cast-iron? You shall buy ordinary iron vessels. Cast iron pans come with pre-seasoning and is easy to use and maintain. Plain (not enameled) Cast iron pans don’t have any extra non-stick coatings. The non-sticky property is achieved with the help of seasoning that involves oil & high heat. I use Lodge Cast iron products and they are very good in quality.
Be it normal or cast-iron vessels, once cooked, immediately transfer the food to another steel/glass/ceramic vessel to avoid discoloration and metallic taste. Do not use iron or cast-iron cook wares in microwave as it is not microwave safe. But you shall use cast iron cookware in grill oven in baking and broiling at high temperatures. I use my cast iron cookware to bake my pizzas and grill my chicken. Watch the below video to know how I have used my cast iron pan in grilling whole chicken.
Do not put iron or cast-iron cook wares in dishwasher as it is not dishwasher safe. Just wash using hands with a soft sponge (avoid metal scrubs). Avoid using chemical cleaners. I clean my iron vessels using rice flour/besan flour/corn flour. The starch in the flour deep cleanses the vessels and brings out the food stuck in the smallest pores of the vessel. The smell of previously cooked food will be completely alleviated with these flours. Alternatively, you shall use idli batter to wash iron vessels. Washing with chemical detergents leaves some chemicals stored in the pores of the vessel and this might enter the next cooked food using the vessel. I strongly don’t recommend chemical cleaners for iron vessels. For burnt bottom/heavily stuck food, just soak the vessel in water for 10 minutes (not more than that as it might rust) and wash using any of these flours.
After washing, never leave the vessel with water droplets as it might rust. Wipe it well using cloth or tissue. Another easy method is to heat the vessel until it is dry. Once the water is dried up, pour 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp oil depending upon the size of the pan and apply the oil all over the pan – inside, outside, sides, bottom, handle. Any area left without oil is more likely to rust. Store it in a warm, dry place. You can use it as such in the next cooking or you shall slightly water wash and use immediately. The oil layer protects the metal from rusting by absorbing the moisture from air. The same maintenance techniques apply to dosa tawa as well. But you no need to wash dosa tawa daily. You shall leave it as such as it will be oily (oil used in making dosa). But do wash it if you make egg dosas/omelets in it.
Having said about the maintenance, there is always a question about what not to cook in iron pan? Why do nutritionists advice to add little tomato while cooking in iron pan? Iron vessels leach some iron into the food you cook. Acidic foods like tamarind, tomato and lemon cause more iron to leach into food, which is said to increase the iron content of the food. But at the same time, it might cause discoloration & metallic taste in food, if cooked for more than 20 mins. On the other hand, these acidic foods might damage the seasoning of the vessel, as well. I don’t cook tamarind or tomato-based curries in Iron vessel. But I don’t mind adding a small tomato to my stir fries or curries cooked in my iron pan. It is ok to add tomato to iron cooking(for better iron absorption) but finish it off within 20 minutes and immediately transfer it to another container. Watch the below video to know more in detail about rust-free maintenance of iron and cast-iron cook wares..