If you’ve perused recipes online or in magazines, chances are you would’ve seen beautifully styled pictures of food on cast iron pans and skillets.

These are the black vessels you’ve seen placed strategically on rustic dining tables dotting the Instagram food landscape. But what is it and what is the allure? Where can you get a good cast iron pan in Singapore and how applicable is it for Asian cooking? We break it down for you in the simplest terms.

What is cast iron?
Cast iron cookware in all its forms is the gold standard when it comes to kitchen equipment. As its name suggests, the cookware is shaped from molten iron — a strong, heavy duty metal that’s been used as cooking vessels in Asia since ancient times.

Today, it’s shaped into all manner of culinary use — from flat skillets, to saucepans and dutch ovens — the options are endless. 

What is the appeal?
It’s simple really. It lasts an age, conducts heat beautifully and when seasoned properly, beats some of the best non-stick pans in the market. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it comes in a black hue, making it chic and perfect for Instagram.

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

In the words of cookbook author Ronni Lundy, “There aren’t many things in modern life that are passed down through generations and remain both beautiful and useful.”

Cast iron pans are one of them.

How do I take care of it?
There are many myths around taking care of a cast iron pan but our advice is to treat it like any other cooking utensil you have. First, some brands require you to season your pan before use while others are pre-seasoned. To season your new cast iron pan, scrub it down with warm soap water and allow it to dry. Next, coat the surface with vegetable oil, and bake it upside down in an oven at 170 degrees celsius for an hour. Be sure to place a pan underneath to catch any drips. Turn off the oven after an hour and allow it to cool inside.

Can I use it for Asian cooking?
Yes you’ve probably seen steaks and even sourdough bread being made in cast iron but it’s also absolutely suitable for Asian cooking. There are cast iron woks as well as cast iron dutch ovens that would lend itself well for slow braises, curries or even dishes like rendang which require slow, gentle heat over time.

If you’re short on time however, we would however recommend sticking to a regular wok or saucepan as this takes a while to heat up properly.

How do I choose one?
First, ask yourself, what will you be using it for and secondly, what is your budget? Cast iron pans run the gamut from under S$50 to hundreds of dollars. Below, we’ve broken down the various types for you to choose from.

1

Lodge is perhaps, the quintessential cast iron brand to start with and this pan is a must-have in your kitchen. It comes in various sizes ranging from eight to 13 inches, depending on the number of mouths you have to feed. It’s relatively multi-purpose so you could use it for a variety of uses, from making pancakes to sizzling up some bacon or steak. Be sure to check your measurements, especially if you wish to use it in an oven.

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2

If you’re looking for both a cast iron pan and a wok, look no further. Excelsteel’s 13″ cast iron wok is a combination of both, and it’d be just as good for stir fries in a jiffy as it’d be a baking vessel in the oven. It’s thinner than most cast iron pans but thicker than most woks so heating up won’t take too long. It also sports a flat bottom, making it ideal for homeowners that use only induction cookers.

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3

Take your investment to the next level and get a cast iron dutch oven. These are perfect for cooking low and slow as much as baking that gorgeous sourdough in the oven. This particular 4.7 litre model from Lodge has a cover that can be turned into a skillet so you’re pretty much getting two items in one, saving you money and space.

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4

Are you a big barbecue person? Or do you need a surface that’s completely flat to work with? This reversible grill is the perfect companion whether its for the barbecue station or on your stove. It’s flat on one side, with grill marks on the other. We love this as it measures 42.5cm by 24.1cm, spreading across two burners with plenty of space. Sizzle up some burgers or use it to whip up some bacon and sunny side up. This is definitely one for families.

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5

No cast iron list is complete without Le Creuset. The French cookware company is known for its beautifully enamelled cast iron pots — all of which are handcrafted at the original French foundry since 1925. Featured here is its Signature Round Casserole, which is just as perfect for baking a sourdough loaf as it is for slow-cooking a delicious beef bourguignon. It does come at a premium price but for that amount, you get an interior that is durable and resists stains, as well as a tight-fitting lid with built-in stabilisers that will seal in flavour.

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Azimin Saini
Editor
Azimin Saini is the Editor of Lifestyle Asia and manages the team in Singapore. He has been told the sound of his backspace is like thunder through the clouds. On a regular day, he has enough caffeine in him to power a small car. Follow him on Instagram: @globalgastronaut