Cast iron cooking is one topic that almost always crops up in various health blogs that I follow. So much so that I began scouring stores to find some cast iron cookware that I could afford. Thrift shop-haunter that I am, I tried to visit US surplus centers in the hopes of stumbling on a cheap Le Creuset or Lodge cast iron pot or skillet that I’ve been dreaming to have. Yet somebody always seems to beat me to it.
The cast iron cookware that I see in department stores is way beyond the budget of frugal me. Besides, they don’t look as heavy and as solid as I want them to be. I actually had a peg in mind and it’s the the very first cast iron pot that I laid my eyes on. The first cast iron cookware I saw was the one owned by that Korean friend I talked about here.
When Dr. Shin came to live in the Philippines, he braved freight fares and lugged along with him his heavy set of cast iron pot where he cooks his sticky rice and his cast iron skillet where he pan-fries and grills his fish. I remember falling in love at first sight with the sleek, ebony-black finish and the very sturdy look of cast iron. I don’t know, it just felt solid and classic, totally unlike the lightweight and flimsy-looking gray pots that we see in the Philippines.
My Korean friend also said he never uses those thin and gray aluminum pots and casseroles that we Filipinos commonly use. I too have read that aluminum pots leach aluminum into foods. Of course aluminum is a mineral that should have no place whatsoever in our bodies. Aluminum is a non-nutrient mineral that’s been implicated in a list of health problems, foremost of which is Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.
For a while I bought and used those cheap clay cooking pots that can be bought in the “clay town” of my city but I got tired with all the chips and cracks that very easily appear with just a few uses. For lack of a choice, I still used my aluminum pots, just not with acidic foods which are said to cause serious aluminum leaching.
The thing is, most of the cookware we see in our stores are the aluminum type. Our pots, frying pans, casseroles and baking dish are all made of aluminum. I think this is true to all third-world countries as aluminum is an inexpensive material. Fortunately for me, I have been given a pair of stainless steel pots that are made in Canada. They are heavy and solid and do not leach chemicals in the same way that aluminum pots do. Well actually, they do but not as much as aluminum pots. Stainless steel pots also do not warp and dent even if you cook acidic food such as vinegar-rich and tomato-based soups and sauces.
All along I still held on to the dream of finding an inexpensive cast iron pot or pan. One fine day, out of the blue, I felt inspired to search online for “cast iron cookware in the Philippines” and lo, I found a sulit.com entry which sells a slightly used cast iron skillet. The online store owner even shipped the item before I even paid for it. (Thank you, Tes Lim! Click here for a similar skillet that she still sells. And no, I do not earn anything by promoting her product, it’s just my way of saying thanks to the good and fast service she gave me.) And should I say the rest is history?
I now have, in my possession, a beautiful, 11.5-inch wide and 3-inch deep, ultra-heavy cast iron skillet with 3 cast iron mini-pans. It’s probably a non-descript Japanese brand but who cares? At 800 pesos, it’s only a fourth the price of the department store brand. Shortly after I bought it, I visited the store and found their cast iron pot even slightly thinner than my thrifted find. Cheers to online thrifting!