Tried & Tested

The low-cost cast-iron casserole winner

Jess Spiring,-Deputy Editor

John Lewis is so confident in this pan, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Will you be passing it on to the next generation? We put one through its paces

There’s a reason cast-iron cookware has featured on the gift lists of newlyweds for decades – cast iron, like your marriage vows, is designed to last. Indeed this one has a lifetime guarantee, so while at £60 it isn’t the cheapest pan around, it could be the vessel that serves your first proper dinner guests, weans veg-wary toddlers and welcomes the clan back to your dining table once they’ve flown the nest. You may even love it so much you bequeath it to a loved one in your will. Here’s what I made of it after a month-long road test.

What is it?

Quiet at the back, it’s time for a quick history lesson. Cast iron is an alloy of iron and carbon that’s super-strong and hard-wearing. Smelting furnaces in 220 AD, the time of the Han Dynasty in China, point to its earliest use, but it really caught on in the 18th century when industrialisation brought down the price and thickness of the metal mouldings, making it an optimal material choice for mass producing utensils, pots and pans.

Why do you need it?

1. Its non-stick surface won’t wear out: Most modern pans are aluminium and often come with a non-stick coating, such as Teflon or ceramic, but they tend to wear out after a few years, whereas cast iron keeps on truckin’. Old fashioned cast iron needed to be ‘seasoned’, which involved creating a coating of non-stick oils that bond with the surface of the pan. However, this modern iteration comes with a porcelain-enamel coating, so it’s non-stick from the get go and doesn’t need any special treatment other than a rinse in soapy water after cooking.

2. It works on any surface: Whether you’re an induction aficionado, a gas gastronomer or simply big on barbecues, your cast-iron pan is up to the job. You can also slide it into the oven too. What’s more, since it’s so good at retaining heat, so long as you use a good trivet underneath it, it even works brilliantly for serving straight to the tabletop.

3. Your food will taste better: The inside of the lid has little nodules hanging down, which mean that moisture which collects on the lid drips evenly back onto your food, giving you fluffier rice, more succulent veg and moist, melt-off-the-bone meat.

4. It’s great for batch cooking: At 31cm wide, this is a hefty bit of kit that will easily serve supper for a hungry brood of six and leave you with leftovers. It’s also a great way to economise when the oven is on – brown some cheap cuts of meat and whatever veg you have to hand, add ½ litre of water and a stock cube, and a stew will be, ahem, stewing effortlessly while you’re cooking something else.

The metrics that matter
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How easy is it to clean?Look, it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, so it’s not outstanding in this department but, given a quick soak, it washes up nicely.
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Will I be a better cook?It’s not going to turn you into Madhur Jaffrey overnight, but it may inspire you to choose recipes that take a little more time and love to make, which always dials up the flavour.
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Is it really an heirloom?Personally, I think a pan that’s a relic of mealtime memories is far more meaningful than a dated piece of jewellery. I’d bequeath this to someone I really loved.

Is it worth it?

It’s a qualified yes from me. The qualifier being that it is really heavy, especially when it’s full and you’re lifting it out of the oven. I mean, that shouldn’t be a surprise given that it’s solid cast iron, but if your upper-body strength isn’t what it was, you’d undoubtedly be better off with something lighter. Aside from that, I agree with the 103 people who gave it a five-star review. In short, it’s a cast-iron investment.

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