The Alternative to Cast Iron You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
We all love our cast iron skillets—they heat evenly and require simple maintenance. But have you heard of it's beautiful stone cousin?
When it comes to skillet cooking, we can’t get enough of our cast iron pans. Durable and easy to use, these skillets make for some darn tasty recipes. But it turns out for form and function, cast iron isn’t the end-all, be-all. In fact, there’s another material that combines similar functionality in a beautiful package: soapstone.
What is soapstone?
Soapstone, the common name for the metamorphic rock steatite, is a soft rock, composed mainly of talc, that has been used as cookware around the world for thousands of years. It is also a popular countertop material and is frequently used in chemistry labs because of its durability and ability to withstand high temperatures.
You can find soapstone cookware in many forms, like grill pans, skillets and even pots.
How can I use it in my kitchen?
This cast iron alternative is a great choice for soups, stews, and risotto dishes because it heats evenly and isn’t prone to hot spots—much like cast iron. It can be used in the oven, on the grill and on the stovetop (also like cast iron), although heat diffusers are recommended for use on electric ranges. Soapstone can even be used as a serving dish right at the table and since it retains its heat for an extended period of time—much longer than cast iron—food stays warm between servings. And it can also be chilled in the refrigerator and used for cold serving.
How do I take care of it?
Similar to cast iron, soapstone cookware should be cured before use. This means the stone should be coated with a thin layer of oil and left to absorb it all before its first use. Avoid using harsh cleansers and detergents with soapstone. Likewise, avoid sudden changes in temperature. Soapstone should always be allowed to cool on its on before rinsing with cool water and should be room temperature before placed in the refrigerator. Thermal shocks can cause the stone to crack.
After most uses, dishes should be cleaned with warm water and wiped clean with a soft rag—you don’t need soaps or cleaners. A small amount of detergent might be necessary after frying or sauteing in soapstone, and you should wipe down with a small amount of oil after washing. If you’re a fan of cast iron cooking, all these steps should be pretty familiar.
If maintained properly, soapstone cookware can become a treasured family heirloom passed down through generations; its durability, and versatility making it indispensable and its beauty making it loved.