Cast iron pots are heavy. They can rust. The dark black seasoning will not stand up to hours of simmering if the liquid is acidic, like tomato sauce or sauerkraut. And once the seasoning layer is broached, excess iron can leak out of the pot into your food, risking iron overload disease. Thermal conductivity is eight times lower than copper, which is why cast iron fry pans are notorious for hot spots. The surface is mildly non-stick, but requires a bit of oil or fat to reach its full potential. Cast iron can be cleaned, but not aggressively. And I never use my cast iron pots to cook caramel or make crepes or to scrape off a tasty "fond".
A much superior technology is a laminate of durable stainless over an inner copper heat spreading layer, and a second generation Teflon non-stick film bonded to the cooking surface. Eggs slide out with no added fats, and brown uniformly from edge to edge. Burned sugar pops off in an acrid sheet. Home fries crust perfectly and are nearly greaseless. The stainless never rusts and can be scrubbed aggressively. Not to mention lightweight.
But Teflon has one Achilles heel- above 400F or so, Teflon breaks down and releases a number of fluorinated organic compounds which are dangerous in small doses. The seasoning on a cast iron pot will also break down at high temps, and while the actual compounds have not been carefully tested for toxicity, they are likely to be no worse than a bit of barbecue smoke. Which is to say toxic, but only in high doses.
So I use my cast iron pots on the grill. Under the broiler. Over a fire. For deep frying and steak searing. And every once in a while, when things get out of control, the seasoning pops up or burns off. But the pan is just as easily repaired, and soon as good as new.
This is why I took the time to develop a particularly effective seasoning technique. But to understand how this method works, a bit of background on non-stick surfaces is in order.
We use fewer than 150 of the 50,000 or so edible plants. Plant domestication was fundamentally part of our hisotry, but we haven't done it in any meaningful way in about 3,000 years -- until now. Hillary Rosner looks at current efforts to domestic plants, perhaps greatly expanding our food base and giving us new flavors we haven't imagined.
BBC Radio 4's Food Programme has a rundown of the MAD (food) symposium recently held in Copenhagen, The 28 minute audio piece is a good introduction and there are links to more in-depth pieces. If you have an interested in food - particuarly how it relates to people - have a listen.
or rabbis, the first question is: Is it kosher? Certainly, there are many Jewish legal hurdles test-tube meat would have to clear before a definitive answer could be reached. A central point of debate is the origin of the cells, which some say would have to come from a kosher—that is, cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing—animal. “As a general principle, something derived from a nonkosher animal is not kosher,” says Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division.
Others, such as Rabbi Carl Feit, chair of the biology department at Yeshiva University, say cultured meat could still be kosher even if the donor animal isn’t. Feit points to the Jewish legal principle of nullification, which states that a trace amount of a forbidden substance can be fully absorbed into an acceptable one without rendering the second treif, or forbidden. If, for example, a piece of meat falls into a glass of milk, the milk is still considered kosher as long as the meat is not more than one-sixtieth of the mixture.
With cooler weather coming, experimentation is reasonable. the salt, NPR's food blog, has a piece by Anne Miller on some things to try. For what its worth I find refrigerating the dough for a day and using a very high quality chocolate chip is important. I using half butter/half shortening for the fat and use pasteurized eggs to sample the dough:-)
This is only a first step beyond simple heating. I've seen some amazing (and healthy) meals prepared in office settings with five minute time budgets. One person, at Stony Brook University, even produced a checkered table cloth, china and wine to add to his lunch experience.