Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cooking in Cast Iron

Cooking in Cast Iron

Hi friends, welcome to how-to section and this time I will be talking about Cooking in Cast Iron kadai/wok. 

After delicious preparations in clay pot, I have started experimenting with Iron vessels.

I got one Cast Iron Kadai (Irumbu ilupaichatti in tamil) from my mother and did crispy potato in it. It added a good flavor to my food also consumed less oil.

Have we ever thought why our grannies used Iron wok? Nope we don't have time or we don't care about it. We store our kitchen with loads of Teflon coated non-stick pans in different sizes, shapes and colours. I am sure after reading this article you will jump over to traditional utensils from those attractive non stick pans.


It adds up iron to your diet

When we cook in cast Iron wok it reacts with food and adds iron to them which in turn helps to reduce the risk of anaemia. That's the reason the food gets its darker shade. 

Consumes less oil

Iron Wok has natural non stick properties which helps in consuming less oil while cooking. When I am doing potato roast I always prefer Iron wok as it absorbs less oil and gives nice crispy potatoes. 

Energy Saving

When heated, the heat gets absorbed quickly and spreads evenly in the kadai . Also it retains heat for a longer time which intern helps us to save energy.

How to Season/cure Iron Wok:

For the benefit of first time users, I am here with the curing process.

1) The Kadai/wok has to be filled with diluted tamarind paste and salt for at-least half an hour before use. 

2) Discard this paste and using rock salt (coarse) scrub completely using a scrubber.

3) Wash with warm soapy water and dry. If you get sabena (dish wash powder available in India) use it with soapy water.

4) Apply a thin coat of vegetable oil using paper towel inside and outside the wok.

The job is done!!! Your wok/Kadai is ready to be used.

How to Clean rusted wok/Iron Dosa Tawa:

Here, I am discussing two methods which will help you to cure the Iron utensils. 

Method 1:

1) Cleaning with dish washing powder like Sabena will help the Cast Iron Kadai/wok avoid rust.

2) In case of rusting, use a steel scrubber to scrap and wash till the rust is removed.

3) Don't use lemon or any other acidic substance for cleaning, as it will corrode the Kadai/wok.

4) Apply castor oil inside the surface of Kadai/wok and heat it until it dries.

Now your iron vessel is ready for use.

Method 2:

1) Scrub the tawa using steel scrubber with dish washing powder like Sabena and wash it nicely.

2) Boil a handful of rice in a water, remove the rice and pour the  water in Kadai/wok. If you are seasoning a tawa, just toast 2-3 slices of bread and throw away them.

3) After doing the step 2, your Kadai or tawa is ready to use. 

4) Now that you have cooked you food or made dosa, wash it well and wipe the Iron Kadai/Tawa with tissue paper or soft cotton cloth. Then pour few drops of any vegetable oil on inner surface of kadai or tawa and spread it completely. This will help the Iron utensils to avoid getting rust.

Sometimes, the iron utensils that you buy will be rough with sharp iron particles and also some rust.  If you notice this in your Iron utensil while buying, you can ask your shop keeper to smooth the surface before buying then you can proceed with the curing process at home. 

Cooking in Cast Iron wok:

1) Cooking on low flame is preferred when using a large burner in gas stove.

2) Iron kadai gives best results when used for frying purpose like Urad dal vadai.

3) When you cook in Iron Kadai, food taste remains the same but there is slight change in colour.

4) After cooking, transfer the food to serving container immediately.

Post cooking care:

After use, wash it well with warm soapy water or dish washing powder. Apply vegetable oil inside the wok/Kadai and use paper towels to cover it until next use.

Applying vegetable oil will avoid rust formation.


  1. Hi

    thanks for the post it is same that we call in tamil varappu irumbu, i bought a new pan and it looks grey in colour, when I cook in it food kind of taste bitter. Should i be doing curing process for new ones as well.

  2. Hi Pavithra, thanks for visiting my blog. Yes, you need to do the curing process for the new ones.

    1. hi harini,
      thanks for responding and is the varappu irumbu is cast iron

    2. Hi Pavithra, I have heard about Vaarpadam Irumbu and Thandavaala irumbu but not sure about varappu irumbu. This cast iron is the regular iron kadais that you get from shops.

  3. Hi Harini. Thank you for the post on iron vessels. I got a kadai and the food turns black, your post says there will be slight change in colour, can I continue using it or should I cure it as I did not do it?

    1. Hi Lakshmi, Thanks for visiting my blog. It is always better to cure your Iron kadai before using. Yes if you cook acidic food it changes black in colour because of Iron nature, you can cook switch to stainless steel kadai instead.

  4. Replies
    1. I am using induction stove, i tried a iron tawa and it worked. If you are using iron kadai, it needs to be flat base to sit on induction. It is better to check with the store person whether it is suitable or not before giving a try.

    2. Hi, thanks for the tips. For curing process can we using anything else besides tamarind..

    3. Hi Parul, other than tamarind you can use rice kanji (porridge) water. Boil 12 tbsp of rice flour in 2 cups of water and pour this kanji water in kadai then discard it. This will be like a water not like paste.

  5. can Vaththa kuzambu be made in cured cast iron pan?

    1. Yes, you can make but it turns dark in colour. If you dont like the dark colour, you can try other traditional utensils like Maakalchatti or Man chatti/Mud pot. Please check my "cooking in mud pot" post to know how to cure and cook.

  6. Where did you buy the pan in the pic?

  7. hi im having one irumbu kadai i hav done the curing process but each and everytime when i wash and after drying it forms rust what can i do for this?

    1. Hi, To avoid rust formation, apply vegetable oil inside the wok/Kadai and use paper towels to cover it until next use. This I have already mentioned above in post cooking care.

  8. Hi where in kumbakonam to buy? any suggestions and how much would it cost?

    1. It is better to enquire with local people for the place to buy in Kumbakonam. The cost varies according to the Iron vessel that you buy

  9. Other then vatha kulambu what can I cook in vegetarian recipes

    1. You can make all frying items like vadai and all toasting curry varieties like potato fry