When it comes to cooking performance, not many materials that can match the characteristics of well-seasoned cast iron. But the benefits don't just stop at its ability to sear and char flavour into your food. Did you know that cast iron is also a highly sustainable material? In fact, it's probably the most sustainable cookware you can buy.

Recycled Material

There are two ways to make cast iron. The first is to extract iron ore from deep within the earth, using explosives and extensive mining to produce crude or 'pig' iron, then smelting this at high temperatures to make metallic iron, ready for casting.  The other method – the one we favour at Emba – is to take existing cast iron (typically from the automotive industry) and re-smelt it. By recycling, refining and re-casting scrap  iron already in the UK system, we are able to create hardwearing, high quality and sustainable cookware that gives many years – decades, even – of new use.

Traditional Coalbrookdale Casting

Our cookware is cast in traditional sand moulds – in much the same way Abraham Darby used to develop his
revolutionary cast iron pots back in the early 1700s. Mixed with a little water and clay, we can form the sand in exacting moulds that shape the molten cast iron. Once the iron has cooled, we simply break up at the moulds and reuse the sand for the next batch of cookware. When something works this well, why reinvent it?

What's more, we specifically designed our cookware so that each item is formed as a single piece. The handles, the base, everything is cast together, giving you the ultimate in strength and durability while reducing the need for any secondary processes – riveted handles, finishing, etc. – that would diminish the sustainable
integrity of Emba cookware.

Naturally seasoned

The sustainability of Emba cast iron cookware isn't only limited to the iron itself and the casting process, however. To transform raw cast iron into naturally non-stick cookware, we season it: applying a thin layer of oil to the cooking surface – in our case, vegetable oil – then heating it to high temperatures. The oil polymerises on to the cast iron, sealing it to prevent it from rusting, and providing a natural non-stick finish to cook on. At Emba we season our cookware twice to build up layers of polymerised oil. But the real beauty of cast iron cookware is that every time you use it (depending on how and what you're cooking) you'll add more layers of seasoning to the pan, improving its cooking performance and its flavour-enhancing non-stick patina.

Seasoning is the most sustainable way of finishing cookware, far exceeding alternatives such as PTFE or vitreous enamelling in terms of simplicity and durability. There are no complex procedures or toxic residues. It's simply natural oil, heated to create a non-stick organic finish. If damaged or deteriorated, the seasoning can simply be reapplied – at home – and the cookware will be as good as new.

Great British Cookware

Emba is the only cast iron cookware that is wholly designed, manufactured and distributed in the United Kingdom. Drawing on our 130 years' heritage as a leading iron castings foundry, we are proud to support British workmanship and jobs throughout the Emba production and supply chains. From the scrap iron we smelt to the sand and clay that forms our moulds, and from the shot that blasts our cookware clean to the oil that seasons it, we support British businesses throughout our manufacturing process. Beyond this, we also support and encourage UK distributors in order to grow jobs, something that we feel is vital at the present time.

Healthy Cooking and Eating

Being made from a natural element, cast iron cookware actually fortifies your food with a tiny amount of iron. Iron is essential for good health because our bodies need it to form haemoglobin and myoglobin proteins. Without iron in our diets, our bodies suffer deficiencies such as anaemia, with symptoms including fatigue, weakness, light-headedness, and confusion. 

The best sources of beneficial dietary iron (heme) are meat, poultry and oily fish, so for vegetarians and vegans, getting the right amounts of iron can be more challenging. This is where cooking in cast iron can be useful, as it naturally adds a trace of iron to your diet as you cook. No need for expensive supplements (or the packaging they come in!).

Cooking Efficiency

Aside from how it sears and adds flavour to your food, it is also worth noting how energy efficient cast iron is. While the thick metal does take longer to heat than most cookware, cast iron is excellent at absorbing the heat (energy) you cook with and dispersing this to your food. While thinner materials like aluminium and stainless steel allow a lot of heat to dissipate into the air around them, cast iron absorbs it to give you more efficient energy conversion. 

Once hot, cast iron has excellent thermal conductivity properties, making it suitable for different cooking styles. Due to the density of the metal, you can heat cast iron to very high temperatures – perfect for searing and browning meats and vegetables. And as it also retain this heat exceptionally well, you can reduce the energy source – be it gas, electric, induction or halogen – and continue to utilise the retained heat. This makes cast iron cookware equally well suited for slow-cooking and simmering, with all the flavour of the initial searing transferred to the finished dish.

Save on Washing Up

Another sustainable advantage of cast iron cookware is that it doesn't require a lot of washing up. Often, simply wiping or brushing your cookware with hot water will be enough to keep your cookware clean. You'll rarely, if ever, have to use washing up liquid, which significantly reduces the environmental impact of cast iron cookware – especially when considering how long each piece can last for. The best way to clean cast iron cookware is to use hot water and gently scrub off any burnt-on food residue with a brush. Once clean, simple dry your cookware over heat to quickly evaporate any water droplets, and rub with a little oil. You can then either heat your cookware until the oil has stopped smoking – re-seasoning the pan's non-stick patina – or simply store it lightly oiled if using again within a week.

Long live cast iron cookware

Lastly, it's worth noting how long cast iron cookware can last for. If treated well and properly looked after (basically: kept clean, dry, and lightly oiled to maintain its seasoning) a piece of cast iron cookware can last forever, and even be handed down through generations. Just imagine searing steaks in the same pan your great grandfather cooked in. A fanciful notion? Maybe, but it's entirely plausible with cast iron. Tough, durable and with a non-stick patina that only gets better with use, cast iron cookware will never need to be replaced, or thrown away. If, somehow, a piece of Emba cookware did become unwanted or damaged beyond repair (a very exceptional circumstance!), it could simply be melted down and recast. You can't get much
more sustainable than that!