It’s Foodie Friday and this week I want to dwell on cast iron pans. Hopefully, you own a couple and they’re not sitting in some drawer rusting away. What I’ve been thinking about today is how there are some real misunderstandings about cast iron and how a number of those misunderstandings have equivalencies in how some folks look at employees. Let me explain.
Those of you who don’t use cast iron regularly probably have a few misconceptions. You think that it’s an outdated technology and newer types of pans are lighter and have better non-stick surfaces. You feel that cast iron is temperamental. You can’t wash it with soap and water and as a result, it always has a gross sheen of old cooking oil and other gunk on it. You fear using anything metal on it in case you disrupt the non-stick surface. Finally, you fear cooking acidic food such as tomato sauces in it because the acid will result in an off taste as it interacts with the metal.
None of the above is true. Well, ok. The pans are heavy. I have a 15-inch cast iron skillet that requires a back brace to lift. But it makes a roux like no other pan I have. It took a while to learn how to use cast iron properly. It doesn’t heat evenly but it holds heat fantastically. Because of that, it puts an amazing sear on anything. It can go from stovetop to oven with no fear. I wash mine with soap and water all the time and the non-stick surface is fine. Why? Because it’s not old oil that creates the non-stick. It’s a layer of polymerized oil that has already bonded to the surface. That is also why I cook acidic foods in it without issue as well. The more I fry it in the better that layer becomes. So what does this have to do with business?
We often look at people much as we look at cast iron pans. We think that people who are older can’t have the properties that make them valuable. We hear rumors they’re difficult and that they’re temperamental. We don’t think they are versatile enough to deal with any situation. We hear they require constant care and maintenance. None of those things are true, at least not to a degree that’s any worse than we face with any demographic. The reality is that more experienced people can often perform a multitude of tasks and, like cast iron, get better at them over time and with use.
There is one other thing cast iron has that’s extremely valuable. It’s called emissivity, which is its tendency to expel a lot of heat energy from its surface in the form of radiation. Not only does it cook what’s in contact with its surface but also the food above that surface (think roasting). Who wouldn’t want an employee that radiates high energy to those around them?
If you have a cast iron pan in a closet someplace, take it out, clean it up, reseason it, and put it to work. Not a bad thought for the underutilized experienced employee in your midst either!