Like aluminum, iron pots are a good news/bad news item. Iron conducts heat well and stays hot significantly longer than other pots. It's easy to clean. It lasts forever, and it releases iron ions into food, which may improve the nutritional value of dinner.

In 1985, nutrition researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock set out to measure the iron content of foods cooked in iron pots. Among their discoveries: Beef stew (0.7 milligrams of iron per 100 grams/3.5 ounces, raw) can end up with as much as 3.4 milligrams of iron per 100 grams after cooking slightly longer than an hour in an iron pot.

Alas! There's a downside. The iron that flakes off the pot may be a form of the mineral that your body can't absorb. Also, more iron is not necessarily better. It encourages oxidation (bad for your body) and can contribute to excess iron storage in people who have hemochromatosis, a condition that leads to iron buildup that may damage internal organs.

By the way, did I mention that pumping iron is not a bad way to describe the experience of cooking with iron pots? They're really, really heavy.

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