Have you ever heard of Dutch ovens? These really aren't ovens, but instead are heavy pots with lids. Traditionally, they were made of cast iron or some other sturdy material, and people cooked stews and other tasty dishes over fires with them before the advent of the modern stove.
They've been around for a long, long time. Historians speculate that they originally came from Holland (hence the name "Dutch oven"), brought by the pilgrims when they came over on the Mayflower. American pioneers then cooked with them over open fires. Today, these still make great cooking utensils, particularly cast-iron Dutch ovens.
Why cast-iron Dutch ovens?
Cast iron is a very durable material. It's not dishwasher safe, but one of the advantages of cast iron is that you season it, usually by coating it with a layer of fat or oil, then baking it until the oil "soaks in" to the cast-iron; thereafter, all you generally have to do to "wash" it is to clean it with salt and a little bit of water, re-seasoning on occasion.
At most, hand-washing with soap and hot water and then re-seasoning again is all that's ever needed. In fact, taken care of properly, cast-iron can literally last "forever." You may have heard of people who've been handed down cast iron frying pans or Dutch ovens from previous generations of family members, and these are very cherished items indeed.
Furthermore, cast-iron Dutch ovens are absolutely tops at retaining heat. That makes them very efficient to cook in. For example, while modern "dishwasher safe" Dutch ovens made of materials other than cast-iron have a propensity to burn food if you're not careful, you can set cast-iron Dutch ovens in your oven on very low heat for perfect slow cooking.
Because you can cook at such a low heat (since the cast-iron retains heat so well), you're much less likely to burn food, and you'll get your cooking done with much less energy.
Cast-iron Dutch ovens have another advantage over any other type of cookware, and that is that especially when you cook acidic foods in them, like chili with tomatoes, you get a little bit of iron in every serving of chili. That's because cast-iron Dutch ovens deposit tiny amounts of absorbable iron into the foods you cook in them. That's good news for anyone who's ever had to take iron supplements, and beneficial news for anyone who could use the extra iron boost.
Fire safe, too
If you've ever wished that you could cook something like soup or stew right in your backyard barbecue pit or over an open fire, guess what? With cast-iron Dutch ovens, you can. Cast iron is very fire safe, so that all you have to do if you're camping or want some true "campfire" food from your backyard barbecue is to put everything you want to cook in a cast-iron Dutch oven, place it over the open coals, and let it simmer.
So go ahead; dig out that old cast-iron Dutch oven (or buy one if you don't have one) and have some real old-fashioned "fireside" stew, cooked over hot coals just like your great-grandmother used to do.