Cast Iron is most well known for its campfire lineage; however, its actually wildly used with indoor cooking. You may remember this in part from my piece regarding Indoor Dutch Oven Cooking. Cast iron also comes in multiple options for stovetop and oven uses. They encompass the ability to cook everything from breakfast eggs and bacon, fried pork chops, or even your favorite dessert.
This cookware has several overall advantages that give it sound footing for a place at the dinner table. The primary responsibility for every self-made chef is taking the time to care for cast iron and equally why some stray away from it.
Who Cast the Iron Skillet in this Role?
Cast iron cookware as we know gets passed down in families for generations after generations. Back in ancient times, it was even used as part of the battlefield just as much as the kitchen. Its makeup allows it to excel at high temperatures and is overall probably the most skilled piece of cookware that has stood the test of time.
Likewise, it is also on my list for healthy nonstick cooking options with no harsh chemicals. Unlike many other options cast iron holds in heat and can literally be used on all cooking heat sources from the outdoor fire, electric or stovetop bunsen burner, to the older or newer versions of ovens. Time of cooking equipment does not play a part in limiting the cast iron cookware making it ideal for the multi-tasking needs of every kitchen yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Try not to be freaked out by the term rust. All iron rusts, its a natural process in reaction to the moisture and oxygen in the air just like plants, our sinuses, and the foundations of our homes. If you learn how to properly care for the cast iron it will treat you right and last for years.
Pass The Seasoning
Many cast iron pans that you can buy now come preseasoned which is a major plus for most consumers as a diving board into the wonderful world of cast iron cooking. However, what happens the day you need to remove some rust for the first time or have cooked the first few meals and now you are either faced with buying a new pan or learning how to season it.
If the pan is unseasoned, to begin with, then it’s your first step out the door to start the seasoning process.
Seasoning a cast iron skillet properly is easy. Just pour a drop or two of oil (vegetable or olive are my two choices) on the pan and then spread it around the bottom and sides covering all cooking areas and do the same to the backside. I use a paper towel to smooth it around nicely and then wipe off any excess oil.
Place the skillet in the oven upside down and bake it. You will see a lot of controversy about baking time and temperature. I personally put it on 450 degrees to help the oil soak in deep to the skillet and come out smooth vs sticky. Leave it in the oven for an hour. You will repeat this anytime you need to reseason the pan which at a minimum should be about 2-4 times a year.
Now remember the entire pan is hot, there is no temperature safe handle. Remove it from the oven with mittens and let it cool. Pat dry again and then put it away.
One benefit of proper seasoning is that it helps make for easy cleanup due to its nonstick nature. Many people repeat the seasoning process 2-3 times prior to ever using it for cooking to help enhance the seasoning layer. This is a personal preference move. Plus the seasoning only gets better the more you cook and use the pan or reseason it which is why your great grandmother’s pan works exceptionally compared to the one you can pick up immediately at the store.
Cook Me Up Some Yum
Cast iron allows for a broad range of cooking options that are not often considered. First of all, cast iron includes skillets, pots, pans, dutch ovens, etc. Many shapes and sizes to fit any need. You can start on the stove and end in the oven or vise versa with cast iron which is a huge plus when cooking meats; sear first, then bake to increase the internal temperature without losing any flavor or over/undercooking the meat.
Want to bake, broil, roast, fry, marinate, or saute? You can! Take a stroll through some old recipes because you can make everything from that breakfast casserole to your grandmother’s fried chicken to the summertime favorite smores all with the same cast iron dishes.
Whenever you cook up that yummy goodness make sure you heat up the pan slowly and try to avoid the natural impulse like with other cookware to move around the food constantly because the cast iron will do most of the work for you.
Cleaning Up The Mess
Unlike most pots, pans, and skillets you always want to immediately clean cast iron while it is still hot to make it easier on you. Metal in water will always rust eventually. Wash with hot water and a sponge or cloth. Now, remember, your pan is hot and the water is hot, don’t burn yourself! This means that if you need a buffer wear dish gloves.
There are several tips for getting off stuck on foods including heating up the pan and then adding some warm to hot water slowly which will boil allowing you to scrape off the food with a spatula, add coarse salt and scrub off the food with a clean cloth or towel, or if nothing else works you can use wool is to remove food/rust to breakdown the pan back to a base layer and start the seasoning process over.
Dry it well and season with a thin layer of oil and put it away in a safe place with a coat such as a dishtowel to help protect it.
Cast iron is a chemical free, non-hazardous, nonstick option for cookware. Most of the concern revolves around 2 things: rust and iron leeching. Proper maintenance helps prevent rust and let’s face it all iron rusts but it can be properly restored and seasoned back to cooking use quality. Secondly, all humans need iron in their systems. There is such a thing as too much iron but you won’t ever use your pans that much.
Grab the Skillet
Like all cookware cast iron comes in many brands, types, and options out there for consumers. When in doubt, I recommend the old tried and true options of Lodge or Le Creuset. Both are formidable brands that will take care of the job at hand.
Now you certainly don’t have to have all cast iron in the kitchen but a few items can really come in handy. Especially since there are no restrictions with the cookbook.
I hope you enjoyed this review and if you have any questions about your cast iron cookware or want to leave your own personal review, stories, recipes or interest please leave a comment below.