I don’t know about you but I LOVE my cast iron skillet. It is my #1 kitchen essential for cooking from scratch meals for my family.
A Brief History of Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware has a rich history dating back hundreds of years. It was particularly popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries when it was an essential part of many households. While other cookware materials have come and gone, cast iron has remained a classic choice, cherished for its enduring quality.
So what makes cast iron so special?
Cast iron heats evenly, preventing hot spots and ensuring consistent cooking results. Cast iron is also non-stick. A properly seasoned cast iron develops a natural non-stick surface without all the harsh chemicals other non-stick pans can leach into your food.
Cast Iron is durable! It is virtually indestructible and can last for generations with proper care. I have my dad’s Dutch oven and would love to have my grandmother’s skillet or griddle one day. Even the worst-looking pans at the thrift store clean up well with the proper methods.
Not only can cast iron be used on stovetops, in ovens, and even over open flames which makes it so versatile to use, it imparts a unique flavor to food, making it a favorite among chefs.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron: What is Seasoning?
Seasoning is the process of creating a thin layer of polymerized oil on the surface of your cast iron cookware. This layer makes the surface non-stick, prevents rust, and enhances the flavor of your dishes.
Your Initial Seasoning
- Wash your new cast iron with warm, soapy water to remove any factory residue.
- Thoroughly dry the cookware to prevent rust.
- Apply a thin layer of cooking oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil) to all surfaces.
- Place the oiled cast iron in an oven at 350-400°F (175-200°C) for an hour. Allow it to cool.
How to Clean & Maintain Your Seasoning
After each use, clean your cast iron with a mild brush or cloth. Use HOT water & Avoid Soap! Clean with hot water and a stiff brush or non-abrasive scrubber. Dry immediately: Prevent rust by drying your cast iron thoroughly after cleaning. I actually put mine back on the stovetop on low heat until all the moisture evaporates. Then re-oil the surface with a thin layer of cooking oil after drying. Store your cast iron with a paper towel or cloth between the pieces to prevent moisture buildup and rust.
What about stuck on food? How do you deep clean or restore a cast iron pan?
If you have an old cast iron piece that’s lost its seasoning or is rusted, don’t worry. You can restore it to its former glory. This involves removing rust, re-seasoning, and ongoing care.
For stubborn residue, use kosher salt as an abrasive to scrub away stuck-on food. If you have severe build-up you should boil water in the pan, and use a spatula to scrape away stubborn bits. Re-season after deep cleaning following the steps above.
Cooking with Cast Iron
Cast iron can infuse a unique flavor into your dishes. As the seasoning develops, it imparts a subtle, smoky, and earthy taste to your food.
Cast Iron can be used for multiple cooking methods such as Searing, Baking, Frying, and Sauteing to get the desired outcome from your recipes. Searing is perfect for achieving a crispy crust on steaks and other meats. Baking is great for bread, casseroles, and even pizza. Frying is ideal for chicken, burgers, or donuts and sauteing is an excellent option for veggies and stir-fries.
Regardless of the cooking method, it is important to always preheat your cast iron before adding food for even cooking and to prevent sticking. Cast iron retains heat well; adjust heat as needed but avoid rapid temperature changes as this can lead to cracking.
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