Your Cooking Companion

Posted in Tools & Equipment
April 16, 2018

About Cast Iron

You may have heard me mention that I love cast iron cookware. Here’s why:

  1. It doesn’t warp, so my pan has complete contact with my glass-top cooking surface.
  2. There’s nothing better for browning or making something crispy. Like potatoes.
  3. It’s inexpensive, and it will last forever. If you want it even cheaper, start looking in thrift stores. It’s common for people who don’t know how to use it to get frustrated and give it away.
  4. It’s non-stick, when properly seasoned.
  5. Believe it or not, a seasoned pan is pretty easy to clean.
  6. It can be used in the oven, as well as on the cooktop.

In fact, for me, the only downsides are:

  1. It’s very heavy, especially when you’re trying to pour something out of it with only one hand (because the other hand is scraping) and
  2. When the seasoning gets washed off and you cook in it without re-seasoning, it can be a killer to get clean.

If you’re already using cast iron, most of the info I’m about to impart won’t be new to you. But if you’ve been afraid of cast iron and want to give it a try, here’s the how-to:

Seasoning:

  1. Scrub skillet well in hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly. Like on a warm stovetop. You don’t want any moisture below the oil you’re about to apply.
  2. Spread a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil over the skillet.
  3. Place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 450°. (Place foil on a lower rack to catch drips.)
  4. Bake 1 hour; let cool in the oven.
  5. Do this whenever stuff starts to stick.

Cooking:

Before cooking, apply vegetable oil to the cooking surface, and preheat the pan on low heat, increasing the temperature slowly. Never marinate in cast iron. Acidic mixtures will damage the seasoning. (Of course, you could always re-season afterward.)

Cleaning:

Don’t be afraid to put water in it and let it soak for 15 minutes! If you do that with a seasoned pan, chances are good that you will then be able to wipe it (not scrub it) clean very easily. This rule applies to both stainless steel and cast iron. Once the pan is cool, fill it with warm water and allow it to just sit that way for 15 minutes or so. Then use a mildly-abrasive brush or sponge and just wipe it clean. Yes, most of the time, it really is that easy. To clean stubborn crusties, use a stiff brush or plastic scrubber under running water. Kosher salt is a good scrubbing agent for stuff that won’t wipe off (there won’t be much). Dry the skillet thoroughly by heating over medium-low heat until all traces of moisture have evaporated. (I actually just set it out on my stove to air dry, and it’s ready to put away in the morning.) Before putting it away, add a tiny amount of oil or cooking spray to the pan and use paper towels to spread the oil lightly around the interior surface. Continue to wipe surface with oiled paper towels until it looks dark and smooth and no oil residue remains. Then heat it on the stovetop till about 30 seconds after it starts to smoke, which is a sign that the oil has then been fused to the surface.

There’s a way to season your cast iron more permanently, and the word is that it will withstand soap and even dishwashers. I’ve not tried it myself, but here’s the place to learn how to do that.

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