The Irreplaceable Cast Iron Pans

21 Sep.,2022

 

nonstick cast iron skillet

Cast Iron Dutch Ovens:

Before anyone ever thought of a crock pot, there was the cast iron Dutch oven.  Dutch ovens have been used for hundreds of years.

Nothing will hold a good, even temperature better than the heavy metal of this monster pot, and it can go from stove top to oven without missing a beat.

Check out this very interesting and informative article on Dutch Oven Camp Cooking.

Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware:


I personally have five (5) old cast iron pots – a 10-inch and a 12-inch cast iron skillet, two large cast iron griddles, and a cast iron Dutch Oven.  I love my cast iron pans!

You can use a single cast iron frying pan or cast iron skillet for just about any cooking task.  Bake a cake, sear a filet, roast or fry a chicken, fry potatoes, stir-fry vegetables, etc.  One skillet is all you need, but because cast iron cooking is lot of fun and makes the food you cook taste great, you are probably going to want more than one cast iron pan.

Using Cast-Iron Cookware  – The benefits of cast iron pans and skillets are terrific:  

Foods glide out of it as from a pan made with Teflon.

Cast-Iron goes from stove to oven.

No special utensils are needed to cook in it.

Cast-Iron will not war, and cleanup is a cinch.

A well-seasoned cast-iron pan will only get better with age, and will last you for a lifetime.

It is time people realize the culinary wonder that a cast iron pan can be!

Professional chefs consider cast iron cookware to be precision cooking tools, as these dependable pans enable precise control of cooking temperatures.  Their heat retention qualities allow for even cooking temperature without hot spots.  Cast iron pans can be used on top of the stove or to bake in the oven.  All our grandmothers had cast iron skillets and cast iron stove-top griddles.  In fact, your grandmother swore by it and the pioneers depended on it.

If you do not own a cast iron skillet, it is well worth the time and money to invest in one.  You can find them for sale on the internet, at cook stores everywhere, thrift stores, flea markets, or you can scour the tag and yard sales for one that might look as if it has seen better days.  If the pan is rusty or encrusted with grease, buy it anyway.  Don’t worry!  I’ll tell you how to get that new or old one into shape so you can enjoy it for a lifetime of fat free cooking. You’ll be able to pass the pan on to your own children and grandchildren.

Caring For Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets


The first most common mistake of why people do not like cast iron is that they say everything sticks.  If food sticks to your cast iron pan, your pan is NOT seasoned right and you need to re-season it.  Cast iron is a natural non-stick surface and if your pan is seasoned correctly it WILL NOT stick!

Always preheat your cast iron frying pans before frying in them.

Water droplets should sizzle, then roll and hop around the pan, when dropped onto the heated surface.  If the water disappears immediately after being dropped, the pan is too hot.  If water only rests and bubbles in the pan, it is not quite hot enough.  NOTE: Do not pour large amounts of cold liquid into your hot cast iron frying pan.  This can cause the cast iron to break.  Never forget your potholders!  Cast iron pan handles get HOT when cooking!

There is a trick to maintaining cast iron cookware and that trick is known as “seasoning” or “curing.”  Your food will never stick to the bottom of the skillet or pot and the iron will not rust if it is properly seasoned.  Plus the cast iron cookware cleans up easily as well.  Seasoning or curing cast iron cookware means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in.  This provides a smooth, non-stick surface on the inside of the cast iron pan.

If the cast iron pan was not seasoned properly or a portion of the seasoning wore off and food sticks to the surface or there is rust, then it should be properly cleaned and re-seasoned.  Seasoning a cast iron pan is a natural way of creating non-stick cookware.  And, like you cook and clean the modern non-stick cookware with special care to avoid scratching the surface, your cast iron cookware wants some special attention too.

NOTE:  All new (not old cast iron cookware) cast iron pans and skillets have a protective coating on them, which must be removed.  American companies use a special food-safe wax; imports are covered with a water-soluble shellac. In either case, scrub the item with a stainless steel scouring pads (steel wool), using soap and the hottest tap water you can stand.

How To Season Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets:


Definition of Seasoning:
To season a cast iron pan means to create a slick and glassy coating by baking on multiple thin coats of oil.  This will protect the cast iron pan from getting rusted and makes for a non-stick cooking surface.

You season a cast iron pan by rubbing it with a relatively thin coat of neutral food-grade oil (I stress a light coat of oil).  Rub the oil off with paper towels or a cotton cloth.  The pan will look like there is no oil left on the surface, but there is as the oil is just very thin (the pan will look dry, not glistening with oil).

Use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning your cast iron pans. I recently experimented and found out that food-grade coconut oil/butter also works great.  Check out Smoking Points of Oils – Types of Cooking Oils.

Also check out the Q&A’s web pages below: Techniques for Restoring and Seasoning Old Cast Iron Pans and Cast Iron Skillets.

Place the lightly-oiled cast iron pan, upside down, in the oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any drips.  Heat the pan for 30 minutes in a 450 to 500 degree F. oven.  Once done, turn off the oven, and let the pan cool to room temperature in the oven.  Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will help create a stronger “seasoning” bond.  I usually do this process 3 to 4 times.  NOTE: Seasoning cast iron pans does generate smoke similar to cooking in a dirty oven.

The oil fills the cavities and becomes entrenched in them, as well as rounding off the peaks.  By seasoning a new pan, the cooking surface develops a nonstick quality because the formerly jagged and pitted surface becomes smooth.  Also, because the pores are permeated with oil, water cannot seep in and create rust that would give food an off-flavor.  Your ironware will be slightly discolored at this stage, but a couple of frying jobs will help complete the cure, and turn the iron into the rich, black color that is the sign of a well-seasoned, well-used skillet or pot.

Never put cold liquids into a very hot cast iron pan or oven.  They will crack on the spot!

Be careful when cooking with your cast iron pans on an electric range, because the burners create hot spots that can warp cast iron or even cause it to crack.  Be sure to preheat the iron very slowly when using an electric range and keep the settings to medium or even medium-low.

Important:

Unless you use your cast iron pans daily, they should be washed briefly with a little soapy water and then rinsed and thoroughly dried in order to rid them of excess surface oil.  If you do not do this, the surplus oil will become rancid within a couple of days.

Remember – Every time you cook in your cast iron frying pan, you are actually seasoning it again by filling in the microscopic pores and valleys that are part of the cast iron surface.  The more you cook, the smoother the surface becomes!