I will admit it. We are relatively new to the cast iron fan club. As working parents who attempt to cook their kids a meal a few times a week, we have been devoted to our Calphalon non-stick cookware since we got our first set for wedding gifts. While I’m not tossing it out yet, we have started using more cast iron cookware – especially on our Big Green Egg. Tony recently cooked a Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese in our Lodge dutch oven, and it was soooo good.
Considering making the switch… or at least adding a few pieces to your cookware collection? Here’s six reasons to love cast iron:
- After it is seasoned properly, it becomes naturally non-stick which means less oil – or even worse, oil sprays.
- There are no chemicals. Now, I’m not a purist when it comes to chemicals, but I figure less is better.
- Your food is naturally fortified with iron as it cooks in cast iron. And iron is good for you.
- Cast iron is able to withstand high heats and multiple cooking surfaces, so your dishes can go from stove to grill/smoker to oven without changing cookware.
- It heats evenly. Not all cookware is created equally and neither are their sides and lids. Feel the heat radiating off the top of a dutch oven lid and you’ll see what I mean.
- When properly cared for, cast iron can last for generations. My great-grandmother’s frying pan cooked my family’s supper this week.
But isn’t cast iron hard to care for? I admit, I was intimidated by cast iron cookware, but the more I use it, the easier it gets. Here are some tips for getting the most out of cast iron:
New cast iron pieces need to be seasoned. Seasoning is that shiny coating that gives cast iron cookware its non-stick properties. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
- Wash with soap and water to remove germs and chemicals. This is the ONLY time you should use soap on cast iron.
- Rub the inside, walls and handle with vegetable or flaxseed oil. Line the bottom of your oven with a baking sheet or aluminum foil then place your cast iron upside down on the middle rack and bake at 400 for an hour. Turn off oven and leave pan in oven to cool and close pores.
- An alternate method is to cover the bottom of the pan with ½” cooking oil and a heavy layer of kosher salt. Heat on stove on high until it starts to smoke. Discard the salt and oil using a paper towel and tongs if needed. Wipe pan with paper towels until residue is gone and pan is smooth.
- With either method, you can repeat the process until it reaches the level of seasoning you desire.
After using, clean your cookware with hot water while the pan is still warm. Never use soap or place in the dishwasher. Dry with paper towels to avoid staining dish towels and heat on low for a few minutes to close pores.
Store in a dry place. If lidded, place paper towels inside to absorb moisture.
To remove food particles when cleaning, scour with kosher salt. For difficult particles, boil a little water in the pan to loosen. Don’t worry about food residue left behind. The pan will heat so fast on its next use that it will kill anything on its surface.
If you notice food is starting to stick during cooking, it is probably time to re-season.
If you notice rust on your cookware, it was probably put away while still wet or it is stored in a damp location. To remove rust, rub with steel wool. This is the only time you should use steel wool on cast iron.
And a few NEVER DO’s to close out with:
- Never put cast iron in the dishwasher.
- Never wash cast iron with soap after its initial seasoning.
- Never soak cast iron in water.
- Never use steel wool or scrubbing pads unless removing rust.
Have I convinced you yet? Seriously, don’t be afraid to experiment with cast iron – especially if you like to cook on the grill or smoker. The more you use it, the better it will be… and it will last forever.Do you have any cast iron care tips? What do you like to cook in cast iron?