The last great item left for me to buy for my kitchen is a cast iron frying pan and dutch oven. Those cast iron pans were staples of my culinary adventures growing up. During my years in the Boy Scouts, if we weren’t cooking on a camp stove, we were cooking in a dutch oven over coals in a fire.
Cast iron pans are made by pouring molten iron into a mold. Once cooled, they are removed from the mold, fully formed as a single piece of metal. Cast iron pans are great because they are heavy. They will take a while to heat up, but will hold that heat evenly for a long time.
Just like wooden utensils and knives, cast iron has special care requirements. Treat you cast iron cookware right and it won’t last years, it will last generations.
Cleaning Cast Iron
When cleaning cast iron, never use soap. Likewise, never put it in the dishwasher or even submerge it in water. The soap will seep into the pores of the metal and come out while cooking. You will have to re-season it before using it again.And cast iron rusts easily, so the less time it is exposed to water, the better.
Instead, use a scrub brush or plain steel wool (not the blue ones) to remove and food debris. This should be sufficient cleaning most of the time. If there is any moisture in the pan, pat it dry with paper towels. Some enthusiasts insists on rubbing salt on the pan, but I’ve never actually done this.
If it is going to be more than a couple days before using again, it is generally recommended to re-season the pan so that the oil doesn’t go rancid. Store in a cool, dry place with a paper towel inside to absorb any moisture.
Seasoning Cast Iron
Just like with wood, seasoning cast iron is the act of applying a layer of fat to seal the pores. A properly seasoned pan is non-stick without the toxic vapors that can be released from Teflon!
To season your cast iron pan, pour about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the pan. You can use lard, bacon grease, or Crisco, but liquid oil is easier to work with and probably better is you are putting the pan away for a while. Using a paper towel, rub it into all of the interior surfaces of the pan. If there is any oil left over when done, pour it out.
Some recipes for cast iron cooking
I asked some foodie friends to share their favorite cast iron recipes. See them below:
What is your favorite cast iron recipe?