The Care and Feeding of Your Cast Iron
True confessions from a "cast iron nerd"
Obsession is a strong word, but I confess: my relationship with cast iron comes dangerously close. There’s something about the sizzle of a thick, marbled ribeye steak meeting searing-hot iron or the weight of a blackened skillet in my hand as I avoid the spits of bacon fat from Saturday morning’s breakfast that gets my blood pumping.
Cast iron is like a person; it likes to be treated a certain way, cared for, and over time develops a complexity and personality that is all its own. For the uninitiated, here are some of the many benefits of cast iron that may just persuade you to join the club. And for you true believers: a quick and easy tutorial to help you nurture and maintain your cast iron in the manner which it deserves.
The many benefits of cast iron:
- Cast iron is a healthier alternative to other non-stick pans which typically use toxic chemicals that break down at high temperatures.
- The superior quality of cast iron is a wise investment. It is practically indestructible and easily restored if mistreated, making it an heirloom which can be passed down for generations.
- Cast iron’s incredible heat retention seals in flavors, resulting in delicious meals your family will savor.
- Cast iron develops a naturally nonstick surface over time, eliminating the need for oil sprays or rubs.
- Cooking with cast iron is fun, different and challenging. It requires more expertise and yields impressive results.
- Very few things in life get better the more you use them, but cast iron is one of them.
The key to getting the best results from your cast iron is to properly care for it
While the benefits of owning cast iron are more than convincing, it is true that cast iron requires special care. But the process of ‘seasoning’ is simple and results in an unparalleled tool for creating delicious meals. Simply put, seasoning is just oil baked onto a cast iron pan through a process called polymerization. It gives your cookware that classic black patina and helps prevent rusting.
Morgan’s foolproof method for cast iron seasoning:
Prior to starting the Seasoning Process:
Use a stiff bristled brush or Scotch-Brite pad and hot water to scrub your pan clean. Feel free to use soap during this step. The myth of soap and cast iron being enemies harkens back to the days when soap was made with lye, which will eat away at the seasoning you have worked so hard to develop. These days, modern dish soap won’t harm your pan’s seasoning, and can be useful for getting off burned-on remnants of food.
The Seasoning Process:
1. Preheat your oven to 200 F. Place your pan on the center rack and heat for 10 minutes, allowing the pan to come up to temp.
2. Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the temperature up to 300 F. Use a lint free cloth or paper towel, and rub a small dab of Crisco shortening over every inch of the pan.
3. Once the pan is completely covered, use a fresh cloth to remove as much of the oil as possible. The iron will look matte and dry, but believe me, there is still oil on it.
4. Add the pan back to the oven, upside down, and heat for an additional 10 minutes.
5. Take the pan out and wipe down one last time to remove any residual oil that you may have missed.
6. Final step: Heat the over to 450 F. Return the pan to the center rack and cook for 90 minutes, turning the oven off once completed. Let the pan cool gently inside the oven.
7. Once your pan is cool, you’re ready to start cooking!
Feel free to repeat this process as many times as you like. I usually do it twice before cooking with a new pan. If you want to touch up an already seasoned pan, once is sufficient.
Once you experience the joy of cooking with cast iron, you’ll never go back. And with just a bit of care and attention, you will reap the benefits for years to come.
Content for this article provided by Kitchen Distributors.