Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cast Iron Pans are Great! (and easy to care for)

I have tried to take illustrative photos for this post several times over the past year - the problem is my black pans against the black stove.  So I'll entertain you with my crisp prose, ok?

Why Cast Iron is Great
1.  HEAVY  - things cook better, more evenly than in thin pans.
2.  VERSATILE - Use cast iron pans anywhere there's heat:  stove top, oven, grill, campfire.
3.  HEALTHY - Adds iron to your food every time! Don't we all love fortified food?


How to Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet or Dutch Oven

4.  Get any saucy stuff out by swishing briefly with water.  If food was cooked on, gently use a wire brush, scrub brush, or steel wool.  The pan should be free of food.

5.  Set the wet pan on the burner and heat until the water evaporates from the inside - stick around and watch it (I have forgotten and come back to scary smoke!).

6.  Dip a rag or paper towel in grease (oil, shortening, lard, etc.) and rub it all over the inside of the pan.  It is now seasoned.

Tips
7. Using soap or soaking your pan in water will remove the layers of grease that are known as seasoning.  Just use plain water, heat, and grease to clean your pan.  Some things, like eggs, are not messy and you can just put your pan away again when it's cool - hooray for less cleaning!

8. These pans are basically indestructible and only get better and more nonstick with age.  However, if you are starting with a newly manufactured pan, use metal spoons when you cook and be sure to scrape around a lot.  The newer cast iron is bumpier, and your metal utensils kind of buff out the surface and give it better seasoning.  I know this from experience - I have 4 old pieces, and one new one.

9. I keep my cast iron in my oven drawer on a sheet of newspaper.  It leaves black smudges sometimes, so I keep it separate from my other pans in their pretty white drawer.

Talk to me about your cast iron - are you a fan?  Do you care for yours differently? Questions? Pin It

21 comments:

Carol A.Bender said...

Thanks for the reminder - my dad always swore by cast iron. I was just going to make spinach tonight.

Eva Girl said...

Cast iron is GREAT - but I'm afraid to use it on my ceramic top stove...does anyone else have this problem?
My favorite dishes are baked in the oven though, so I still use my cast iron a lot : )
Your instructions are perfect - thanks for the tips!

beth said...

I use mine almost every day and love it. I DO wash with a little soap and water after each use and dry.

Christian @ Modobject at Home said...

I love cast iron! The majority of my pieces are Le Creuset (which I inherited!!!!) so they have a porcelain/enamel coating and thus must be washed and not seasoned. My regular cast iron skillet is wonderful, but things, especially eggs, tend to stick. I guessing this is because I care for it like I do the Le Creuset and thus it isn't really seasoned. I must alter my habits.

BrotherDearest said...

Dad used to always say that electric motors run on smoke. When the smoke leaks out, the motor stops working. You better wouldn't let all the smoke leak out of your cast iron cookware, or it will uhm, well, you know...

Margo said...

Eva, my friend Rebecca used castiron on her flat ceramic cooktop. I don't think there were any issues, but it wasn't a stove that she really loved!

Christian, I have always wished for a Le Creuset Dutch oven, but the prices scared me off. I love the idea of passing on a great pot like that - now I am going to think of that (future) purchase as an investment to pass on.
Give your regular cast iron skillet some time to acquire seasoning, and NOTHING will stick to it!

Heather @ Mrs. Southern Bride said...

I'd love to invest in cast iron for our home! Maybe one of these days I'll find a good deal on them.

Margo said...

Heather, look at thrift stores for old ones - or ask your older relatives!

Leila said...

I use my cast iron on my flat cooktop. You just have to remember not to bang it down :)

I finally realized that you just have to leave your pan greasy!! Wipe it out, but greasy it needs to be. Hard to accept. I like your idea of storing on paper!

Polly said...

I adore my cast iron skillet and just made cornbread in it tonight--like a proper Southerner. I clean mine with water only and stick it in the oven for a few minutes (I just heat it to 200 as I am washing dishes and the when I put the skillet in I turn the oven off). I don't even use grease or anything the vast majority of the time. I love that darn skillet.

A said...

Any tips on if you find a cast iron pan, small or large, with rust in it? Salvagable or not?

Rhonda said...

We LOVE our cast iron! Extra large skillet, regular skillet, small skillet, round griddle, rectangle griddle and 2 small square griddles (for cookies or sandwiches), and a Dutch oven. My hubby goes on about just wiping them clean, but my silly brain can only think of food particles clinging, so I use hot water with a little soap, using a plastic scrubber if needed, rinse with hot water and let them dry good, then immediately coat with Crisco (that's ALL I'll use for seasoning) to store.

Rebecca said...

A...my dad has rehabilitated lots of rusty iron pans. Don't get rid of them! If it's not too bad you can get after it with steel wool then season as usual. If it's really nasty just pursue any route you (or your nearest handyman) would with rusty metal...steel brush mounted on a drill, sandblasting...etc. Season as usual. Iron pans are all but indestructible.

Beth said...

I LOVE my cast iron stuff! I've got three sizes of skillets and two cornstick pans...what I'd really love is a ginormous skillet, so I can actually cook a family-sized amount of food in it!

And your cleaning tips are right on - same way I baby mine! :-)

Julia said...

We used cast iron skillets at my house when I was growing up. The cast iron skillets we use now were given to him by his parents though I'm not sure why. I've never had a new one. We use these pans all the time.

I have a porcelain/enamel coated dutch oven made by Lodge that I got a few years ago for Christmas. I think it works very well. It heats so evenly for pot roast in the oven and chicken and dumplings on the stove top. It was very reasonably priced and I love the pretty blue color.

Julia said...

Clarification: were given to my husband by his parents.

My husband cleans it out with soap but I just use water. However he is the one that usually seasons it.

Shirley said...

Why Margo, that's a fine crispy photo. They're gorgeous eggs, too. This next thing is off-topic, but that mean lemon sponge pie you mentioned over at JJ's? Why does the milk matter in the recipe? The other day I tried making a milk-less lemon sponge, substituting with water, and ended up with some sponge but also lots of rheumy fluid instead of that nice quivery semi-solid underneath layer. Any ideas?

Margo said...

Thank you, Shirley!
I think milk is needed to interact with the egg to make the custard. Milk and eggs cooked together will thicken - egg and water not so much, I guess. I would have a hard time eating something described as "rheumy"!

Shirley said...

Hm. But lemon meringue pie filling thickens without milk. Hm. Not long I also tried a milk-less chocolate pudding (no eggs), which turned out that same yucky way--runny. Where are some scientists to help me out?

Margo said...

don't most lemon meringue pies have cornstarch as a thickener? Lemon sponge does not - I think the milk and eggs together do that. I would love a chemist to chime in, however!

Sarah Barry said...

Awesome tips and great encouragement to use cast iron. The cleaning has intimidated me in the past but now I'm inspired :)

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