Friday, September 23, 2011

The Greatness of Cast Iron

For years my husband  has been trying to get me to cook with cast-iron.  I just did not want to  for whatever the reason. Finally, he got me a cast-iron skillet, a bottle of vegetable oil and told me to go for it.  I will forever be grateful.  I love my cast iron cookware.  Today I am the proud owner of a cast iron skillet, griddle, and two enamel coated cast iron Dutch Ovens.

There are two types of cast-iron on the market -  bare cast-iron and enameled cast iron.  The bare cast iron is less expensive than the enameled cast iron.  Both cook wonderfully.

Cast-Iron History

Cast-Iron has been around for years and years. In fact, the first cast iron was made by the Chinese in the early sixth century BC.  In the Eighteenth century, cast iron was so valuable that it was bequeathed with other precious objects.  In the 1800's enameled cast iron came about.

Cooking With Cast Iron

Cast Iron is prized for its' durability and the ability to retain heat and distribute heat evenly. It can also withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures.  This makes it a a great choice for searing or frying.  Its' excellent heat diffusion makes it a good option for long cooking like for stews or braised dishes.  You can bake a cake, cornbread, hamburger, sear a steak, even cook eggs in a cast iron skillet.  Another big plus is cast iron is versatile, it goes from stove top to the oven.

Other benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron:
1. The pans are non-stick once they are seasoned properly.
2. Cast Iron has no toxic chemicals.
3. It is fairly inexpensive (bare cast iron).
4.The pans can last a lifetime as long as you take care of it.

Seasoning  Bare Cast Iron

Seasoning creates a slick glossy coating by baking on thin coats of oil.   Today, you can buy seasoned cast iron pans. Seasoning your own pan is not difficult.  It just takes heat, oil, a brush to spread the oil, and paper towels.

1.  Preheat you oven to 325 degrees.
2.  Wash the new cast iron pan with hot soapy  water.  This removes any waxy protective coating .  ONLY USE SOAPY WATER THE FIRST TIME.
3.  Towel dry the  pan immediately.
4. Put a even coating of vegetable oil on the cooking surface of the pan.
5.  Bake for one hour.
6.  Remove the cast iron from the oven.  Let it cool to the touch. Redistribute  any excess oil in the pan.
7.  Put the cast iron in the pan and bake for another hour.
8.  Remove the cast iron from the oven.  Let it cool to the touch and if there is any excess oil wipe it with paper towels.
9.  Cool the pan completely and store the pan in a cool, dry place.  Do not stack cast iron.

Caring For Your  Bare Cast Iron

Cast Iron is easy to take care of.   To clean it you wash it in hot water shortly after use.    You can use a nylon scrubber to scrap off any food.  Dry the pan immediately with a towel.  Do not air dry it.  Store in a cool dry place.

Finally, you may need to re-season the pan sometime in the future.  Some of the seasoning has wore off and food sticks to the surface or there is rust.  Just properly clean your pan and follow steps 1-9 above.  For rust you will need to use fine steel wool, fine sandpaper or a wire brush to remove the rust.

Note:  During the first few uses of your pan you may need to first clean your pan, then heat it on the stove and add just enough vegetable oil to coat the surface. Wipe off any excess, turn off the stove, let the pan cool and store.

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron has a vitreous enamel glaze.  The enamel coating prevents rusting and eliminates the need for seasoning.  This cookware is more costly than bare cast-iron.
When cooking with enameled cast iron use a low to medium heat setting.

Care of Enameled Cast Iron

Allow your pan to cool before washing it in soapy water.  Use a plastic scrubber when cleaning to protect your enamel.  If there are stains you can remove them with a mixture of one teaspoon bleach to one pint of water.  Hand dry your enamel cast iron. Do not air dry.

Cast Iron is very forgiving.  Just follow the seasoning, cleaning tips and you will have a pan that will last lifetimes.

Getting Ready to Re Season My Skillet

Brushing Vegetable Oil on Cast Iron Griddle

Before Going in the Oven to Be Seasoned

Seasoned Skillet

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