I cook with cast iron–A LOT! It is my cookware of choice for making delicious, flavorful dishes.
Cast iron pans and skillets are versatile, durable, and can last for generations if properly cared for.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the various facets of cast iron cookware – from washing and seasoning to types and cleaning methods.
You’ll learn about the different varieties of cast iron available on the market, including enameled vs. bare cast iron, and when to use stainless steel or steel wool on your pan.
We’ll also discuss why high heat is necessary for proper searing and browning when using a cast-iron skillet.
Furthermore, we will go over step-by-step instructions on how to season your new or old pan with kosher salt and cooking oil and what kind of dish towel or kitchen towel should be used while cleaning it after each use.
By following these tips on maintaining your cast-iron cookware correctly, you can ensure that it lasts for years without losing its non-stick properties.
So let’s get started!
What is Cast Iron Cooking?
Cast iron cookware has been around for a long time. I use mine on the grill, over the fire (especially when camping), on my stovetop, and in my oven. The beauty of this cookware is that it retains heat for a long time.
Cast iron is also incredibly durable and retains heat well. The only downside is that cast iron needs regular maintenance to prevent rusting and keep it in good condition. Properly seasoning your cast iron cookware is necessary for optimal performance.
Cooking with cast iron has been a beloved practice for many years, persisting as an adored option among home chefs today. By understanding the benefits of cast iron cooking, you can make informed decisions about incorporating this method into your kitchen routine.
Benefits of Cast Iron Cooking
Cast iron is a perfect choice for slow-cooking dishes and can withstand intense heat and repeated use without deteriorating or becoming damaged.
Its nonstick properties make it great for searing meats and vegetables with minimal oil or butter needed.
From frying eggs in the morning to baking biscuits at night, it is durable and can be used for almost any recipe.
You can use a cast iron skillet to fry eggs in the morning, grill a ham and cheese sandwich at lunchtime, or bake a cobbler in the evening – all without switching out your pans each time.
Did you know you add nutrients to your dishes every time you cook with cast iron? As fat cooks on the surface of a cast-iron skillet, some of those fats are absorbed into the metal itself, which then leaches back into food as you cook it.
This gives dishes an extra flavor boost and essential minerals like zinc and magnesium, which help keep us healthy.
Finally, cleaning up after cooking with a cast-iron skillet is a snap. To clean my skillets, for example, I fill them halfway with water and put it on the stove to boil for a few minutes.
Turn off the stove and let it sit for 5 minutes, and it’s ready to clean. The boiling water helps remove any stuck-on food, making cleaning easy!
Don’t forget to dry your cast iron completely and give it a light coat of oil before putting it away.
The more often you clean your pan this way, the better seasoned it will become, so over time, even sticky messes won’t stick, if at all – making cleanup even faster next time. Plus, any stubborn bits left behind can be scraped off before drying completely, leaving nothing but deliciousness ready for another round in the kitchen.
The benefits of cast iron cooking range from healthier meals to more efficient heating. With the proper seasoning, a cast iron pan can last for generations – let’s explore how to season your own in the next section.
How to Season a Cast Iron Pan
Seasoning a cast iron pan is an essential step in achieving optimal performance. It helps to create a non-stick surface and prevent rusting, making cooking easier and cleaning it up afterward.
Before you begin seasoning your pan, make sure it’s completely dry. The oil won’t adhere properly if any moisture is present, leaving an uneven coating.
To prep, the pan for seasoning, utilize a steel wool pad or cloth to remove any residual dampness from its surface.
Once your cast iron skillet is dry, coat it lightly with cooking oil (canola or vegetable oil work best). Use enough to cover all surfaces but not dripping – about one tablespoon should do the trick for most pans.
Put your pan in the oven (preferably upside down) at 375 degrees for 30 minutes; this allows time for the oil to heat up and start forming its protective layer on the surface of your skillet.
After half an hour, remove your cast iron skillet from the oven using kitchen towels or pot holders (be careful, the handle will be hot). Let it cool until warm to the touch, then rub off any remaining residue with paper towels while still warm. This removes excess oils that may have pooled during baking and gives it a nice sheen when finished.
Finally, sprinkle some kosher salt over the entire surface area, which helps create even more non-stick properties and adds flavor when cooking food later on down the line.
Look at some of the best foods to cook in cast iron.
Best Foods to Cook in a Cast Iron Pan
Cast iron cooking offers a great way to infuse your dishes with flavor and texture. With their heat-retaining properties, cast iron pans are ideal for cooking dishes like steaks, vegetables, and bread.
Steak – A cast iron skillet is ideal for getting that perfectly seared steak with a juicy center. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until it’s hot enough to sizzle when you place the steak in it.
Place the steak in the hot pan after adding oil or butter to it (I prefer butter for outstanding flavor). Toss in some rosemary sprigs and baste with butter. Sear each side for 3-4 minutes before flipping over and cooking on another side until the desired temperature of the meat is reached.
Fish – For perfectly cooked fish every time, try using a cast iron skillet. Begin by heating your pan over medium-high heat before adding oil or butter, followed by fillets of fish like salmon or cod skin side down first, pressing gently against the surface so they don’t curl up too much while cooking (3-4 minutes per side depending on thickness).
Once both sides have been cooked, remove from heat immediately onto a plate covered loosely with foil, allowing residual heat inside the pan to finish the cooking process without too much drying out the fleshy part.
Chicken – When it comes to fried chicken, there is no match for the cast iron pan. Dredge your chicken with your favorite coating and spices. Heat oil (I prefer Peanut Oil) in the cast iron, place a few chicken pieces at a time in the hot oil (careful not to crowd the chicken), and cook until crisp and golden brown.
Veggies – Whip up a quick accompaniment to any meal by sautéing your favorite selection of vegetables. Heat your cast iron skillet over medium-high heat before adding oil or butter. Then add whatever vegetables you want, such as bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and carrots, occasionally tossing until they’re tender but still have some crunch (about 5 minutes).
Bread – Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly oil a cast iron pan and fill it halfway with dough to permit rising during baking. Bake the bread for around 30 minutes, depending on the type of bread being made, to achieve a golden-brown crust with a fluffy inside.
Caring for your cast iron pan is essential to ensure its longevity; here’s a guide on how to do it right.
How to Care for Your Cast Iron Pan
Cast iron pans are a great cooking tool but require some specific upkeep. To ensure your cast iron pan remains in good condition for a long time, follow these guidelines for proper maintenance.
First, ensure you season your cast iron pan before using it. This helps create a non-stick surface and prevents rust from forming. Coat the pan with oil or fat and bake at 350°F for one to two hours to create a non-stick surface that prevents rusting. Afterward, wipe away any excess oil with a paper towel.
When cooking with your cast iron pan, always use high heat and avoid drastic temperature changes – this will help prevent warping or cracking over time. Opt for wooden spoons or silicone spatulas so you don’t scratch the pan’s surface while stirring food during cooking sessions. Avoid using metal utensils as well.
After each use, clean your cast iron immediately after cooking by scrubbing off any stuck-on bits of food with hot water and a stiff brush (avoid soap). Once cleaned, dry the pan thoroughly with a cloth before putting it away; leaving moisture on the surface can cause rust spots to form over time if not taken care of immediately.
To store your cast iron safely when not in use, apply another thin layer of oil onto its surface. Never put cold water into a hot cast iron skillet; sudden temperature changes like this can damage both its seasoning and structural integrity if done too often over long periods.
Cast iron cooking has many benefits, from its durability and heat retention to its non-stick capabilities.
Now that you’ve got the info on seasoning, what dishes work great in it, and how to take care of it – go out there and experience all the yummy flavors cast iron cooking can offer!