Saturday, November 13, 2010

Because Fried Eggs and Bacon Go So Well With Coffee

(And because a couple people asked)

How To Care For Cast Iron 

I. Before you use your cast iron, make sure it's well seasoned.
   Sometimes -- in fact, most often if you buy your cookware new -- it will come already seasoned.  However, if you inherit it, or if you get it at a thrift store or garage sale (great places to find cast iron!), you'll likely need to give it some "lovin."  Very often people give away their cast iron because they haven't learned how to take care of it themselves.  But (HA!) their loss is our gain.

So, here's what you do. 

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and put a sheet of tin foil (or two), a little bigger than the size of your pan on the middle rack.
2. Using the cheapest oil you can -- don't waste your good olive oil -- coat the bottom of your pot or pan with a thin layer of liquid oil (If you're using Crisco, melt it first).  It should be more than a "spraying" of oil and less than a puddle.
3.  Turn your cookware upside-down over the aluminum foil and let it bake for 1 hour.
4.  After an hour, turn the oven off and let the pan slowly cool inside the oven.  This takes a couple of hours.  Then you're set to cook.

II.  Now that your cast iron is seasoned, there are certain measures it's important to take in order to keep the seasoning.

First, what not to do:
1.  Never, ever wash your cast iron with soap.  I know this is counter-intuitive, but the process of oiling and heating your pans kills any bacteria.  And soap will literally wash off your seasoning and cause your cast iron to rust.
2.  Never soak your cast iron, as this will also wash off your seasoning.
3.  Never take a hot pan and put it directly into water.  Let it cool before washing.

Now what you should do:

To wash
1.  Always scrape your pan well for cleaning, removing all debris from all the sides.  You can use a good metal spatula for this, a spoon, or something like my favorite little scraper gadget, shown here.
2. Wash with plain, lukewarm water.  Scrub with a wire scrub  brush or an abrasive sponge if needed.
3. Then dry thoroughly with a dish towel.  Avoid drip drying.

To cook
1. Either right after washing and drying or right before cooking, give your cookware a good coating of cooking spray or a rub of Crisco or other such grease. 
2.  When beginning to cook, heat your pan slowly, allowing the grease to "settle" in your pan. Avoid bringing your pan to a high heat too quickly.

A well cared-for set of cast iron can be a family heirloom, lasting many many years.  It's easy today, being used to supposedly non-stick pots and pans, to think that we shouldn't have to spend any care on our cookware.  But, seriously, how long has a non-stick pan ever lasted in your house?  Unless you are the most meticulous of cooks (Monk-like) and/or you don't cook much, the non-stick doesn't last more than a couple of years.  In our house, it's even less.  It scrapes and peels off eventually, no matter how much I warn our cooks to use the rubber spatulas.  We've tried many brands over the years, from the least to the most expensive, but we always come back to the old cast iron.

It takes  just  a few seconds more attention to grease the pans, and only a little detour from the norm to remember not to wash with soap.  And it's lovely to use the good, solid, thin-edged metal spatulas with no prick of conscience whatsoever.  We think it's worth the effort.  I expect my children to fight over who gets these pans in the will someday.  Especially the beloved Egg Skillet. (Shown left)

Check it out.  Just the right size for a two or three-egg breakfast.  Over easy, a little salt and pepper.  Side of toast with butter.  And a cup of coffee.



Natalie said...

Oh! That is a nice egg pan. I'm gonna have to find me one of those! Maybe to avoid future family fighting, (lawyers could get involved you know) you should just leave yours to me instead. =)~

Sarah Oldham said...

Yup. I want one of those egg pans. I'm sick of the non-stick stuff for the reasons you pointed out here.

I'm not afraid of cast iron, just that it's heavy. I reckon my arms could use the work out. ;)

Anne said...

I have two skillets, one large, one small. Then, I stink I still have my dutch oven somewhere. I never use it, but I dont want to throw it either..I need to figure out a way to cook with it. I make so many meals with tomatoes and the two just dont mesh..So, more brain cells going to that one!

Sheila said...

I love my cast iron. Pizza crust is great in it. I have washed mine with soap for years with no ill effects. I just dry thoroughly and oil them.

Linda Higgins said...

ahh the only detour for me and my beloved cast iron skillet is that it is so darn HEAVY! I am just a weakling and with arthritis...I have to have the huney wash and clean it up for me...hmmm guess that isn't a bad deal is it? LOL