Cast Iron Cookware: Tips and Advice
Cast-iron offers a number of advantages over other types of cookware. It heats gradually and evenly, retains heat well and cooks uniformly.
Compared to other cookware, it's relatively inexpensive and it doesn't damage or scratch easily.
Originally created for cooking over an open flame, it's the perfect choice for high-heat cooking, producing a beautifully browned crust on a wide variety of foods.
Cast-iron can also be transferred from stovetop to oven or broiler with no worries - a great option for cooking steaks, chops, veggies and so much more.
As an added bonus, cast-iron is also free from the chemicals present in nonstick cookware, so you don't need to worry about them leaching into your food.
On the down side, cast iron is rather heavy and there's a little extra work involved in caring for it, but the fabulous results you get from cooking in it far outweigh the drawbacks.
Much of the cast-iron cookware on the market today comes pre-seasoned, but it still needs a little bit of special attention when new. Regarding un-seasoned cookware, you'll want to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper seasoning prior to using it for the first time.
Once seasoned, following these few simple guidelines should reward you with years of great service from your cast-iron cookware.
How to Care for Cast-Iron Cookware
Be sure to use a generous amount of vegetable oil and cook over high heat for the first 8 to 10 times you use a new pan.
Cast-iron is a porous surface and oil seeps into those pores, helping to create a smooth, relatively nonstick surface over time.
It's also important that you don't cook highly acidic foods like tomato sauce, until your pan has been broken in.
Avoid using any kind of soap when cleaning your cast-iron. Instead, get a nylon-bristled brush and use it to scrub the pan using very hot water. If you have stuck-on food, try loosening it by returning the pan to the stove and boiling some water in it for about 10 minutes.
Always dry cast-iron thoroughly and quickly after washing, then rub a small amount of vegetable oil (about 3/4 teaspoon in a 12-inch skillet will do) over the cooking surface with a dry paper towel. If the towel picks up a lot of black or brown residue, repeat the rinsing process and rub with oil again. By the second time, the paper towel should come away pretty clean.
You may still see a little residue on the towel when wiping the pan, but don't let it worry you. You always want to preheat your cast-iron prior to cooking and this process will kill any germs that remain as well as ensure a nice sear on your food.
Now that you know a few of the "do's" for handling your cast-iron pans, here are a couple of important "don'ts."
Never shock a hot cast iron pan with cold water. It can crack or warp.
Don't soak cast-iron in the sink or leave a wet pan in the dish drainer. This practice can promote rust.
And finally, never put cast-iron in the dishwasher. Harsh dishwasher detergent will eat away all of the seasoning and could damage the surface of the pan.
Pictured above: Skillet Pork Chops with Apples
Our favorite cast-iron pan is a 12-inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet from Lodge. It's held up great and its even heating does a fabulous job on everything we make in it.