Let's talk cast iron

JeanC By JeanC, 24th Feb 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Recipes>Cooking Tips

A word about cast iron pots and pans for cooking for the new cook.

Let's talk cast iron

Cast iron, these two words can strike fear into the new cook, but it isn't as scary as one thinks. If you are lucky, you can inherit the CI pan passed down thru the generations and need not worry about it, it is in such fine condition that everything cooked in it is successful.

If you are not so lucky (as I was, my dad was NOT going to part with any of his pans and my mom won't either), you will have to start from scratch or with luck, find a nice pan 2nd hand.

In my case, trying to find CI 2nd hand is next to impossible as people around here are unwilling to give them up, so I keep an eye out at various stores around town for when they have sales on CI.

I prefer Lodge brand, they now come pre-seasoned, so they are great for the new cook and a good place to start. You will pay a little more than unseasoned, but if you are nervous this is a good product.

Depending on what brand of CI other than Lodge you get, you start with cleaning. Many of the CI sold in the sporting goods department is coated with wax, so you need to start by subjecting the CI to high heat, over a gas or charcoal grill to remove the wax. Once the wax is removed then a good soapy scrub in hot water is a must. This is the only time CI should be subjected to dish soap. Once it is washed in good hot water and soap and rinsed, it is time to dry the CI and start the seasoning.

All pieces of new CI should come with instructions on seasoning, but it is quite simple. I usually heat my oven to 350F and slather the piece inside and out with a light layer of solid vegetable shortening and into the oven it goes for an hour. Once the hour is done, I turn off the oven and let it sit. I usually like to do this a couple times and then I simply start cooking in it, usually anything that needs plenty of oil to cook in or start frying up bacon as often as possible. Every time you cook with it, the seasoning builds up and one day it develops that lovely black patina that says "non-stick".

Until the piece develops the right amount of seasoning, things can and will stick. Cleaning is easy, simply run it under hot water (or if food is really stuck on, pour in water and bring it to a simmer, using a metal spatula to help loosen the stuck on food) and use a good stiff brush that has never known soap. Once it is clean, dry it thoroughly (I like to pop it on the stove top and turn on a burner) and then apply a thin layer of shortening and wipe off the excess. Now just store the piece in a cool dry place.

Never let it sit for long with water in it, it will rust and then you'll have to strip the seasoning and start over again.

Cast iron is pretty tough stuff, I thought at one time I'd destroyed my CI dutch oven. A trick I had been taught was to pour water in and simmer it after cooking and pour the water out, scrub, add more water and simmer again. Do this several times and on the last time, the piece should be clean and pour in a bit of cooking oil. When you pour out the water, the oil stays and simply wipe dry.

Well, to make a long story short, I no longer do this as I forgot one night and left the dutch oven on the burner on a low simmer. Woke up the next morning to a smoky house and a dutch oven that was glowing red hot. I turned off the burner and left the dutch oven to cool where it sat. Once it cooled I saw what looked like glass at the bottom. I thought my dutch oven was totally ruined, so I set it up on a shelf and didn't look at it for a year.

I can across the oven while cleaning and looked at it again, what had appeared to be "glass" on the bottom was now rubbery and I suddenly realized it was the seasoning that had been in it that had cooked put of the metal. I cleaned it out, scoured the inside with a scouring pad and then started seasoning it all over again. It is now in great condition and I have vowed never to space off cleaning my CI ever again like that.

There are many schools of thought on cleaning CI, with some people saying you should never wash it under water, instead using paper toweling and salt to clean. Until my pans developed a nice patina I went the water and brush routine. Now I use kosher salt and a little bit of water and a sponge. It may take a bit of elbow grease but if you've seasoned it right, it should clean up nicely.

Now I like my stainless steel and magnalite cookware, but nothing beats a cast iron skillet for cooking good fried chicken.


Cast Iron, Cooking, Frying, Iron

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author avatar JeanC
Photographer, artist, cook, cookbook author, fat activist & biographer of #MsEllaPhant

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
24th Feb 2015 (#)

I have found that I prefer to cook with cast iron.

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author avatar JeanC
24th Feb 2015 (#)

Cast iron is so much better. I have a cast iron griddle I use on my gas grill out on the deck. I am slowly adding more pieces to my collection, a larger skillet capable of frying chicken without crowding is next on the list. My one skillet is wonderful for making corn bread.

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author avatar Kingwell
24th Feb 2015 (#)

It isn't easy to get anyone to part with them. That has to mean they are the best. Blessings.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
16th Mar 2015 (#)

I love my cast iron pans. I use them all the time.

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