Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Simply Cast Iron Cookware Care

Cast Iron Cookware
I remember my grandmother cooking everything in her cast iron skillet.  She cooked cornbread, scrambled eggs, vegetables and even hamburger patties with her skillet!  I don't see many people doing much of this nowadays.  It seems that everyone needs the new non stick pan which isn't always so non stick or even safe if they are heated above 500 degrees, which is actually easy to do when cooking on the stove top.  Of course, they say that you won't necessarily be exposed to the harmful effects long enough to warrant any issue, but how many times do they tell us one thing and come back 5 years later to tell us another.  For me, it doesn't really matter since I don't use them anyhow since I prefer cast iron.  The only issues that most people face are the weight and cleaning of the cast iron.  The cookware is heavier but more durable.  However, you can't pop these guys in the dishwasher either since it will hurt the nonstick coating and begin to rust.  So, how do we take care of this heavy and picky cookware?  Well, it's not as difficult as you may think.

First off, let's take a look at the seasoning of the cast iron.  When you buy the cookware from the box store, it will already be seasoned and ready to go.  However, if you are like me, then you go out and hunt down all the different types from yard sales or antique shops.  The ones you get from these areas will need to be cleaned and seasoned.  Before seasoning, you want to make sure to clean off all the rust and possible food build.  I simply use a steel cleaning ball brush to do this.  You can buy them at your local grocery store.  Once you have scrubbed the surface clean, you will need to season the cookware.  Place a thin coating of either shortening or lard on the inside bottom and sides.  You will then place them into a 450 degree preheated oven for an hour.  After an hour, you will remove and let the cookware cool.  After cooling, you will want to see how well the seasoning has set.  If it has a slick or slightly greased feel, then you are finished!  If not, then repeat the seasoning process.  It may take a few time before it is seasoned properly, so don't worry if it doesn't seem to work the first time.

Finally, you will need to make sure you are cleaning the cast iron correctly, or else you will end up re-seasoning all the time.  We don't want that now do we?  Besides all the time seasoning the cookware, you will also be feeding your electric or gas company way more than you should be. The first thing that may seem a bit annoying is the fact that you can no longer let your dirty dishes sit after cooking.  Why?  Because the food will harden on the cast iron which will cause us to scrub and mess up the seasoning.  So, once you are finished with cooking, you will simply use water and paper towels to wipe the cast iron clean before any build up occurs.  Do not use any soap unless the dish you used was particularly stinky or bad tasting.  Remember, part of the flavor of cast iron is directly tied to the foods that have been cooked in it.  You will want to use a soft sponge when using soap and do not scrub! Once you clean off the cookware, you will dry it with a dish cloth or paper towel and apply a thin layer of shortening or lard (the same way as if you were preparing to season).  By doing this, you will help extend the seasoning life of your cast iron.  You do not need to heat the cookware again since we are not re-seasoning.

And that's it!  It may take a little more time to use cast iron cookware, but I believe it's worth it.  You don't have to continuously replace them since they tend to last more than a lifetime and you can even use them over an open fire if you want.  So, you can get many uses out of the same pan or pot. How awesome is that?  A one stop shop or "pot" is sometimes a good thing.  Have a great rest of the week and we'll see you on Friday for the Recipe of the Week.

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