Cast iron is one of my favourite things to mess around with in the kitchen, yet not many people within my age bracket seem to be taking advantage of it. It may be oldschool, but as far as I’m concerned it should be a staple in every kitchen. The nice even heat distribution of cast iron can’t be matched, and neither can the amazing sear it can give you. Try throwing together a simple grilled cheese sandwich with some decent ingredients and frying it up in a cast iron skillet; you won’t regret it.
I think the reason cast iron plays second fiddle to teflon and other non-stick products these days is due to the small bit of basic maintenance it takes to maintain. You may need to invest a little bit of extra effort in order to keep a cast iron pan functioning properly, but it will really play dividends in the long run. Remember, cast iron cookware is practically indestructible, so it will literally last you a life time (and then some). Here’s everything you need to know about keeping your cast iron in tip-top shape.
- Season your pan. Cast iron pans function as non-stick cookware by holding on to the oils and fats from the food you are cooking. Even if your pan is sold as “pre-seasoned,” it is still a good idea to do some pre-seasoning before you actually begin to cook in it. The easiest (and most delicious) way to season a cast iron pan is through the magic of bacon. By frying up a few batches of bacon you can jump start the seasoning process since the rendered fat from the pork will form the foundation of your non-stick seasoning layer.
- Respect the layer of seasoning you have worked to build up, and only use coarse sea salt to scrub your pan with. I generally use a bit of vegetable oil and coarse sea salt to scrub my pans clean, and it works like a charm. The salt will help to dislodge and leftover bits of food, and the vegetable oil helps to continue seasoning your pan. For any stubborn bits of food that salt won’t remove, simply bring a bit of water to a boil inside the pan and dislodge the leftovers with a spatula.
- Take advantage of the insane amount of heat that cast iron can stand up to. Try searing some thick steaks in your new pan and marvel at the amazing texture and crust you can now easily achieve.
- Make cornbread. ’nuff said.
- Use soap on your cast iron. This is arguably the most important rule of cast iron cookery. Soap will eat away the non-stick seasoning you have built into the pan, and you’ll be back at square one. Stick to the guidelines above for cleaning.
- Let water or moisture sit around in your pan. Cast iron will rust, and you’ll have to put in some work to salvage it.
Not convinced yet? Check out these recipes and I guarantee you’ll be a convert in no time: