Cast Iron Care
January 11, 2012 Leave a comment
Whether you love braising meats, frying eggs, grilling steaks or baking bread, cast iron pans are a cook’s best friend. Long lasting, inexpensive and easy to maintain, this cookware can be handed down from one generation to the next if properly seasoned and cared for.
Over the years, we’ve built our collection of cast iron cookware. Some of it was given to us by relatives and friends, other pieces we discovered at thrift shops or flea markets, and a few items we purchased brand new. Depending in what condition your cast iron is in, you will likely need to season it before using to restore to the manufacturer’s original condition. When properly seasoned, cast iron works as efficiently as a non-stick skillet and has a deep black color. If yours is grey, dull or food sticks to it, take these steps before using it again.
Seasoning cast iron
- Wash the cookware with hot soapy water and a stiff brush or the edge of a metal spatula. (NOTE: This is the only time you should ever use soap to wash your cookware. For daily cleaning, see Cleaning Cast Iron section below.)
- Rinse and dry completely.
- Coat entirely with cooking oil or melted vegetable shortening, inside and out.
- Heat oven to 350° – 400°F and position top rack to the top third of the oven.
- Position lower rack to lowest setting and cover with foil to catch any drippings from pans.
- Place oiled pan upside down on top rack and bake for an hour. Turn oven off and let oven and pan cool completely before removing.
- When cooled, place cookware uncovered in a dry place.
Watch a video about cast iron care from Good Housekeeping
Using Cast Iron
If you have purchased new pre-seasoned cast iron or received gently used but well-seasoned cast iron as a gift, you will still need to rinse it with hot water and dry completely before using. After that, keep these simple tips in mind.
- Preheat the pan slowly, starting at a low heat and gradually increasing heat to desired temperature. Once the pan is heated, you’re ready to cook. If cooking with fats such as oil, shortening or lard, put these in the pan prior to heating so they heat gradually with the pan. Butter should usually be added right before adding other ingredients to avoid burning.
- Temper meat prior to cooking. This means that you want to bring meat to room temperature. Avoid putting cold meat in a hot skillet because this will promote sticking.
- Always remember to handle heated skillet handles with an oven mitt to prevent burns. Handles get very hot in the oven and on the stovetop.
Cleaning Cast Iron
After cooking with cast iron, sometimes fond (brown bits), egg residue, or other items may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. You already know that you’re not supposed to use soap to clean your cast iron unless you’re about to season it. Also, you should NEVER clean cast iron products in the dishwasher. So what do you do? Here are some simple tips to maintain your cookware.
- First, always allow your pans to cool before trying to clean them. Putting a hot utensil in cold water may cause thermal shock which can warp or crack the metal.
- Once cooled, use water and a spatula or stiff nylon brush to scrape away residue from the bottom of pan.
- If the pan still won’t come clean, rub salt on the bottom of the pan which acts as an abrasive and soaks up extra oil.
- When fond still sticks to the bottom of the pan, boil water in your pan for a few minutes to loosen the residue, which makes it easier to remove.
- Dry your pan over low to medium heat on the stovetop until all water evaporates. Remove from heat.(NOTE: Never allow pans to air dry because rust can form which can ruin pans.)
- While pan is still warm, rub all over with a light coat of oil.
- Store pans in a cool, dry place. The oven is a great place to put it as long as you remember to remove the pans before heating.
Watch Harry Rosenblum of Brooklyn Kitchens clean his cast iron
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