Cast Iron Cookware/Bakeware

Monday, January 18, 2010

I love my cast iron cookware and bakeware. It is just the best! So much beauty in those old black pots & pans. My favorite pieces are the ones that were my dear grandmother’s (at least 70 years old). What stories they could well seasoned and used with lots of love to cook many, many meals. And talk about being economical, not only are these timeless wonders not a large investment to begin with, they are something you will use and then pass along. No new set a pots and pans every few years.

When I publicly make my declaration of love for my cast iron, I am usually met with horror stories of how someone has a skillet that they just hate for some reason or another. In my experience, that is due to simply not knowing how to properly season before using or they don’t know the simple steps involved in caring for cast iron. I thought I’d share what I have found to be the best way to do both.

Seasoning Cast Iron:

Well-seasoned cast iron is the original "non-stick" cookware. Properly seasoned cast iron will last a life-time (or several).

Heat the oven to 250-300°F. Coat your cast iron piece with solid shortening, lard or bacon grease. Avoid using a liquid vegetable oil for seasoning purposes because it may leave a sticky surface and the pan will not be properly seasoned. Place in the oven. In 15 minutes, remove the pan & pour out any excess grease. Wipe well with paper toweling and then place the pan back in the oven for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Repeating this process several times is recommended to create a stronger "seasoning" bond. The first time you use your newly seasoned cast iron piece, it is recommended to use it to cook something high in fat, such as bacon or hamburger to add to the seasoning.

If the pan was not seasoned properly or a portion of the seasoning wears off and food sticks to the surface or there is rust, then it should be properly cleaned and re-seasoned.

Remove any food residue by cleaning the pan thoroughly with hot water and a scouring pad. Dry the pan thoroghly. Season as if the pan was new.

Caring for Cast Iron Cookware

Now that you’ve worked to achieve that non-stick surface to your cast iron, you want to take special care to not damage that when cleaning.

Clean the cookware while it is still hot by rinsing with hot water and scraping up any bits that are stuck. A plastic scraper works well (I have one from Pampered Chef). Do not use a scouring pad or soap (detergent) as they will break down the pan's seasoning. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, never place your cast ironware in a dishwasher. I always dry my pieces on the stove top with a medium-high flame until dry and then allowed to cool to room temp before storing away. Never store food in cast iron. High acid food are hard on your seasoning, so be sure to wipe down with some solid vegetable shortening after cooking something high in acid. Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off, especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust. Should rust appear, the pan should be seasoned again.

Most if all, use and enjoy your cast iron. This week I’ll be sharing some of my favorite pieces and how I use them.

Sharing at Mary's Little Red House for Mosaic Monday. Thanks for hosting, Mary.