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Why Use Cast Iron?
I may be a little biased to extol the virtues of cooking with cast iron since I was raised with the stuff, but I simply cannot recommend using much else than this wonder material for your daily cooking needs. Yup, even when I was a shy six-year-old, standing on a chair, “helping” Dad make his famous chili, and building my scrawny arm muscles by hoisting the cast iron Dutch oven, I knew that this was the stuff I wanted in my kitchen someday.
Now, many people will tell you that you need to have stainless steel, non-stick, or even ionized steel cookware. Sure, they all have their good qualities… but in my mind, nothing can touch a well-loved and well-seasoned cast iron pan. Since I’m in the mindset of spending money for well-made items ONCE in my life, instead of spending money on the same “but upgraded” stuff several times over, cast iron fits the bill well.
Why? With any other pot or pan, can you use it to fry, saute, sear, braise, bake, roast, or broil? Probably not… most other pots and pans can either be used exclusively on the stovetop or in the oven. Cast iron can be used in both instances and does a fantastic job at both. Also? It totally gets better the more it’s used. Can you honestly say that about many other things in life?
Caring For Cast Iron
The easiest way to care for your cast iron & make sure it stays in good condition is to use it a lot. If you’ve found or inherited a piece that is, shall we say, in less than perfect condition, I wrote a very informative post about restoring cast iron that you should check out. It’s really not that difficult to do, once you know the process. That said, some people who don’t know any better may tell you cast iron’s hard to take care of, but after you know the basics, it’s really pretty dang simple…
Make sure you clean the pan right away after you’re done using it. It’s a lot easier to remove food that’s stuck on from a hot pan… I don’t know why… I’m not a physics person, but I know this to be true. Wash out your cast iron with the hottest water you can stand and a soft sponge. DO NOT SOAK YOUR CAST IRON. Again, not a physics person, but I know that cast iron likes to rust if it’s in water too long. Some people tell you not to use soap, and some tell you that it’s ok… frankly, I’m in the “a little gentle soap isn’t gonna kill your pan” camp. Yes, I know it’ll remove a little of the seasoning, but I’m ok with that since I care for my pans as well as I do. If you don’t want to use soap, that’s totally cool too… I recommend using coarse salt and a soft sponge to scrub that beauty out with. Just don’t use anything harsher or more abrasive than that.
Oh, and if your food is REALLY stuck on there, I’ve found that filling the pan with some water and boiling it on the stovetop for a few minutes does a fantastic job at loosening stuff so that I can clean it properly.
When you’ve gotten your cast iron clean, make sure to rinse it thoroughly and dry it really well. Then use a paper towel to coat the inside of the pan with a thin layer of oil (I honestly use Crisco, because that’s what I was raised doing…), and stick it in a warm oven for a few minutes. The oven just helps to make sure it’s totally dry (again, cast iron likes to rust if it’s not dry…) and it helps the oil adhere to the pan a bit better. After about 15-20 minutes, take it out, and let it cool.
Store your cast iron in a cool, dry location. In a perfect world, I would have a peg board (ala Julia Child…) to hang all my cast iron on, but I’ve found that I dark cabinet is the best place for me.
While you’re here, be sure to check out what’s cooking In The Kitchen this week! Oh, and come on over and follow me on Facebook by clicking my name below!