The mere mention of cooking with cast iron sends us into visions of campouts and cowboys. But these heavy-duty pans don’t need to stay out on the open road. They deserve a very special place in your day-to-day cooking. All they need is a little tender love and care to cater to your rustic cooking dreams.
Cast iron has been used as a cooking metal for over 2,000 years. And in that time, it has undergone numerous transformations. At first, it was used to cook directly in the hearth. Pans, like dutch ovens, had legs and lids so that the pan could stand up in the flames. As stoves became popular, the cast iron morphed into a skillet. In the 20th century, cast iron received an upgrade when it was introduced with enameled surfaces.
Why is cooking with cast iron so popular? Some love the cookware for its durability, its ability to maintain heat and its lack of chemicals. Health professionals love that cast iron is “seasoned,” because it means you cook with less oil, and its very nature fortifies your food with iron. Cast iron is nonstick (if cared for properly), cheaper than traditional pans and versatile. Clearly, there is a lot to love about cast iron cookware.
One of the daunting tasks of cooking with cast iron is how to care for it properly. Unlike other pans, you can’t put it in the dishwasher, nor can you wash it with warm soapy water. We suggest the following steps for caring for your Cast Iron pans:
- Hand wash with warm water. Use a handful of salt to scrub out any dried or caked bits on the pan.
- Dry the pan immediately, or it will rust!
- Rub with a light coat of shortening, lard or bacon grease after every wash.
What is this “seasoning” part that everyone talks about? It’s a thin layer of polymerized oil that builds up over time. To season your pan, follow these steps (inspired by Epicurious):
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Heat your pan in the oven for 10 minutes and remove.
- Using a paper towel, coat the pan with a thin layer of shortening, lard or bacon grease.
- Put it back in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Take the pan out and pour out any extra oil.
- Put the pan back into the oven, upside down, for 1 hour. (Make sure foil is under the pan to catch any drips.
- Turn off oven and let the pan cool in the oven.
With a well-seasoned pan and know-how on how to care for it, what’s next? Cooking, of course! Here are some of our favorite cooking with cast iron recipes from the site.
Cast Iron Skillet:
Cast Iron Dutch Oven:
Enameled Cast Iron:
Make a home on your range for a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. They’ll last for years, and make all your meals just a bit more rustic. When cared for properly, this pan may become you go-to for all your favorite recipes.