Cooking Tip Thursdays: The Cast Iron Pan

Cooking Tip Thursdays is dedicated to making time in the kitchen quicker, easier, and just plain better…

Durable, won’t break the bank, versatile, and essentially nonstick; a cast iron pan is the ultimate kitchen workhorse.  Whether for searing, sautéing, frying, grilling, baking, or even scrambling, this kitchen essential conducts, holds, and distributes heat remarkably well.  What’s more, cooking in cast iron increases the iron content of food.  The longer the food is in contact with the pan, the more it absorbs.  I have a skillet and a grill pan, and both are on the list of kitchen staples I’m emotionally attached to.  And like wine, cast iron gets better with age.  So take care of it properly and add it to your list of family heirlooms.

How to Care for Cast Iron:

  1. Most cast iron pans these days come pre-seasoned, meaning the manufacturer applies a vegetable-based oil to the cast iron and bakes it at a high temperature so the oil penetrates the iron.  If your cookware didn’t come seasoned, just rub a light coat (about 1 tablespoon) of flaxseed oil on the cast iron.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour and gently allow the heat to help the oil soak in.  This helps the pan develop that glossy patina, ward off rust, and retain its nonstick properties.  Canola oil does the trick, too.
  2. Now that you have a nice seasoned pan to get started with, it is crucial that you keep your cast iron clean and well oiled at all times. NEVER put it in the dishwasher.
  3. A cast-iron pan is not meant to set aside and soak. For best results, rinse the pan with hot water immediately after cooking. To remove stubborn bits of food, pour 1 cup coarse kosher salt into the still-warm pan.  Use a folded kitchen towel or nonmetal brush to scour.  Discard the salt and rinse the pan with hot water. Dry immediately with a kitchen towel, or heat pan over a medium-low flame to evaporate the moisture.  To avoid getting smudges on all your kitchen towels, designate one to use exclusively for drying your cast-iron skillet.
  4. If the pan gets a sticky coating or develops rust over time, scrub it with steel wool and re-season it (see #1).  To prevent rust, never attempt to boil water in cast iron and always dry it thoroughly after using.  Once dry, lightly coat the cooking surface with cooking oil and cover with a paper towel to protect it from dust.



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