Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Archive for the Food Category

How to Season and Care for Cast Iron Cookware

When cast iron is well-cared for it easily becomes your trusty standby that you wouldn’t dream of cooking without. The more you use it, the more the finish builds up and becomes part of the pan. Before long you will be slipping a fried egg out of it faster than any non-stick pan out there.

seasoning cast iron

As the finish builds up so does the flavor! The oils that you cook with and the fats from your food are what bond with the pan to create that non-stick coating. Many people have concerns over using Teflon to cook with because of concerns over chemicals leaching from nicks or scrapes in the finish. Cast iron is the perfect solution to that problem. A well-developed finish is nearly indestructible and if for some reason rust develops you can always re-season the pan.

What does it mean to season cast iron?

Cast iron cookware is made of raw metal without any coating on it which means that if exposed to water it will rust. That is why it needs to be seasoned. Seasoning your cast iron cookware is a process of heating oil beyond the smoke point to create a smooth, durable finish.

vintage cast iron

How to season a new pan!

You will want to season your pan when it is new, if it has rusted, or anytime the finish has been compromised. It is a very simple process. You will need about a tablespoon of oil. Flax seed oil is considered one of the best oils for creating a durable finish. I really like avocado oil too.

Dribble a little oil into the pan and then use a clean, lint-free rag or a paper towel to wipe the oil all over the pan. Now take an additional rag or paper towel and wipe off any excess oil. Leaving a thick layer of oil on the pan will cause the finish to build up too quickly and leave a sticky residue. The finish that you create with thick coats of oil does not bond to the pan, so they easily flake off while you are cooking.

old cast iron skillets

Now take the pan with all excess oil removed and place it in the oven face down and then heat your oven to 400 F degrees. Once the oven has reached 400 F degrees, continue cooking for ten minutes. You want your pan to get hot enough that it begins to smoke a little bit. That is how you know the oil has reached a high enough temperature to bond to the pan.

Turn the oven off and allow the pan to cool down in the oven. Do not pull the pan out of the oven and do not submerse it in water when it is hot.

How to clean cast iron cookware

cleaning cast iron

It is ok to submerge the pan and to use soap. Just make sure you do not leave the pan in the sink to soak. Rust will develop, and then you will have to season it again. I use a stainless steel scrubby on my cast iron. It doesn’t absorb the oil and seems to preserve the finish on the pan better than anything else.

Now that you have a great finish on your pan how do you clean it up? Start by scraping any food bits out of the pan. It is ok to submerse your pan in water while you are washing it, but you don’t want to soak it at all, or it will rust. Heating water in the pan is how I deal with food that gets stuck to the pan.

season cast iron skillet

How to maintain the finish.

Once the pan is all cleaned up again, it is important to add to the finish of the pan and seal it again. However this time it is a simplified version. Pour a little oil into the pan, wipe off all of the excesses, and then heat on the stove top. You want to heat just until you see little wisps of smoke then promptly remove from the heat. Set it aside and let it cool. There really isn’t much you can do to mess it up, just make sure that you wipe off all of the excess oil so that you don’t end up with a gummy build up.

Don’t be overwhelmed by any of this. I am sure it seems a bit foreign if you didn’t grow up with cast iron cookware but it is tough to mess it up. Even better, if something does get messed up, you can just scrub the pan really well and start again.

cast iron finish

 

Your Turn

  • What do you remember your grandma cooking in her cast iron pan?
  • How do you season your cast iron pans?

Cooking with and Caring for Cast Iron Cookware

Cooking with cast iron is such a visceral experience, using a pan that could be as old as your grandparents, the oil sizzling in the pan, and the aromas as you create a depth of flavor not possible in a Teflon pan.

egg skillet

My grandma used cast iron in her kitchen every day. The roasts she cooked in her dutch oven were full of flavor and tender as can be. In the morning she would cook eggs in a small cast iron skillet. She had the coating on her pans so fine tuned that she could just slide the egg out of the pan without a spatula. Whenever I pull out one of my cast iron pans I feel connected to her and the commitment she had to feed her family delicious, nutrient-rich meals.

Cast iron is quite inexpensive and will last a lifetime. You can pass them onto your children; they are nearly indestructible. However, there is a learning curve to using cast iron cookware. Here are a few tips to give you a head start.

seasoned cast iron

Preheating is vital

Cast iron heats unevenly but retains the heat wonderfully. Use a heat-tolerant oil like avocado or coconut oil in the pan and heat until the oil begins to shimmer (move across the pan due to the warmth of the pan).

Don’t skimp on the fats!

More and more research is showing that saturated fats are not the demons we used to think they were, so don’t be afraid to throw a glob of your favorite healthy fat in your pan. It will help develop that non-stick surface and depth of flavor. Start with a couple tablespoons for an 8” skillet.

cast iron cooking

Sear it!

Developing rich flavors is one of the benefits of cooking with cast iron. Once your skillet and oil are good and hot, then add in your veg or meat. Allow it sear before stirring or flipping. I especially enjoy caramelizing onions and browning meat in my cast iron.

Deepen the flavor

Flavor develops in the oil and on the surface of cast iron cookware. To create more depth, you will want to build your flavors in what is best described as layers.

Start with the fat, then add in the aromatics like onions and garlic. Next, add flavorful vegetables like mushrooms and celery. At this point, you can do almost anything. You have the base for soup, a casserole or a stir-fry.

Now you can remove all of the vegetables and cook your meat. Make sure to put more oil in the pan. Once the meat is cooked, your pan will be bursting with flavor. If you want to go one step further, you can make a gravy by deglazing the pan and thickening the liquid.

roast beef in cast iron

Stove top or in the oven, cast iron can do both. There are no plastic or wood parts on cast iron pans. That means you can sear your food on the stove top and then move it to the oven to finish cooking. You can also bake a quiche, cornbread or oven pancake in a cast iron skillet.

Use a flexible steel flipper and not a plastic spatula. Cast iron gets very hot and can cause the plastic spatula to melt. Contrary to the way you baby a Teflon skillet to protect the finish you want to very deliberately make contact with the cast iron using a metal flipper.

Wash but don’t soak your pan. Now that you have eaten one of the most flavorful meals ever, it is time to get that pan cleaned up. If you have stuck-on food the easiest way to loosen it is to put about 1/2 inch of water in the pan then put back on the stovetop until it begins to boil. Now you can easily wash it.

cleaning cast iron

It is ok to submerge the pan and to use soap. Just make sure you do not leave the pan in the sink to soak. Rust will develop, and then you will have to season it (a process of sealing the pan with heat and oil). I use a stainless steel scrubby on my cast iron. It doesn’t absorb the oil and seems to preserve the finish on the pan better than anything else.

You Turn!

  • What favorite memory do you think of when you see cast iron?
  • What is your favorite meal to cook in your cast iron cookware?

Equipping a Minimalist Kitchen

The kitchen is a prime target for clutter.  Companies are inventing a gadget for every little thing – anything that can make cooking a little easier.  In the end, we find our kitchens filled with gadgets, multi-function counter top appliances and it all adds up to a whole lot of clutter.  Some time ago I realized one thing about all these things in my kitchen: they don’t add up to better food on the plate.  I realized what really matters are the initial ingredients and technique, very little relied upon the tools.

minimalist-kitchen-header

With this realization I began to declutter my kitchen using my tried and true box method (read about how to do it here).  As I needed things, I would pull them out and after a few months I still had 80% of my kitchen things still left in the box.  During this time I brushed up on some of my knife techniques, read up on how professional chefs cook, and focused on simple.

A few things to keep in mind.  I have this setup for how and what I like to cook, I don’t like to bake much, I’m mainly stove top or grill.  I also am cooking for myself, maybe one other person.

In the end, I was able to whittle down to a basic set of tools in my kitchen all the while increasing the quality of my cooking/food.  So what does a minimalist kitchen have in it?  Glad you asked…

Two knives and one steel

miminmalist-knife

I see this all the time, you walk into someone’s kitchen and there is a giant knife block that contains 10-15 knives.  If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t know what half them are for and we only use a few on a regular basis.  Most of your work will be done with your 8 inch chef knife, it’s the workhorse.  Next to that I have a 3 to 4 inch parring knife for smaller, more delicate tasks.  Finally a honing steel, this helps re-align your edge between sharpening because as you use a knife, the fine edge actually rolls over, creating a less sharp edge; using a honing steel quickly un-rolls that edge and gives you back your edge.

If you ask me, put your money here.  A check knife in the $100-$200 price range with a full tang and good steel is something that is worth spending money on.  A paring knife for $50-$100 and a honing steel for $25-$50.

Two rubber spatulas and two tongs

tongs-for-tiny-house-ktichen

These two items are pretty much my go-tos when it comes to actually cooking on heat.  It keep two of each so that if I have to make things that can’t mix, I’m covered, or if I’m doing something with meat, to reduce risk of salmonella.  My tongs are a rigid silicone tipped, so they can be used on coated pans and on the grill.

One metal spatula

minimalist-kitchen-spatula

I use this for grilling or if I ever use cast iron. This is a heavy duty metal spatula that is rigid enough to scrape, but flexible enough to wiggle under a piece of meat.  I’d use this a lot more if I was a big fan of cast iron. Cast iron isn’t my favorite, but if you cook a lot with cast iron, this will be a go to.

Break apart scissors

Break-apart-scissors

Sometimes scissors are the right too for the job, including cutting up chicken.  A solid pair of scissors that come apart so you can thoroughly clean the joint is very handy.  These can play double duty for a bottle opener.

Pot strainer (or colander)

pot-strainer-for-minimalist-kitchen

I use this style of a pot strainer, its very small, compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space.  If I was more of a pasta guy, I’d upgrade to a colander, but this suits my needs.

Pots and pans

pot-set-for-minimalist-kitchen

This is the pot set that I choose for my kitchen, it was the second place that I sunk most of my money into.  When you live a minimalist life, it makes sense to spend some real money on the few things you have.  For this set, I did my research and ignored prices. This set cost me $600.  I rarely use the large soup pot and the high side saute pan, but they are worth keeping on hand.  While I still keep these two, I don’t actually keep them in my kitchen of my tiny house, I keep them in my bulk storage area.  90% of what I cook is done in the small fry pan, the large fry pan or the medium sized pot.

Cutting Board

cutting-board-tiny-house

The last thing on my list is a cutting board. I prefer a butcher block style myself.

Your Turn!

  • What else would you add?
  • What is your favorite kitchen item?

Ten Essential Kitchen Solutions for Tiny Houses

We demand a lot from our kitchens, no matter what size house they’re in. This fact is magnified even more in a tiny house, where storage and surface area are at a premium. But if you live in a tiny house, you don’t have to give up your cooking dreams just yet! Luckily for you, the Internet is a magical place with space-saving solutions to be found left and right. I gathered my ten favorite kitchen solutions in this post to share with you today. Links and images will take you to the web pages where you can buy each item. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Slide-out Trash & Recycling Bins

2c3e94ba8e205e144e19a1983b3e6dbf

I know that I always forget to add in space for trash and recycling when I’m drawing up tiny house plans. It’s so easy to forget! Take advantage of the full depth of counter space in your tiny house kitchen with a slide-out cabinet for your bins.

2. A Hanging Rail for Utensils6f28eac04d33428d14818b984029f083

Everyone has a crock on their kitchen counter stuffed with cooking utensils – save some real estate by hanging them from a rail with S-hooks. The Grundtal, while being a great name for a disgruntled bridge troll, is actually a rail system from IKEA that is affordable and very popular in tiny houses.

3. A Hanging Dish Rack and Paper Towel Holder

8f693f6984208238692ea386fe0f0a4c

Continuing the vertical storage theme, we have a wall-mounted dish rack and matching paper towel holder. The dish rack can hang right above your sink for drainage, and is pretty enough to store your plates and cups on all the time. Plus, I’m of the mindset that a touch of gold here and there makes any space better.

4. Over-the-Sink Cutting Board with Strainer

8fd592edc31f420f5b6ee4572cd873ca

I think this one is just so cool. Not only does the cutting board extend your counter space over your sink, you can slide your vegetables right into the strainer for rinsing. Genius!

5. Vertical Dividers for Flat Items

89d61d2293a973bebb2a41b7fecd0336

Even if you rarely cook, you know the pure misery of stacking and re-stacking cookie sheets, muffin tins, or cutting boards to find the one you want. Storing them on their sides with vertical dividers solves this problem handily. The photo above shows how you can use simple tension curtain rods as dividers, or you can buy a divider made just for this purpose.

6. Square-Shaped Storage Containers

5093e306dbd0cb0342000446._w.540_s.fit_

Circular objects are a space-saver’s nightmare. These square-based storage containers, however, come in all sizes and stack up neatly in your pantry or fridge. Very important if your fridge is particularly tiny!

7. Collapsible Silicone Measuring Cups and Spoons

ce04d3abcd85c3b1cdb1e18e1c231673

I have these in my own kitchen and I love them. I can store four measuring cups on their sides in my drawer in about 2 inches of space. They’re easy to clean too. There are all sorts of other gadgets that collapse as well – colanders, washing buckets, top hats, and more. Okay, so no one really needs a collapsible top hat in their kitchen.

(Note: it appears that the cups pictured above are discontinued, so the link will take you to a similar item you can buy from Amazon.)

8. Adjustable Measuring Spoons

d9fe8bd08a6f630d876ca47f02f32563

I personally like having multiple measuring cups and spoons if I’m measuring several ingredients at once. But if you think having too many gadgets is a hassle, this adjustable measuring spoon could be just the thing for you. Three of these can take the place of eight or nine measuring cups and spoons, which means more space saved in your kitchen drawers.

9. Wire Under-Shelf Baskets

CI-Brian-Flynn_Inside-Kitchen-Cabinet_s3x4.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.966.1288

In your kitchen cabinets, there’s often a lot of unused space hovering above your stacked dishes and mugs. Put it to good use and avoid precariously-stacked cups, plates, and bowls with an under-shelf basket. You can find these at the Container Store and other organization specialty stores.

10. Magnetic Spice Containers

fe5dfd5ea5b93b52f889a0d2475b22b8

These are the best. You can decant your spices into these magnetic tins, and eliminate the mismatched jumble of spice jars cluttering up your pantry. The transparent lids also show you when it’s time to buy more turmeric or tarragon. Line these up on the front of your tiny fridge to put some otherwise unused space to work!

Your Turn!

  • What are some of your favorite space-saving kitchen gadgets?
  • What’s the one kitchen essential that you can’t live without?

Subversive Garden

This is an amazing video on the state of food and where we need to go with it.

Page 112345
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-slide-open-holder"]
[class*="-slide-open-holder"]
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet_bg']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[data-image-id='gourmet']
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-body"]
[class*="-slide-open-holder"]
[class*="-slide-open-holder"]