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Posts Tagged cast iron

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?
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