5 Tips for Cast Iron Cooking

June 05, 2018 11 Comments

5 Tips for Cast Iron Cooking

Ah the cast iron pan; bane of my childhood dishwashing career; revitalized culinary accoutrement.

Growing up, there was nothing I loathed more than cleaning our old cast iron pan. As a child, I failed to understand the balance of strength, heat conductivity and non-stick super powers cast iron possesses; all I knew was that it was heavy and there were lots of rules about cleaning it. During my tenure as a college student, my relationship with cast iron cooking was reignited when my friends and I would make large batches of stew in my newly acquired Dutch oven. I cringe as I recall scrubbing burnt bits of stew from my Dutch oven in the nearest creek, using, gulp, steel wool.

Lodge cast iron skillet pan
-My favorite Lodge cast iron skillet

Today, my Dutch oven is an indispensable part of my kitchen’s arsenal. The steady, high heat of cast iron is the perfect tool to sear a roast before slow cooking it in the oven; it makes quick work of stir fry thanks to its ability to maintain high heat. My favorite application for cast iron, however, is making desserts. That’s right, desserts. At least once a summer I think it’s a good idea to invest in a whole box or flat of fresh fruit- damn those CSA’s! Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your taste buds, the fruit usually all ripens at the same time. As I am not a canner, the second best application for excess quantities of ripe fruit, in my humble opinion, is to make a crisp! The epic peach cobbler of 2012; the blackberry crisp of 2015; what will it be this year? While I cannot predict the fruit I will inevitably over-purchase, not be able to eat then mix into a fabulous campfire treat, I can tell you that cooking with cast iron is easier than many believe.

Lodge cast iron pan strawberry rhubarb crisp dutch oven             
-Rhubarb on the chopping block.

If you long to reconnect with grandma’s old skillet or dust off your Dutch oven of yore, follow these five simple steps to cast iron cooking to keep your pans in tip top shape.

  1. Season, season, season! The importance of seasoning your cast iron cookware cannot be overstated! The seasoning on a cast iron pan is the thin layer of oil which gives cast iron its non-stick properties. While most pans now come pre-seasoned, it’s a good idea to add your own layer of oil to a new pan. To season, simply rinse your pan with warm water then apply a thin layer of oil (flax seed, peanut, canola…) to the entire pan, outside and in. Place the pan upside down in a pre-heated 350° oven and allow to bake for one hour. Let the pan cool inside the oven before removing and wiping away any excess oil.
  2. Let the pan do its job! Cast iron is the best choice for cooking foods that benefit from a coating of cooking oil or contain a decent amount of fat themselves. Think juicy T-bones, bacon and basically anything that benefits from a nice dollop of butter. Cast iron also transfers easily to the oven which makes preparing desserts in it a breeze.
  3. Do not soak! As we all know, iron rusts. Therefore, soaking a cast iron pan to remove bits of stuck on food will adversely affect your pan. The best method for removing food bits is to scour your pan with a heavy dose of kosher salt and a sponge or cloth then rinse with warm water. Our tera scrapers are for accomplishing this task! If you have kept your pan in optimal condition, just wipe any leftover residue away with a dry cloth or paper towel.
  4. Keep it dry! While cast iron pans are tough as my 96-year-old grandmother, they need to be dried immediately after cleaning so they don’t start to rust. Place your wet pan on a stove top burner and allow the water to evaporate completely.
  5. Maintain that sheen! After following the cleaning and drying protocol, it is time to, yet again, season your pan. While your pan is still warm, use a cloth or paper towel to add a layer of oil to the entire piece. Note- the warmth helps the cast iron absorb the oil.

Lodge cast iron cooking strawberry rhubarb crisp     
-Hot, bubbly strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

Cooking with cast iron is one of life’s simple pleasures. With a few easy steps, your cast iron will live a long, fruitful life, being passed through the generations as a family heirloom.

Lodge cast iron pan roasted cauliflower
-Cast iron roasted cauliflower.

Have experience cooking with cast iron? Leave us a comment below!




11 Responses

Claire
Claire

June 13, 2018

Wow! Loving all the information and stories everyone has been sharing! I agree that old things- pans, furniture, blankets- share a sort of magic, or as Having put it “romance” with the past. We live in a throw away society which is unfortunate on many levels but at Earlywood we strive to produce goods which will be passed down and loved as many of these cast iron pieces have been. Cheers to longevity!

Jim Hermanson
Jim Hermanson

June 08, 2018

From castironcollector.com:

Sometime around 1906, The Griswold Mfg. Co. began to move away from marking its skillets and other pieces, as it had for decades, simply “ERIE”. The first change for skillets came in the form of merely adding the company name in combination with the original trademark™ or “brand” to create “Griswold’s Erie”. Soon after would come the addition of the now famous “cross in double circle” TM or logo, the first of which, while in a stylized but not truly italic font, would come to be dubbed the “slant” logo.

The castironcollector.com site is well worth visiting.

Having Ruhl
Having Ruhl

June 08, 2018

My ‘Erie’ brand, cast iron pan is older than both grandmothers:135-138 years young. It’s not in anyway as beautiful, useful, or knowledgeable as those two wonderful ful ladies. I use my old pans almost everyday. I cherish the romance that they served several other generations and now me. I’ve never used dishsoap on them, as I want to preserve every bit of the last century’s seasoning as I can. My oldest pans are masterpieces and are only used by my wife and I. We just used a large Dutch oven (1890s) to make a Green Chili Pork Stew for NBA game night. I use a wooden spatula with a wet paper towel along the implements edge. It steams when it hits a semi-hot pan and removes the last crusty bits, while cleaning.

Jim Hermanson
Jim Hermanson

June 08, 2018

Stella, Claire’s method will work well. If the rust is very bad you might want to remove it with a wire brush wheel on a drill.

Instead of using steel wool to clean a seasoned pan look online for a chain link scrubber. They don’t harm the pans and they do a great job.

I have found the older cast iron pans not only worth saving and many of them are superior to the new skillets & dutch ovens.

Look for Griswold cast iron. They are thinner, weigh less and they are very smooth. My Griswold pieces date between 1906 – 1930.

Look at castironcollector.com for great information on Griswold as well as other very useful information on these marvelous creations.

Claire
Claire

June 06, 2018

Stella- Yes! You can most definitely rescue a cast iron pan or pot that has rusted. For severe rust damage, soak the pan in a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Do this until the rust releases then scrub with steel wool and a little dish soap. Dry immediately then re-season. For minor rust, scrub with steel wool and soap. Dry and re-season. Cast iron is super resilient and will flourish with a little love.

John Vogt
John Vogt

June 06, 2018

Let’s talk about “grandmas”. My grandma is tougher than your 96-year-old grandma.

My granda was 108 when she died

Fortunately, we were able to save the baby.

Stella
Stella

June 06, 2018

Question: Can you “save” (rehabilitate, refinish, revive) an old cast iron pan that has significant rust on it?

Claire
Claire

June 06, 2018

Michael- from our experience, this is the best way to start the seasoning process. Do you have another way or a tip to offer? We’re always willing to try new things!

Claire
Claire

June 06, 2018

Bill- how amazing you are using your great aunt’s cast iron pans! The beauty of cast iron is, that if properly cared for, they will last many lifetimes. In the meantime, we’ll keep seasoning ours up! Cheers.

Michael Bacik
Michael Bacik

June 06, 2018

You may want to check you info on Cast Iron care on step one.

Bill Tankersley
Bill Tankersley

June 06, 2018

Perhaps my skillets are a generation older than your, having belonged to a great aunt. Since they are adequately seasoned, being used for at least 70 years, I find regular dish soap and a scrubber (agreed, not steel wool) do a very acceptable job. I think flushing the salt into the water is not the best thing to do for both drinking water and other downstream applications. Perhaps thorough seasoning is the better long-term answer.

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