Cast Iron Cookware

My Grandma used cast iron cookware almost everyday. She actually preferred it over the expensive set of pots and pans that were seldom used. “The good stuff” as my Grandpa called it was stored in the back of a cupboard and succeeded quite well, at taking up space.

I believe that there is no middle ground when it comes to consumer opinion, in regard to cast iron cooking. Either you love it or you hate it. At the time of this writing, I’m still trying to decide which side I’m on.

The key to successful cast iron cooking is proper cleaning and seasoning of the pan. This needs to be done to both new and inherited pieces. Don’t discard cast iron that has rusted or is caked with old grease. With a little work, these pans are actually better than new!

To clean an extremely greasy pan, the simplest method is to spray it with oven cleaner and place it in a plastic garbage bag. (Use rubber gloves and some type of eye protection any time you are working with oven cleaner.) Let the pan sit for 2-3 days. Remove from bag and scrub with a brass-bristled brush. Repeat the process if grease still remains, after this cleaning. When pan is free of baked on grease wash with hot, soapy water. Towel dry. Heat in oven or on a burner till completely dry. Now the pan is ready to season.

The best way to remove rust from a cast iron pan is with a Brillo© pad or metal brush. Thicker patches of rust can be removed with the edge of a sharp knife blade. Other methods such as using a drill with wire wheel attachment is easier, but can change the appearance and surface texture of the pan. After all rust has been removed wash with hot, soapy water. Towel dry, then dry completely in oven or on stove top. Season pan.

(Although I have not tried it, I have heard that Coca-Cola© will remove rust from cast iron. Fill pan with Coke. Let it sit for several hours. Wash with hot, soapy water. Dry completely. Season.)

If you look closely at a new cast iron pan, you will see that the surface is very porous… almost pitted. Seasoning it gives it what resembles a “non-stick” surface. When food sticks to your cast iron, it has not been properly seasoned. New pans are gray in color. It is only after repeated use that they turn black. This is a very normal process.

To season cast iron, pre-heat oven to325º. Heat pan for 15 minutes. Remove pan and apply a thick coat of shortening. Wipe away excess with paper towel and return to oven for 10 minutes. Repeat process till paper towel no longer shows gray residue, after wiping pan.

If using pans with wooden handles, season on top of stove. Cast iron should be re-seasoned after each use.

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