The Care and Keeping of Cast-Iron

If treated properly, cast-iron cookware can be virtually indestructible. Along with its durability, benefits of cast-iron cookware include its even heating surface, its price (a skillet will cost around $10), its ability to retain heat well, and its ability to help increase iron in your diet. Plus, it’s a greener option—cast iron isn’t chemically treated like Teflon pans, and unlike Teflon pans, the surface won’t fall apart after use. However, it does require a bit of care to keep these pans in tip-top shape. Read on to find out how to take care of yours.

If your pan is not pre-seasoned, the first thing you need to do is season it. This gives you a nonstick surface and keeps the pan from rusting.

To season it, wash the inside and outside of the pan with warm, soapy water, rinse, and dry thoroughly. When dry, rub a layer of vegetable oil inside and out of the pan. Place upside-down in a 300 degree oven for an hour. Make sure you have a baking sheet under the pan in the oven to catch drips from the vegetable oil. When it cools, wipe excess oil from the pan with a paper towel. You’re ready to cook!

You’ll know if the pan needs re-seasoning if food starts sticking to the surface. At any rate, you should re-season at least once a year, washing thoroughly with soap and hot water before you do so.

Never use soapy water to clean your cast-iron pans unless you’re about to re-season it. Soap takes the seasoning off! Instead, use warm water and a sponge or paper towel. If there are messes that won’t come off with a simple scrub, combine salt and water to make a paste, and rub on trouble spots. If you’re still having trouble, fill the pan with water and boil for about ten minutes. Avoid immersing it in cold water immediately afterwards, though—the drastic temperature change could cause it to crack. Finally, make sure you dry your pan thoroughly, as leftover water could cause it to rust.

Don’t worry about the lack of soap—the salt paste will take care of any bacteria, as will the heat every time you use the pan!

Cast-iron pans are ideal for high-heat cooking, so these are the pans in which you should sear your steaks and sauté your chicken. If you have a favorite stove-to-oven recipe, use your cast-iron pan, which can withstand the heat of both. Avoid cooking acidic foods, like tomato-based sauces, in cast-iron skillets, as they can eat at your seasoning. It also is a good idea to use separate pans for anyone in the family who is vegan, vegetarian or allergic to anything you might cook in those pans. Trace food elements and allergens may remain in the seasoning after cleaning—exactly like a wok.

Avoid chipping
Cast-iron pans can chip, like a pair of fancy nails, when bumped the wrong way. They may be heavy, but treat the pans gingerly. To store cast-iron pans, use sheets of paper towel, paper plates or thin dish towels to separate them, minimizing the chance of chipping.

Cast-iron pans are durable, great for high cooking temperatures, and can last you a lifetime. Are you convinced yet?

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