Saturday, January 2, 2016

Cast Iron - A Traditional way of Cooking

Cast Iron- A traditional way of Cooking
I just can’t say enough about my love for cast iron cookware. It’s not just the tradition of cast iron that captures me, but the superior quality and durability that it has. Cast iron cookware also offers supreme quality in food preparation and cleanup, plus it give foods a special touch. To me it seems that because the pans are seasoned, it allows the food to mellow within its own flavors.  The added plus of the cast iron cookware is that it helps build strong arm muscles! I had always wondered why the women of the past were so strong; it must of been from lifting those skillets and Dutch ovens!
I was fortunate to receive two cast iron grills as holiday gifts, one from my mother and one from my husband. Both are quality cast iron. My mother purchased a Lodge grill and my husband a Cast Calphalon, which both have great reviews and both come preseasoned.
As you can see from the picture both are very similar. The Lodge grill is
on the left and the Calphalon is on the right

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The Calphalon has a bit smaller surface size and the angle of the sides are a bit more inward than the Lodge grill. The Lodge grill is a bit more heavier.
I reseasoned both grills even though they came preseasoned. Some manufacturers suggest doing this and some do not.  I have learned over time that taking the time to season them before the first use makes a big difference when preparing the initial first meals. 
How I season my new cast iron:
        Some people and manufacturers do not recommend using soap on cast iron cookware. I do not normally use dish soap on mine once I have seasoned them. I only use a mild soap on NEW cast iron that I received or purchased new.  If I am reconditioning an older cast iron, that I may be lucky enough to find at thrift store, then I will use soap and clean it with a method that I will address in a future post. 
Now to get on with seasoning a new cast iron cookware piece.
      First, remove all manufacturer stickers from inside, bottom, and sides. This may sound like a given, but I missed a small side sticker one time and it was nasty removing the melted mess.
Next, manufacturers suggest to separate your cooking racks and place one at the top of your oven and the other at the bottom level. I place my upper one in the middle and the lower one at the bottom level. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Take a lipped cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and line it with aluminum foil.  I use this to place my cast iron on to heat in the oven. This will prevent any runoff of oil from the cast iron that may burn in the stove bottom. You can also place a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom rack to prevent any extra run off, if your piece does not totally fit on the cookie sheet. Some people place their cast iron directly on the top rack and use the cookie sheet on the bottom rack.  I place mine on the cookie sheet so that my rack does not get cooked oil on it.

Third, I wash the cast iron with mild dish soap and warm water using a soft cotton wash rag that I make from crocheted cotton yarn. Rinse thoroughly.
After I have washed and dried the piece, I use a ½  and ½ mixture of 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening and 1 tablespoon of butter. This will oil a cast iron size fry pan. You may need more for larger cookware. (I use butter on the initial seasoning only. I do not use butter on regular usage because butter has a tendency to rancid and you do not want your butter to become rancid on your cookware in the cabinet between uses.) I rub this mixture evenly all over the piece; inside, the outside edges and on the bottom. I then place the pan upside down on the cookie sheet.


Next, you will want to cook your cast iron for about 45 min to 1 hour. After that time, turn off the oven and let your piece cool. Remove from the oven and wipe with a clean soft cloth.

Storing your cast iron: 
I like to place my cast iron on a paper plate or several pieces of paper towels on my cookware shelf. Cast iron has a tendency to leave rings on the surface that they sit on. By placing a paper plate or paper towel between each pan, if you have to stack them, will prevent any damage or rust from building up from moisture.

Using and Caring for your Cast Iron: 
Cast iron will last you a lifetime if cared properly.  When heating your cast iron you want to start on a lower temperature and let the cast iron heat up, especially if you are preheating your item, such as a Dutch Oven. I found that you do not need to use high heat with cast iron since it holds the heat so well.
After cooking a meal in your piece I find that if I place a bit of water in the pan and let it set while, as I am eating or doing my other dishes, I then can easily remove any stuck on food with just a dish cloth or soft brush. As pictured, do not use the green type or steel wool type scrubber. They are yo coarse and will damage your seadoning. The little chicken scrubber pictured is a soft plastic nylon with a foam back. I will use this on occasion if I have hard stuck on food particles, mostly to the outside of the pan. I like to use a crochet cotton cloth that I make to wash my cast iron. It is both rugged enough to do the job, yet soft, and it's washable! You DO NOT want to use abrasive cleaners or soaps on your cast iron, this will remove any or all seasoning and result in a pan that will scorch and stick your foods.

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After washing your cast iron, dry completely and rub the interior with a bit of cooking oil or shortening, making sure that you have a nice sheen to it. If you find that when you remove your cast iron from the cabinet to use again and there is a bit of rust on the piece, do not feel that it is ruined or that it will cause harm. Simply wash it with warm water, dry, and rub with oil. Place on a burner and let it heat up to warm. Do not over heat! Turn off burner and let it cool a bit. Wipe it out with a paper towel and reapply oil. Use as normal.
**Remember the first few uses may stick some things like eggs, or delicate sauces, and some meats if you get it too hot; but after several uses, your cast iron will work just as well as or better than Teflon or ceramic coated cookware.

Look for an upcoming posts on  Comparing Cast Iron, Teflon coated, Ceramic coated, and Stainless cookware.  As well as How to Refurbish Cast Iron.

Lodge is a company that was started in the Appalachian Mountains in
Tennessee. They have been around since 1896 and they are still an American made company that specializes in cast iron.  They have a Facebook page where you can find "how to" videos, recipes, and a slew of other interesting tidbits.  Cast Calphalon is a Newell Rubbermaid Company,  Calphalon carries a wide variety of cookware and cooking products. Some of their products are U.S. made as well as imported.