Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cast Iron Cookware, Helpful links for Cast Iron Cookware, Myths and Facts about cooking with Cast Iron


Why Cast Iron Pans

   Cast Iron has been around for centuries. No doubt it is very durable. You will rarely find a cast iron pan that has been rusted out to beyond use or cracked.  They can last a lifetime! There are many rumors and stories that surround the use and care of cast iron, some true and some not so true. So, let's get down to the bottom of cast iron pans and find out why they are a great item to have in your collection of cookware.

   Cast Iron will hold its heat longer than other pans once it has been preheated. It will radiate the heat. With some other pans once they are heated and a food item is placed into the pan to brown, the pan will cool down a bit and may cause food to take longer to brown, causing a steaming effect. Because cast iron holds it heat longer, it is better for browning foods.  

   Some people do not like cast iron because they feel that there are hotspots that can cause burning in areas and cooler areas where food does not cook evenly. The key here is that cast iron needs to heat up slowly and allow the heat to generate outward through the pan from the burner. One problem with the hotspots that people encounter is the size of the burner. A small burner will not generate the heat on a larger pan as fast, and it takes longer for the pan to heat fully. It is essential to choose the correct pan size for the correct burner and allow for it to preheat.  

   Another issue and myth is that cast iron pans leak iron into the food. If your pan is well seasoned this should not happen because the oil coating protects it. When acidity foods simmer or stew in cast iron it can cause on occasion some of the seasoning to break down and lift off the pan, this can emit a little iron into foods. Very little iron will be released if any at all.  If you have a high sensitivity to iron, then you may want to opt for a different type of pan or make sure that your pans are well seasoned.  

   Rusting is another factor that people are concerned about with cast iron pans. Rusting occurs  when too much acid is in the pan while cooking, as with rich tomato based sauces which cause the season coating to be pulled off. In turn it leaves the pan material exposed to air and any moisture after cooking. The rusting does not occur during the cooking process. I occurs only after the pan is used and not oiled and seasoned, and left where moisture can collect on it.   You always want to keep the pan seasoned to protect it, keep it from moisture and not to use high acidity foods in cast iron. If you should get any rust in your pans, wipe it out. Rinse and wash well. Re-season your pan. See my previous post on how to season a new pan or follow the directions below. You can use this method for cleaning rust spots from your pan. You may want to choose to simmer high acidity food types in other pans as enameled or stainless steel.

    A well seasoned cast iron pan can act like a non-stick pan. With proper seasoning you can cook eggs and delicate sauces in them. This makes for a great multi functional pan without having the issue of Teflon flakes coming off in your food or using plastic cookware that melts or disintegrates, as with some inexpensive spatulas.  I always hated getting black flakes of plastic in my food and worried about what scratched Teflon would do to my health. I truly belief that we are the guinea pigs of the Teflon generation.  Cast Iron has been around for centuries and it is still in use. That has to count for something!

Construction / Metal
    This brings me to another important part about cast iron pans. Cast iron for obvious reasons is heavier and denser than aluminum or stainless steel.  While these two are much easier to hold and use due to their lighter weight, they do not generate the heat as a cast iron pan will.  The type of metal will determine how evenly it will heat, how fast it will heat up, and cool down. This is an important part when controlling the heat with the type of stove you have. Electric stoves and gas stoves will radiate the heat differently to the metals. There is a great article I found that explains all of this. A little on the scientific side of cooking and cookware, but full of wonderful information and a chart that compares the different metals in cookware.

Another great resource is the “America's Test Kitchen, where they test different cookware and recipes.    https://www.americastestkitchen.com/

Cleaning and Care of your cast iron cookware -
   There is a lot of rumors regarding using soap on your pans.  It is my opinion that a little mild soap is OK for cleaning the sides and bottom of the pan. I occasionally will use a mild soap to  clean the interior if the pan is real greasy.  I always make sure that I dry it well and apply a good coat of clean oil and rub off the excess with a paper towel or clean kitchen cloth.

   After cooking in your pan you will want to run some hot tap water in the pan. The reason for using hot tap water is that if using cold water in a hot pan it can cause distortion of the pan or in rare occasions can cause the iron to crack, especially on poor quality cast iron cooking pans.  I let my pan set a little water while I do other dishes and then come back to it. I then use a rough scrub cloth I like using my hand crocheted cloths or a long handled kitchen brush. Then I wipe it with a soft dish towel to dry and rub some cooking oil all over the inside to of the pan and along the outside edges to season the pan.  Some people recommend using a mixture of coarse kosher salt and oil. A mixture of about ¼ cup of salt and about a tablespoon of oil to clean off stuck on food. Rinse, dry and oil the pan.

Sourced from - my experience over the years and  http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/120/Common-Materials-of-Cookware