By Chef Alli on October 3, 2016
Chef Alli loves cooking with cast iron!
I love cooking with cast iron! Let me tell you why:
- Yes, cast iron cookware is heavy, but that weight guarantees reliable temperature control and a super hot surface that ensures a delicious, crispy sear on steaks, salmon, or fritters every time.
- Due to its construction, cast iron has very even distribution of heat, making it superior for cooking and baking; it does take longer to preheat than some cookware materials, but this is what makes it such a reliable and steady servant in the kitchen.
- It’s versatile – going from the cook top directly into the oven is a plus. Cast iron is also great for serving from at the table because it keeps food nice and warm for an extended period of time. Cast iron is also great for the grill! It’s a must for alltailgating parties.
- It’s rustic and comfortable – everyone seems to be familiar with cast iron and this is likely because they have fond memories of Grandma cooking with cast iron.If you want to impress your guests at dinner, just place a giant cast iron skillet, loaded with your favorite (and almost over-flowing!) skillet meal into the center of your table and let them dig right in.Add a salad and some good, crusty bread…..everybody’s happy.
Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware
- The more you use it, the slicker and better the seasoned surface will become over time.
- Because the outside bottom of most cast iron is uneven in nature when it is cast, do not use it on an electric smooth-top stove.Heat pockets can form between the bottom of the cast iron cookware and the smooth-top that can cause damage to the cook top….like splitting it from corner to corner. It won’t hurt your skillet one bit, but does a double-whammy on your ceramic smooth-top. (Been there, done that…..expensive learning lesson. #ouch)
- Remember that cast iron handles become just as hot as the cookware when in use.Have heavy-duty oven mitts handy when handling hot cast iron.
- For superior cooking results, always, always preheat your cast iron before adding any ingredients. Once the oiled surface of your skillet is nicely hot, then add your ingredients and listen for the sizzle! This is not only important for essential browning, but also for gaining good release of what you are cooking or searing. For instance, when your rib eye is nicely browned on the first side, it will easily let you slide your spatula beneath it to release and flip over. Once you’re got the nice browning on each side of your steak or salmon, then reduce your temperature to allow heat the time it needs to reach your desired internal temperature. (I hope it’s medium rare….140-145 degrees F. internal temp!)
Seasoning and Storing Cast Iron Cookware
Now days, a lot of cast iron comes pre-seasoned from the manufacturer. However, there may be times you will need to re-season your cast iron cookware (say if someone accidentally washes it with soap), or you may be starting out with an old fashioned cast iron skillet of the unseasoned variety. Either way, follow these 3 easy steps for success:
1. Rinse out your cast iron skillet, and don’t use soap…..actually don’t EVER use soap when cleaning your cast iron. If you are re-seasoning the surface of an older cast iron skillet and have grime build-up, badly stuck-on food particles, or rust, go ahead and use steel wool with elbow grease to create an even, clean surface for starting out fresh. Rinse skillet well with hot water before proceeding.
2. Using canola oil and a soft rag or good paper towel, rub a thin layer of oil all over skillet, including the outside and the handle. Place skillet into a cold oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Once oven is preheated, bake skillet for 1 hour, then turn oven off and let skillet cool down with the oven. After your skillet has cooled to room temperature, rub it down with a soft cloth, making sure it’s well coated with a thin layer of oil to maintain the seasoning layer. Repeat this process several times to give your cast iron cookware a good seasoning start in life. And remember! USING your cast iron is what it needs to acquire that good, smooth, seasoned surface. I try to cook a nice, greasy batch of bacon in each of my skillets at least once a month.
3. Store cast iron cookware in a cool, dry place, such as your oven where it’s handy to grab and use. I found that creating a peg board wall in my pantry was a great place to hang my skillets for easy access. Being able to easily see them at a glance keeps me using all of them on a consistent basis.
How do you know when a cast iron skillet is truly well-seasoned?? When you first purchase your cast iron, run your hand over the bottom and the sides of the skillet. If it’s unseasoned, you will notice how gritty and bumpy it feels. Once cast iron is well seasoned, these gritty bumps fill in and the bottom and sides are completely smooth.
Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware
- Allow cookware to cool before rinsing with hot water.If there are food particles that don’t want to come off the bottom and sides of the cast iron cookware, simply simmer some water in the pan for a few minutes until particles loosen and can be removed easily with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.
- Never, ever put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher! (And to tell the truth, no cookware, except stainless steel, should be put into the dishwasher unless you’re out to ruin the finish.)
- Remember! Don’t use soap when cleaning your cast iron.Soap suds remove grease and when you’re cooking with cast iron, grease is your friend!Rinse well with hot water only.
- After rinsing, place your skillet into a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or on a burner over medium heat for a few minutes to thoroughly dry, then add that thin, even layer of oil it needs to keep the finish protected.