Why You Won’t Regret Getting Cast Iron
When you think of #castiron, you might think of cowboys or cooking on the plains. Or maybe you have drunk the Kool-aid and know full well how versatile these pans are.
Whether you are new to cast iron or old pros, there is always something new to learn. If you have never tried cast iron, you are missing out. They might seem overwhelming and not intuitive, but you will love the result once you’re used to cast iron.
At Sweetbriar Rose, we want you to love your kitchen as much as we love ours. If we can encourage you on your cooking journey, we are thrilled. We would also love for you to stop by and visit us Thursday through Sunday.
What is Cast Iron?
Cast iron is an alloy of iron that contains carbon, typically not more than 4%. There will also be small amounts of other minerals like silicon, manganese, sulfur, and phosphorous.
To make cast iron, whether it is a pan, a wheel, a beam, or anything else, iron ore is reduced in a blast furnace until it is liquid. This molten liquid is then poured into a cast into something called a pig. This pig is then melted again, along with other materials depending upon the end product, using a cupola furnace and recast into the shape it will ultimately have. In our case, a pot or pan.
Seasoning Cast Iron
Without starting a chemistry lesson here, cast iron is seasoned by fat polymerization. When you season a cast iron pan, you essentially bake on several layers, often six to eight, of appropriate oil to prevent rust, create shine, and keep food from sticking.
Most cast iron pans you buy today are pre-seasoned, meaning the manufacturer seasoned the pan. However, if you don’t properly care for your pan, or you inherit an old one, you might notice rust.
If you need to season your pan, ensure it is completely clean and devoid of rust and debris. Next, rub a very thin layer of a drying oil, like food-grade flaxseed oil, onto your pan. Then rub the oil off. Know, though, that you are not rubbing all of the oil off.
Place the pan bottom side up in your oven THEN heat the oven to 500℉, or as high as it will go if it won’t reach that. After the oven has heated, bake your pan for one hour. Turn off the oven and let it sit for two hours to cool in the oven. Do this AT LEAST six times. Each time your pan will get a little darker and shinier.
Do NOT lower the temperature, shorten the cooking time, or use subpar oil or too much oil. You might end up having to start all over.
Caring for your pan will keep you from having to do this process. Ever. You don’t want to scrub and season your pan, we promise.
Cleaning Cast Iron
Many people are scared of cast iron because they don’t know how to clean it. You may have heard conflicting stories. Use soap. Never use soap. Use a scouring pad. Never use anything that could scratch the surface.
There are many ways to clean a cast iron, and it’s quite simple.
Remove excess food with a plastic scraper. If you don’t have one, you can get one at Wal-Mart. These handy square little plastic doohickies are a must-have in your kitchen. Scrape off all the food you can with this scraper.
If there are any stubborn food pieces left, boil some water in the pan for a minute or two and then use the scraper.
Use some warm soap and water to clean the pan. You can also use a stainless steel chainmail cleaner to remove food.
Thoroughly dry the pan with a towel, either paper or cloth. Some seasoning might come off, so be careful which towel you use.
Apply a layer of your favorite cooking oil to the pan. Particular foods or equipment may remove some of the seasoning during use. Applying this layer of oil will replace lost seasoning and ensure you pan remains non-stick.
Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron
Quality over Quantity
When it comes to cast iron, you don’t need a 13 piece set as you think of with other types of pots and pans. Choosing high-quality cast iron, like Lodge, and focusing on what types of pans you use most often will help in determining what pans you need.
While everyone is different, most people find they could get by with a sturdy and sizable skillet and saucepan, as well as a dutch oven. Choosing an appropriate size for your household and selecting three or four pieces of cast iron will likely cover the vast majority of your cooking needs. Plus, it takes up way less space than the more extensive set of regular pots and pans.
Fats, Lots of Fats
The key to successfully using cast iron is to keep it seasoned. To do this, you will want to use an ample amount of healthy fats with a HIGH SMOKING POINT. In case you didn’t hear that, look for oils like avocado oil or blends that specifically mention their high smoking or heating temperature. You’ll thank us later unless you like hearing your smoke alarm going off.
Get the Special Handle Covers
While it might seem excessive or unnecessary, do yourself (and your hands) a favor and get the specialized covers for the handles on your pan. Cast iron gets hot, even the handles. If you aren’t paying attention and grab your pan by the handles without protection, you will feel a deep burn like none you have felt before.
A Little Extra Fat
When you have finished cooking and cleaning your pan, always rub a thin coat of oil on your pan. Again, this oil layer is what makes the pan non-stick. The oil will also protect the cast iron.
Why Cast Iron?
If you need a little more encouragement on why you would want to invest in cast iron, here are a few of the best reasons.
Even heating. Cast iron is a heavy metal, meaning it conducts heat evenly. For you, this means less monitoring when browning and cooking at home.
Versatile. Because cast iron heats evenly and is a heavy metal, it is ideal for many types of cooking, including sauteing and baking. You can saute on the stovetop and immediately move the pan to the oven for baking.
Naturally Nonstick. Forget Teflon or any other type of non-stick surface. A properly seasoned and used cast iron pan is non-stick on its own.
Easy to Clean. As we discussed earlier, cleaning cast iron is a relatively straightforward process.
Durable. If you properly care for your cast iron, you will be handing them down to your kids after decades of use from you.
Come to Sweetbriar Rose
There you have it. Cast iron is not only versatile and easy to use; it is convenient. You will find yourself loving all the “one-pot” recipes with cast iron. Cast iron is an investment, but one you likely won’t regret making.
Stop by Sweetbriar Rose Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and see what our chef is making. Of course, we always offer beer, wine, coffee, and tasty treats. We hope to see you soon.