Cast iron is one of the best surfaces to cook on, but taking care of it is a whole ‘another story. It’s not as simple as just washing it in soapy water like all of your other pans, and everyone has different ideas about how it should be done. It seems intimidating at first, but once you learn the basics, you’ll be making the best steaks, homemade pizza, and fried chicken of your life.
Nowadays, more and more health experts are emphasizing using cast iron pans for cooking. After you become aware of the benefits, you’ll definitely want your own set.
Both economical and healthy, cast iron pans can be found in thrift stores, antique markets and neighborhood garage sales for cheap. If you prefer, you can also buy them new from many stores.
Here are the top 10 essential facts about cast iron pans that you must know.
- Provides Iron
The most important fact about cast iron cookware is that it supplies you with iron every time you cook.
Iron is important for your body in many ways. Its deficiency is linked to anemia, muscle weakness, sleep problems, menstrual pain and many other issues.
Cooking your food in cast iron cookware helps ensure that your body gets enough iron.
However, be careful when cooking highly acidic foods, such as dishes that include tomatoes or lemon juice in your cast iron cookware as it may result in metallic-tasting food. Wait until your cast iron pan is well-seasoned before cooking such foods.
- Seasoning is Important
Cast iron is a material that can rust easily. To prevent rusting and increase the lifespan of cast iron pans, seasoning is important.
In this case, seasoning means applying a layer of animal fat or vegetable oil to the pan and baking it into the cast iron. This provides a stick-resistant coating to ensure healthy and stick-free cooking.
- Scrub your cast iron skillet thoroughly in hot soapy water and dry it completely.
- Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil on the skillet. Preferably, use flaxseed oil.
- Place it upside down in your oven at 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake it for 1 hour, then allow it to cool in the oven.
- You may have to recoat your cast iron and heat a few more times, until the surface it develops a dark, semi-matte surface.
- When the finish starts to look dull, season your pan again.
New cast iron pans often come pre-seasoned nowadays, and there is no need to do the seasoning before cooking in them.
- Clean It While Warm
Just like other cookware, cast iron pans need to be cleaned on a regular basis.
However, do not be tempted to let the pan sit a few hours after cooking before you wash it. Once the pan cools down, the food particles also dry onto the pan. Such food particles are much harder to remove.
You must try to clean your cast iron cookware while it is still warm. Just a quick wipe with a cloth or paper towel is all that you need to clean the pan.
If stubborn foods get stuck to your pan, put some water in it and bring it to a boil. All the food particles will loosen up. You can even use a stiff brush to clean the pan, but make sure the bristles aren’t made of any kind of metal.
At the same time, avoid soaking the pan in water for a long time and dry it thoroughly on a heated stovetop before storing to prevent rusting.
Never put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher.
- Scrub with Salt
Though it may sound strange, salt is considered the best tool to get rid of grease on your cast iron pans and skillets.
For best results, use coarse kosher salt.
- While the pan is still warm, sprinkle some salt on it and add some water.
- Use a soft sponge to gently scrub the surface to get rid of any stuck-on food or grease.
- Rinse with warm water, then dry it on a heated stove.
You can even apply a very thin layer of oil with a cloth or paper towel prior to storing. This will help prevent rusting, the enemy number one for any cast iron cookware.
- Can be Used on High Heat
Another interesting fact about this type of cookware is its ability to withstand high temperatures. Also, the heat gets more evenly distributed across the surface as compared to many types of nonstick cookware. It can be used with ease for searing, baking, frying, roasting, sautéing or even making flat breads.
This feature of cast iron cookware makes it a multitasking element for a busy kitchen. It can be used over any heat source –from the stove top to the oven to your charcoal grill–without causing any damage to the surface of the cookware.
In fact, in disaster management programs, cast iron is emphasized as the survival cookware of choice.