Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Season and Care For Your Cast Iron Cookware

The wonderful world of Cast Iron Cookware!

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to own a lot of cast iron cookware. Some I have bought new, others I have picked up and are over 100 years old!

I love cast iron cookware simply because of the way it cooks and flavors things. The more you use such cookware, the better the foods taste that you prepare in them.

Cast iron will last many generations if taken care of properly. The main thing to remember is that this type of cookware has to be "seasoned" to hold up for years of use as well as being a pleasure to cook with. Properly seasoned, it is as stick free as Teflon cookware!

If you own new cast iron cookware you will first need to season it. Most new cookware comes with the instructions on how to season properly. However, I use my own method.

  • You want to preheat the oven to about 300 degrees to start with.
  • While the oven is preheating, take some lard or bacon grease and wipe the pan down, inside, outside and the handle. Do not use vegetable oil as it will only create a mess, a sticky mess at that!
  • Now, you have the oven preheated and a greased up piece of cast iron cookware... Pop it into the oven for about 15 minutes. Then take it out and pour off any grease that may be sitting in it. Place the cookware back into the oven and let it "cook" for about two hours at the same temperature.

Normally, I do this three to four times as it helps to do it more than once. I can tell the difference in how well it cooks after the three to four bakes when compared to the few times I tried the one bake method.

You can help maintain the "seasoning" of your cast iron cookware by cooking greasy and fatty foods in it. This actually strengthens the seasoning, especially over the years.

There will be times your cookware may develop a place where the seasoning has worn off and even rust will develop. To re-season the cookware, simply remove any food from the pan using hot water and a good scouring pad. I usually will heat the pan up just a tad, not too hot, as you will want to be able to handle it, as this will open the pores in the iron and makes it much simpler to clean. Then, dry the cookware out with a paper towel and follow the steps above to season the cookware again.

By doing this "seasoning" you will create cookware that is simply non-stick by nature. With that said, you want to avoid scratching the cookware as if it were the coated non-stick type of cookware.

As for the actually caring of the cast iron cookware, it is much different from any other kind of cookware out there. You want to clean your cookware while it is still hot, rinsing in hot water and scraping if needed. Never use detergent, just hot water and a cloth or sponge, not a scouring pad, as that will break down the seasoning. The seasoned cookware cleans up very easily.

Never store food in cast iron cookware. If you make a pot of beans, like I do, with several days worth of beans cooked up in the Dutch Oven, take the beans out and store in another container and clean up your cast iron cookware. If you store food in the cookware it will soak up a metal taste from the iron.

Never store your cast iron cookware with the lids on as you do not want any moisture to remain in the cookware. Moisture equals rust and that is something you certainly do not want! Of course if this happens, you have the instructions on how to deal with that above. Simple instructions actually. We store our cast iron cookware in the oven and in the storage drawer under the over or broiler if you have one. Of course you have to remember it is in there when you warm up the oven to cook something! We take it out and place it on top of the stove, where it will continue to stay dry. Should you forget, which I have a time or two, the cast iron cookware will not be damaged from being in the oven. Just use extreme caution when removing it.

As you use cast iron cookware, it will turn darker and darker... New, it is somewhat gray in color, but as you season it, and use it, it will eventually turn black and this is a very normal process.

Enjoy your cast iron cookware!

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