Saturday, February 22, 2014
Care of Cast Iron Cookware
Cast Iron Cookware
Just after purchase
When you first purchase a new cast iron pan remember new (not old pots) cast-iron pots and skillets have a protective coating on them, which must be removed. American companies use a special food-safe wax; imports are covered with a water-soluble shellac. In either case, scrub the item with a stainless steel scouring pads (steel wool), using soap and the hottest tap water you can stand. This is the only time you do this. Now you are ready to season the pan.
Line the bottom of your oven with tin foil to catch any drips.
Heat the oven to 250-300.
Coat the pan with lard, shortening or bacon grease. Don't use a liquid vegetable oil because it will leave a sticky surface and the pan will not be properly seasoned.
Put the pan in the oven upside down. In 15 minutes, remove the pan and pour out any excess grease. Place the pan back in the oven and bake for 2 hours.
Repeating this process 3 times is recommended as it will help create a stronger "seasoning" bond.
You can heat the oven 400-425 but the pot/pan will smoke. This is not unusual.
To keep it clean:
Never pour cold liquid in a hot cast iron pot/pan. It will crack on the spot. For repairs, see below. Don't cook acidic foods in cast iron. Never put in the dishwasher.
Clean the cookware while it is still hot by rinsing with hot water and scraping when necessary.
Never use a harsh detergent, as it can remove the seasoning. Do not use a scouring pad or soap (detergent) as they will break down the pan's seasoning. Use plastic scrub bun or brush. Towel dry thoroughly. Then spray lightly with vegetable oil, (Pam, for example), wipe with a paper towel, and store.
Don't keep food in a cast iron pot. Take food out as soon as it's cooked and serve in serving dishes or store in plastic ware.
Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off, especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust. Keep in a cool, dry place where air can circulate. Should rust appear, the pan should be re-seasoned.
Cast iron is porous and seasoning makes it hold the oil in it's microscopic pores. The oil makes the pot/pan slick. The more you use your cast iron pot/pan, the better. It's best to slowly heat up the cast iron pot/pan so it doesn't warp. Never pour cold liquid in a hot cast iron pot/pan because it will crack.
If too much oil or shortening is applied to a pan in the seasoning process, it will pool and gum up when the pan is heated. In this case, the goo can be scraped off and some more grease rubbed over the spot, or the pan can be re-scrubbed and re-seasoned. Heating the pan upside-down may help prevent gumming but protect your oven by using a foiled-lined baking sheet or aluminum foil to catch the grease. Seasoning at higher temperatures, approaching the smoking point, of the oil used will result in darker seasoned coatings in less time that aren't sticky or gummy.
Acidic items like tomato sauces will be darker from iron leaching out, but many people with iron deficiencies do this for extra iron in their diet. It is best not to use your cast iron for acidic foods.
Don't use your cast iron to boil water in, it melts the seasoning oil and the oil floats on top of the water and ruins the seasoned finish and causes the pan to rust. The pan would have to be re-seasoned.
You may want to use different frying pans for different jobs because the oil that seasons the pan can leave tastes. For instance you might not want to use the same pan to fry fish, as frying chicken so that the fish won't taste like chicken and the chicken like fried fish. You may also want to use your cast iron frying pans for frying things with oil. I wouldn't try to cook eggs without oil in a cast iron frying pan. You need some type of lubricating medium. Swish that oil all around the bottom and sides of the pan before starting your frying. This helps in the cleanup.
If you have a rusty cast iron pan, you can make a paste of vegetable oil and salt to bring it back to life. Wipe out all the dust and place on stove top and heat on medium low heat for 5 minutes. Add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom heavily. Add 2-4 Tbsp coarse salt. Using a pot holder to hold the pot, gloves and paper towel to scrub. Add more ingredients as necessary. When finished, wash with hot water and dishwashing soap. Thoroughly dry, coat with shortening, lard or bacon grease. Wipe off excess. Season if necessary. If it's heavily rusted you can have it sandblasted but don't concentrate the blaster on any one spot for too long as it can affect the pot.
If a cast iron pot is cracked, it can be fixed if you know what you are doing. You have to thoroughly clean the part then drill 1/8" holes at each end of the crack. Next preheat the entire part (500 to 1200 degrees F). Then weld while still hot with a nickel alloy filler metal. Right after the weld bead is finished it should be peened for about a minute to relive stress. After welding the part must be cooled down slowly over several hours to avoid cracks next to the new weld.
For more check out my blog post on the Pros And Cons of Cast Iron Cookware.
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