Cast iron cookware is a versatile and durable kitchen essential that can be used for a variety of cooking tasks. It is made from a single piece of cast iron, which makes it very strong and heat-resistant. Cast iron can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, on the grill, or even over an open flame. It is also naturally non-stick, so it requires little to no oil or butter when cooking. This makes it a healthier option than traditional non-stick cookware, which can release harmful chemicals into food when heated.
Here are some of the many ways you can use cast iron cookware:
- Sear meat: Cast iron is the perfect material for searing meat. The high heat of the pan helps to create a crispy crust on the outside of the meat, while locking in the juices on the inside.
- Sauté vegetables: Cast iron is also great for sautéing vegetables. The even heat distribution of the pan ensures that the vegetables cook evenly and don't stick to the bottom.
- Braise meats: Cast iron is also an excellent choice for braising meats. The low and slow heat of the oven helps to tenderize the meat and create a flavorful, juicy dish.
- Bake bread: Cast iron can also be used to bake bread. The high heat of the oven helps to create a crispy crust on the outside of the bread, while the even heat distribution ensures that the bread cooks evenly on the inside.
- Make Dutch babies: Dutch babies are a type of pancake that is made in a cast iron skillet. The high heat of the skillet helps to create a crispy crust on the outside of the pancake, while the even heat distribution ensures that the pancake cooks evenly on the inside.
Here are some additional benefits of using cast iron cookware:
- Cast iron is a good source of iron. When food is cooked in cast iron, some of the iron from the pan leaches into the food. This can be a good thing, especially for people who are iron deficient.
- Cast iron is non-reactive. This means that it will not react with acidic foods, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits. This makes it a safe choice for cooking these types of foods.
- Cast iron is easy-to-clean. It’s true that cast iron can rust and become unusable if neglected. However, once cast iron is seasoned properly, it is very easy to clean. Simply wash it with warm, soapy water and dry it thoroughly.
If you are looking for a long-lasting and high-quality cookware set, cast iron is a great option. So how does one care for these sturdy pieces?
Here are some tips on how to clean cast iron cookware:
- Get right to it: Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it is still hot or warm. Don't soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust.
- Add hot water: Wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or stiff brush. (Use tongs or wear gloves if the water is extra hot!) Avoid using the dishwasher, harsh soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan's seasoning and open it up for rust.
- Scrub off stuck-on bits: To remove stuck-on food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and water. Then rinse or wipe with a paper towel. Stubborn food residue may also be loosened by boiling water in the pan.
- Dry the skillet: Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat.
- Oil it: Using a cloth or paper towel, apply a light coat of vegetable oil or melted shortening to the inside of the skillet. Some people also like to oil the outside of the skillet. Buff to remove any excess.
- Put it away: Store the skillet in a dry place.
Using soap, steel wool, or other abrasives is not the end of the world, but you may need to re-season the skillet. If the skillet is well-seasoned from years of use, a small amount of mild soap may be used without doing much damage — just be sure to rinse it well and oil it after drying.
Remove rust from cast iron by using steel wool or by rubbing it with half a raw potato and a sprinkle of baking soda (seriously, it works!). Again, it may be necessary to re-season the pan after cleaning.
So how does one season?
Seasoning is the process of creating a layer of oil on the surface of the cast iron cookware. This layer of oil protects the pan from rust and makes it easier to cook with.
In this video, Smithey Ironware Co. shows us how to season from start-to-end with one of their beautiful skillets. Check out our selection of Smithey’s ovens, pans, skillets, and accessories. We also have a larger collection of cast iron from Ballarini, Frieling USA, Le Creuset, Lodge Manufacturing Co, and Staub.
To season your cast iron cookware, you will need to:
- Scrub well in hot soapy water.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Spread a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil over the skillet.
- Place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 375°. (Place foil on a lower rack to catch drips.)
- Bake 1 hour; let cool in the oven.
You should season your cast iron cookware every time you use it. This will help to build up a layer of seasoning and make the pan more durable. With proper care, your cast iron cookware will last for many years. So take the time to learn how to clean and season it properly, and you will be rewarded with a pan that is both beautiful and functional.