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Cast From the Past

Cast-Iron Cookware and How to Use it

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Cast From the Past

Cast Iron Skillets

Photo: © Mifflin
How many folks can remember bacon sizzling in a cast iron frying pan on a wood cookstove? I can, and I have three or four of those cast iron skillets, all still in very good shape.

The even distribution of heat is the biggest benefit to using cast-iron cookware, but some foods just taste better done in a traditional cast-iron medium. Don't have one, or yours isn't in very good shape? Not to worry, you can revive it and have it sizzling on your stove in no time; or maybe it's time to start looking for one to take home.

Older, or Second-hand Cast-Iron
Yard sales, thrift stores, and flea markets are great places to pick up a cast-iron cookpot or frying pan, for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Check any pot for cracks, minimal rust, and no smell.

The first order of business is to get them clean; free of any rust spots and ready for curing, or seasoning. Scour the rust spots off with steel wool, wash with mild soap and very hot water, and dry immediately while still warm. The drying part is very important for the prevention of rust, if you are not going to season your pan right away. Do not worry about the color of your pan, it could be anywhere from brown to shiny black, depending on age and how much use it has had.

New Cast-Iron
If you purchased your cast iron cookware new (and yes, they are still made and sold), make sure you scour it clean first, to remove the protective coating that the manufacturer uses to preserve it in storage.

With the cleaning done, your cast iron cookware is ready for curing. Curing or seasoning is the process that renders your pan nonstick. The natural grease that you use in the curing process, fills the pores of the cast iron and makes it smooth and nonstick.

Here are a few things you should not do with your cast iron cookware:
  • Never store food in cast iron
  • Never wash cast iron in a dishwasher
  • Never store cast iron utensils wet
  • Never go from very hot to very cold, and vice versa; cracking may occur
  • Never store with excess grease in pan, it will turn rancid
  • Never store with lids on, cushion lid with paper towel to allow air flow
  • Never boil water in your cast iron cookware - it will 'wash' off your seasoning, and it will require a re-seasoning
If you find food sticking to your pan, it is a simple matter to clean the pan well, and set it up for a re-seasoning, just follow the same steps. Don't forget that dutch ovens and griddles need the same attention as a cast iron skillet.

Step back in time, and enjoy a different world of cooking, without the worry of scratching the nonstick, manufactured, plastic-like coating on modern aluminum fry pans.

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