Recipe: Cast Iron Pots and Pans

|February 21, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

How about a nice discussion on cast iron pots and pans today?

I think it’s just about the only cookware that is not made in China, Japan, or anywhere else that is taking jobs away from Americans. Yes, there are cast iron pans out there that are made in China – and you can immediately spot them. They are way too light and no matter what you do – you cannot season them well at all.

Whatever the Chinese do to the “cast iron” (what they call it is NOT cast iron to me) is beyond me – you cannot season it properly and it does a lousy job of cooking your foods – DON’T BUY IT.

Many of us have memories of great-grandma’s cast iron cooking vessels that were used on those old wood burning stoves and also in those old ovens.

They were also great for outdoor cooking.

 

In addition to a good cast iron skillet, many had a Dutch oven as well. Meals were cooked, meats were roasted, stews were made, breads and biscuits were baked, cornbreads were made, and cakes were baked in cast iron – just to mention a few.

 

I’ve got skillets, a griddle, a Dutch oven, corn stick pans, etc. all made from cast iron. Some handed down, some purchased. Cast iron pans will out-live you, your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and all their descendents.

 

It’s been around since the 1700’s – every family had cast iron cooking vessels. Cast iron is the heaviest of cookware, but that is why it cooks so well. You can keep all those cheap, feather-light pots and pans that don’t do your cooking any justice at all. It heats quickly and evenly. No “hot” spots with these pans.

They also hold their temperature for quite some time. You will find that you do not have burn spots like you would with other pans, and you will not have “undone” spots in your baked goodies.

Season your pans properly and you will never need to use those poisonous Teflon and T-Fal pans. Cast iron is the perfect no-stick cookware! Just think – no more Teflon and T-Fal chips from scratched pans being ingested by your family and doing damage to your health that you cannot reverse.

The minute amounts of iron that may leach into the foods you cook is good for you – it will prevent iron deficiency.

Cast iron, after a time, will rust on you. DON’T THROW IT OUT! Goodness no! Iron easily rusts. As long as the rust has not eaten into the iron leaving deep pits or holes, the pot/pan can be restored. A good washing with hot, soapy water, a good nylon scrubby, and a bit of elbow grease and your pan can be smooth and as good as new.

For tougher rust removal, use a steel wool pad. Some have resorted to using 80 grit sand paper.

Now that you’ve worked so hard to get it back to looking like a black cast iron pan, rinse several times using hot, boiling water; dry well with a good kitchen towel. Make sure you dry it well – you don’t want the rust to come back.

Some cast iron pans get that black “icky,” nasty build-up of grease-goop that sticks to the outside of frying pans that are used when indoor cooking on the stove. (For the life of me I don’t understand WHY people do not wash the outside of their frying pans – whether they are cast iron or not – and allow that disgusting crud to stay there! I scrub the outsides of my pans just as much as I scrub the insides of my pans. Got build-up on the outside of your pans? Grab a can of oven cleaner, invert your pans on sheets of newspaper and spray away. Wash in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry. You may have to do it more than once – but the bottoms of your pans will not only look better, but your foods will cook better in them!)

Since cast iron can be used over an open flame, such as campfire cooking, you can easily heat the bottom of the pan over the flame and what has built up on it will burn right off. But doing so is an “art.” Wait until the fire has burned down (this will also prevent your pot/pan from cracking – which it will do in too high heat!)

Some have cleaned buildup on their cast iron by placing the cookware in a large, heavy trash can liner and pouring in a cup of ammonia. Tie the bag and place OUTSIDE (the fumes will kill you!) overnight. Beware – when opening the bag – avoid those fumes. But the ammonia will loosen up and the rust and crud will be gooey and easy to scrub out. If necessary, repeat the process. (By the way – the easiest way to clean messy oven racks is the same way! The fumes from the ammonia will knock burned on foods right off the oven racks – same procedure as above.)

I clean my cast iron when I am done cooking in it. I use hot, soapy water – although many say they don’t do it. Heck – we’ve cleaned these pans after every used for generations – and if it was good enough for my ancestors then it’s good enough for me.

Using salt – that’s right – good old-fashioned table salt – helps to loosen food particles as well. Rinse well and thoroughly dry; season; cool; and put away – it’s that simple.

Yes – I season after each and every use. I have to – and it is my choice – BECAUSE ANYTIME YOU USE A DETERGENT (DISH SOAP) TO CLEAN YOUR CAST IRON YOU ARE REMOVING THE SEASONING.

Some will place hot water in their pan, bring to a boil, and boil out whatever is cooked on.

NEVER PUT COLD WATER IN A HOT PAN.

Then wipe out with a paper towel when cool. You can scrape up the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon – just like deglazing a pan. Some use brillo – others don’t because they don’t want to cut into the seasoned surface.

Now – some have said they clean cast iron with Coca Cola. I’m not sure about it – and I have no desire to try it. When I was young (fifty years ago) Coca Cola (the formula was much different than today’s!) would remove rust from the old chrome bumpers on the cars. It may have done the job then – but, as with everything, companies change recipes/formulas and I don’t know if today’s recipe/formula would work. If you try it – drop me a line and share your experience with it.

Others use oven cleaner or grill cleaner and place in a plastic bag for a day or two – just like using ammonia. A brass brush will work for cleaning as well. You can pick one up at any automotive department (the tag will tell you that the brush is for cleaning whitewalls!) And, of course, there are those that NEVER wash their cast iron and just wipe it out with paper towels. Sorry – I can’t do that. That is something I just don’t believe in. And I do know some that have NEVER washed the pans because their moms and grams never did. I don’t even want to go off on that one!

Okay – now your cast iron cookware is CLEAN and DRY. Next step: SEASONING YOUR PAN.

By “seasoning” your cast iron cookware properly, you will have the best non-stick cookware you could ask for. You can also make the best over-easy eggs using your cast iron!

I season my cast iron by “greasing” (using shortening on a piece of waxed paper as if I were greasing my bake ware for baking) the inside of my cast iron and placing over a low heat. Great-gram, Gram, Mom, and even I have used lard as well. Heat until just before the “smoke-point”, cool, wipe out any excess (you don’t want your pan to be greasy), leaving a light coating. To use – heat first (but then again – I always heat my pots/pans when cooking).

Some may use a vegetable spray or non-stick cooking spray; some use bacon fat. Some place their pans in a preheated 200 – 225* Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or so.

If your pan is new – then you do need to scrub it well in hot, soapy water, rinse well and dry thoroughly. Coat well with vegetable shortening (or vegetable oil) and place in a preheated 325* Fahrenheit oven to bake for an hour. Remove from oven and rub it again with fat; return to oven for another oven. When done, remove from oven and wipe out excess using paper towels.

Always store your cast iron cookware in a cool, dry place. If your cast iron is new – the first several times you cook in it, cook fatty foods to help with the seasoning process.

Although cast iron cookware is the “perfect” cookware, there are some foods that should not be cooked in cast iron. Cast iron reacts to acidity and will give you a very nasty taste. Tomato dishes, and acidic fruits like pineapple should be cooked/baked in something other than cast iron. Making stew in your cast iron Dutch oven is fabulous – just use a gravy base instead of a tomato base.

Frying with cast iron skillets is an excellent choice. Meats, potatoes, eggs, omelets – everything turns out well. Heat your pan, add your fat, add your foods. Nothing will stick.

Cast iron Dutch ovens make the best roasts, stews, etc. As above, add your fat to a heated pan, allow the fat to heat and then add your meat, etc.

Use your Dutch oven as a slow-cooker, low and slow in the oven makes everything turn out fantastic! You can also use your Dutch oven for campfire cooking; place in a bed of hot coals and place hot coals on the lid for easy cooking. Bake biscuits, breads, cobblers or pies in you Dutch oven as well.

Cast iron also makes good waffles, corn sticks, and muffins. Preheat muffin and corn stick pans in a 250* Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes. Increase oven temp to 350* Fahrenheit for the baking process. Fill the pans and bake.

If you have a cast iron griddle – you have something that you can use on your stove top, in the oven, and over a campfire.

For years we have deep fried foods in cast iron. Nothing beats Southern fried chicken fried in cast iron. Be sure to heat your oil to the proper temperature and fry away! French fries, doughnuts, anything – turns out perfect.

Cast iron is strong and durable – but drop it and it can crack. Place hot cast iron cookware in cold water and it can warp or crack. A blacksmith can repair it if needed.


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