Get the Most From Your Cast Iron Pan

You’ve got a cast iron pan, right? If not, you’ll want to change that immediately. When it comes to essentials for your kitchen, the cast iron pan is legendary. And for good reason. There’s a unique, simple pleasure in salting a piece of red meat and throwing it on a piping hot slab of iron. The result is impressive and tasty and you didn’t really have to do anything at all.

You barely even have to clean it when you’re done. It’s that good. And few other cooking vessels are nonstick enough to cook eggs, hot enough to sea anything and completely functional for roasting and simmering. Just wait until you bake up a batch of cinnamon rolls in it.

Whether you’ve scored an heirloom quality pan from a previous generation, invested in one of the new breeds of cast iron or simply bought yourself the classic Lodge skillet, you’ll want to make sure you take care of it. The better you treat your pan, the better your food will turnout. Herewith, what you need to know to get the most from your cast iron.

Don’t Skimp On the Seasoning

Seasoning is an old school process that produces a corrosion-resistant and stick-resistant coating on your cookware. It not only helps protect your iron but also adds great flavor to everything you cook. But to get the benefit of seasoning, you’ve got to do it right.

Even if you’ve bought a “pre-seasoned” pan, you’ll benefit from creating your own seasoning. The easiest way is to simply use your pan by frying fattier foods like bacon, but this takes some time. If you want to do it quicker, you’ll want to carbonize the fat—which only happens after it exceeds its smoke point. Here’s a foolproof seasoning method, endorsed by Food52.

1

Preheat an oven to 400° (with a piece of foil or sheet pan on the bottom rack to catch any drips).

2

Make sure your pan is clean and dry. Then rub your cast iron all over with softened shortening or a neutral oil (like grapeseed).

3

Place pan upside down in the oven, give it 45 minutes and then turn the oven off.

4

Let the cookware cool entirely in the oven and once it’s cool, it’s seasoned and ready.

Choose your oil carefully

Any chef or cooking expert we asked suggested using grapeseed oil for cast iron. The high smoke point and low saturated fat content makes it easy to cook with and the neutral odor and taste ensure it leaves behind a smooth, slick and durable seasoning.


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Don’t boil water

A constant boil will weaken the seasoning’s nonstick finish and cause the built-up seasoning to release. The degraded seasoning will likely be pitted and no longer smooth. This will also dot your food with black bits that probably don’t look or taste all that good. If this does happen, you’ll need to re-season your pan.

Have this tool on hand

When you need to clean dried food or hardened bits off the bottom of your pan, a chain mail scrubber puts any rags, sponges or even salt to shame. It scrapes away the gunk without tearing up your hard-won seasoning. It’s also dishwasher-safe.

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