Friday, December 24, 2010

I Heart Cast Iron Pans

You want to make an amazing quesadilla? Invest in a fifteen-dollar cast iron pan (or eight-dollars if you get it from the flea market) that will last forever (and ever!) So for all those intrigued here are some great Factoids (Factoids!) to get you through the process:

The Why: (Why Cast Iron)
  • Cast iron pans are ideal heat conductors, cast iron cookware heats evenly (no Hot Spots!) and consistently.
  • Cast iron pans can be used on top of the stove or to bake in the oven (or one to the other and back again). This is one of the reasons that the pioneers (Hello Oregon Trail!) swore by these pans. Just be careful to use a towel or potholder because they can get hot!
  • It’s an old fashioned way to cook fat free! If your cast iron pan is well seasoned it will be stick resistant and need no additional oil to cook (like Teflon but without all those nasty nasty chemicals).
The Who's: (The Cooking and Seasoning)
  • Curing (or seasoning) a cast iron pan means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort which then gets cooked in (this is the reason for the non-stick surface). Seasoned pans have multiple thin coats of oil on them.
  • If your cast iron pan sticks than your pan is NOT seasoned right. It needs to be re-seasoned.
  • Always preheat your iron pan before frying in them.
  • Remember, every time you cook in your cast iron pan you are actually seasoning it by filling in the pores and valleys of that pan’s surface. The more you cook, the smoother the surface becomes!
  • To Season (and Re-Season) apply a light coating of oil (you can use vegetable oils, shortening or, uggh, lard) to the pan while it is still warm. Rub off the oil with a cotton cloth (if you don’t rid the pan of excess surface oil than the extra oil will become rancid within a couple of days, gross).
The How: (The Cleaning)
  • Wash you pans daily with warm water and steel wool (NO SOAP). Never ever wash it in the dishwasher (not a problem of mine since I’m sans dishwasher).
  • Towel dry immediately (Do not let your cast iron air dry, as this can promote rust!).
  • Store in a cool dry place (the oven is a great place, just remember to remove it before turning it).
  • If some well meaning but clueless relative who’s visiting (sigh) washed your pan with soap and it developed rust spots just scour with steel wool or sandpaper and re-season.

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