Archive for the ‘cast-iron cookware’ Category

Don’t Cast Off Grandma’s Black Iron Skillet

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

And here yet another piece from one of our readers. If you’d like to share your thoughts on cookware too, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

I have very fond memories of cooking with my Grandmother. Grandma’s house was often filled with the good smells of chicken frying on her stove. Her black cast iron skillet was used frequently and really was an integral part of her kitchen.  However today we are trying to eat a healthier diet. We rarely eat fried food.  So, when Mum offered me grandma’s black iron skillet, I took it for sentimental reasons, not because I thought I’d use it. Boy was I wrong!

This black beauty is a reliable performer and has some unique features not found in modern cookware. Grandma’s fryer is big and it is great for frying.  This summer we enjoyed a couple of fish fry’s with friends.  I don’t like the smell of fish cooking inside, so we used the outdoor gas grill to fry the fish. The cast iron skillet worked like a charm.  The black iron skillet is the only pan that can stand that kind of total heat treatment. We even closed the grill lid to get maximum heat utilization.   Okay, I admit fried fish isn’t that much healthier then fried chicken. However, our summer fish frys were a fun. This was an inexpensive gathering with friends we would have missed without grandma’s iron skillet.

Grandma’s skillet also makes great oven baked corn bread. Corn bread made in a cast iron skillet seems to have better flavor development and browns very nicely.

Finally the cast iron skillet has become our preferred pan for pancakes. Every Sunday morning we enjoy homemade pancakes.  This skillet provides even heat distribution and our pancakes cook perfectly.  Of course Grandma’s iron skillet is well seasoned so just a little added oil is required.

A black iron skillet does require care. We clean the skillet immediately and we never soak this skillet.   After washing, we dry the skillet on the stove over low heat.   While still warm, I season my iron skillet by rubbing a little oil on the surface when required.

I think of my grandmother when I use the skillet.  I hope with a little care and a lot of love this skillet will provide many years of service to my family for another generation or two.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful article. For more articles on cast iron cookware click here (including how to handle cast iron cookware, different kinds of cast iron cookware and more).

Back to the Future with Cast Iron Cookware

Monday, October 13th, 2008

As a little girl I remember my grandmother cooking with her heavy cast iron cookware. Although they were cumbersome, she had used those same skillets for many years, and she certainly knew how to use them to cook up a fantastic meal.

In those days before processed foods and slow cookers, the majority of the food we ate was fried, and cast iron skillets were excellent for frying. The other major method of cooking was roasting, and cast iron roasters turned out wonderful pot roasts and chickens.

You just couldn’t beat cast iron for dispersing the heat evenly. Sometime in the late 1950s, however, my grandmother did away with the cast iron cookware in favor of more modern, aluminum pots, pans, and roasters. Even though Teflon hadn’t been introduced yet, and everything stuck to the aluminum cookware, she wanted to keep up with the times.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I started seeing cast iron pans in mail order catalogs again in the 21st century. The Lodge Cast Iron company, the premium maker of cast iron cookware, is still very much alive and well in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. In fact, they’ve been in business for over one hundred years. They still offer a line of cast iron cookware that looks just like the old pans my grandmother used to use, but with a modern twist. The old time pans needed to be broken in, so to speak. They had to be used over and over and over again before they developed a desired patina known as seasoning.

For 21st century users, however, the pans now come pre-seasoned as Lodge has now developed a coating which seasons the pans and makes them perfect to use new from the box. If you ever get down to southeastern Tennessee, you’ll want to be sure to visit the Lodge plant. They have an outlet store where you can purchase high-quality cookware for a fraction of its mail order price along with all the accessories you’ll need to use it. You still can’t beat cast iron for even heat, and it makes excellent cookware for campers and people who like to barbecue.In spite of innovations Lodge has introduced over the years, it’s a part of our American heritage that’s changed very little except to get better and better.

How To Handle Cast Iron Cookware

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Cast iron is a great material for cookware. If you handle it properly it will last you a lifetime (and longer!). The only exception when it’s time to get rid of your cast iron cookware is when it has cracks, but it’s difficult for cast iron to crack, so I think that won’t happen to you (I’ll tell you later what pretty much the one thing is that can make your cast iron cookware crack and how to avoid it).

First step: Seasoning! Now this is what many people dread. The seasoning (also known as curing). Yes, it is a bit of work, but then you’ll have a great piece of cookware for life. I think it’s less work to take good care of your cookware than having to buy a new piece of cookware every couple of years.
Basically what you do is you put oil, grease or shortening in your pan, griddle or dutch oven and spread it all over the inner surface. Then you bake it so that the oil can get inside the tiny pores that are in the cast iron material. Another way to season your cast iron cookware is to put it on the stove, heat it up and then put oil in it while it’s still hot and on the heating stove. Spread the oil all over the surface and let it cool down and lightly wipe of excess oil with a paper towel.

Once it’s properly seasoned you should not boil water in it – because the boiling water might wash off some of the oil particles that are in the surface and thus damage the seasoning.

If the seasoning ever gets damaged, what you have to do is to clean the whole thing thoroughly, wipe it dry and then re-season it. If you don’t do that the cast iron cookware might begin to rust, and you surely don’t want that to happen.

Another big nono is to pour cold water in a hot skilled – the temperature difference might be too much for the iron and might cause it to crack.

Preheat before you cook. The best way to tell if your cast iron cookware is properly preheated is to drop some water inside – if it sizzles and then vaporizes it’s perfect. Otherwise it’s either not hot enough (and the water won’t sizzle and vaporize but simply bubble) or it’s too hot – in which case the water would vaporize right away.

Oh, yes, and one more thing: use potholders! Otherwise you might burn your hands badly.

How To Clean Cast Iron Cookware
It’s best to clean it right away with warm water and soap, just scrape away a bit on it and then wipe it dry and put it on a heated burner so that it’s really dry. You should never soak it in water or leave soapy water in it as this might wear down the seasoning.

How To Store Cast Iron Cookware
It’s always best to make sure it is stored in a dry place. I’d also suggest you take the lid of, cause if air has a high humidity moisture can build up – and moisture means rust. If you want to be totally sure or know you are not going to use your cast iron cookware for a long time just put some paper towels inside or even better some of these salt-packages that absorb moisture.

What To Do When Cast Iron Cookware Rusts?
Usually you don’t need to throw it away – you just have to fix it, which means to scour the rusty areas with steel wool until all traces of rust are gone. Then Wash it throughly, let it dry and reseason it.

If you use too much oil to season your cast iron cookware then it might gum up when heated. What you do then is to scrape of some of the seasoning and then reseason it more carefully.

If your food gets a metallic taste, or turns dark, it either means that your pan has not been well seasoned, or you are leaving food in it well after it is cooked. So, do not store food (particularly acidic food) in cast iron cookware, as the acid in the food will break down the seasoning.