Benefits of a Cast Iron Pan
For years, I cooked with regular old conventional cookware, that always needed a good soaking, followed with a bunch of scrubbing after cooking most dishes, because the food would stick to the bottom and not want to come off easily. Not to mention, the possibility of trace chemicals like perfluorocarbons (found in most non-stick pans) being unknowingly released into my food as I was cooking.
It was my amazing husband who first introduced me to cooking with a cast iron skillet, and I must be honest in saying, that I rarely cook with anything else now.
Cast Iron May Help Maintain Healthy Iron Levels
You may have heard before, that cooking with cast iron may help maintain healthy iron levels, and I can attest, that it has worked for me and my girls in our household. Women and children naturally are more prone to having lower than normal iron levels. I was never considered anemic, but lower than normal iron coupled with my low blood pressure, left me feeling fatigued all the time and suffering from frequent dizzy spells.
We began to notice my iron levels ranging within normal ranges once we started doing most of our sautéing, stir frying, and sometimes baking in a cast iron pan.
There was once a time when we took a break from using the cast iron (mostly because we were using other methods of cooking), and our pediatrician had told us that our daughters iron levels were below normal ranges, and needed to try to bring her levels back up. We then went back to cooking most of our food in cast iron, and have not had an issue with iron levels since.
Can Be Used With Any Cooking Method
One of my favorite features of a cast iron pan, is the fact that you can use it on the stove, in the oven, on the grill, and even over an open fire.
Open fire cooking is by far the most fun method, and is how our ancestors use to cook their food while traveling west on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s.
Texas, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Oklahoma states are still working to keep this monumental way of cooking alive, by holding annual Chuck-Wagon Cowboy cook-offs, where everything is made in cast iron pans, kettles, and dutch ovens, cooked over an open fire, or with hot coals.
Cleaning is a Breeze (if well seasoned)
A good, heavy, well seasoned cast iron pan is one of the easiest cooking vessels to clean. The seasoning keeps the food from sticking, and rarely will you have to put some elbow grease into your scrubbing.
Will Last Your Whole Lifetime
As long as you properly care for and maintain your cast iron pan, then you can rest assured, that it will become an item that you pass down to your children, and then grandchildren, and so on (as long as they are trained to properly care for it).
How to Cook With a Cast Iron Skillet
Cooking methods are still the same for anything you would cook in a sauté pan. Long smooth flat skillets are great for cooking pancakes, crepes, bacon, and tortillas, because you are able to cook much more in one batch, saving you loads of time in the kitchen (especially if cooking for large families).
Cast iron pans are great for baking cornbread in the oven, and is also my vessel of choice for roasting vegetables.
Cast iron dutch ovens are great for making stirs, chili, soups, sauces, dumplings, or anything that needs to slow cook for hours, whether it be on the stove, in the oven, or over a hot fire.
Cast Iron Pan Care
Maintaining proper care for a cast iron pan is relatively easy. One of the most important rules of cleaning a cast iron pan that you never want to break, is to never use soap to clean your vessel. Dish soap breaks down and strips the seasoning away from the pan, making all of your hard work and maintenance go out the window, as you now have to start over from scratch with the seasoning process again.
All you need for washing your cast iron vessel, is water, and a good dish sponge. Just simply wipe out the food particles while rinsing under water, and try to always towel dry when finished cleaning (to avoid the possibility of developing rust). There are times when you may cook something that is not wanting to clean as easily as normal. In this case, all you need to do is let it soak for a little while, before trying to clean it with your sponge. Try to not let it sit overnight, for the excessive exposer to water could trigger rust to form.
After washing, continue on to the seasoning process below.
Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet
After washing and towel drying your cast iron pan, skillet, or dutch oven, it is now time to season it in order to preserve the vessels non-stick qualities and avoid ever getting rust.
- First, place your pan on the stove and turn the burner on to medium-high. Allow the pan to get really hot, but not to the point of smoking.
- If you happen to step away and forget about warming your pan (which has happened to me a number of times), and do experience smoking, then the pan is too hot to season, and do not remove it from the burner (because you could risk warping the pan), but instead, turn your burner off and let it cool down before trying again.
- When your pan becomes hot (not burning hot), then remove the pan from the burner and use a cloth to apply a thin coated layer of fat in order to season the pan. I myself have had amazing results by using Crisco, but some people will use lard, or other animal fats as well. As long as it is seasoning without leaving a sticky residue, then please feel free to use whatever fat you feel most comfortable with.
- Let the pan cool completely after seasoning, wipe any excess fat from the pan, and then store away until you are ready to use it again.
How to Clean a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet
Rust can develop on any cast iron pan. Lack of seasoning, lack of usage, and exposure to high humidity, can greatly increase the odds of your prized cast iron getting a bit discolored and rusty, but rest assured, there is a way to completely restore your pan, and make it good as new again.
I’ve even seen some pans that were completely covered in a thick layer of rust (beyond what most would consider reparable), be fully restored and non-recognizable. You may be looking at your pan right now, feeling skeptical of the possibility that it could be fully restored, but before you think it’s just a worthless piece that needs to be chucked in the trash, I highly encourage you to try this method first, and see if you can bring your pan back to life.
It’s extremely simple and easy, are you ready to know how?
The oven in your kitchen, should have a clean mode method option (if you happen to have a rare oven that does not, then ask a friend or family member if you can barrow their oven for a few hours). Simply put your pan (or pans) in the center of the oven, and turn on the clean mode option.
Your oven will now lock (so that you are unable to open it during the cleaning process), until it has fully completed the cleaning cycle. How long it runs for, depends entirely on your oven, and could take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. The bonus here, is that not only will the oven burn the rust off of your pan, but you will also have a clean oven once the cycle is complete.
After the cleaning is complete, you then want to begin the seasoning process all over again. The more seasoned the pan is, the less you have to worry about food sticking to it, for in most cases, it will wipe right out with a couple paper towels.
Cook to Your Hearts Desire
Cast iron pans are pretty amazing for a number of reasons, and so very thankful my husband introduced me to them years ago, for they have completely transformed my cooking, as well as supporting our healthy living.
Now you have all of the knowledge you need, to feel confident in caring for and maintaining your cast iron pan, so that it will last you for generations, and possibly be a conversation piece in remembrance of you, for your loved ones later on in life.
Would love it if you would share your thoughts and experience of using cast iron vessels, as well as any killer favorite recipes of yours. As always, if you have any questions, then please ask them in the comments.