We’re doing something a little different this week! I had a recipe planned out and ready to go for you all, but after my pizza recipe I received many questions from you guys wondering different things about cast iron cooking. I am not an expert by any definition! I actually just started using it within the past six months or so, but now it’s almost all I use for cooking.
I’m no expert, but I do want to share what I know about cast iron with you guys! I have written you a thorough list of four things I have learned since purchasing cast iron pans. I hope this helps you all get started with cooking in cast iron and you find success in it!
Top things I’ve learned since purchasing cast iron pans:
1. Know what kind of cast iron pan you have. There are two kinds of cast iron pans, enameled and bare. Bare is most recognizable as the black metal pans, whereas enameled have a, usually, colorful coating.
This black Lodge pan is bare and the blue Le Creuset pan is enameled:
Knowing which pan you have will affect how you maintain it.
2. Take care of barecast iron and it will take care of you! There are a few things you need to do in order to make your cast iron last forever.
a. Season it – Before buying cast iron it sounded intimidating and I had no idea what that even meant! Basically, it prepares your pan to be used for cooking. Here’s what you do.
i. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
ii. Scrub the skillet with hot, soapy water.
iii. Use a towel to completely dry the pan, you could also set your pan on the stove at a medium-low heat to dry it out.
iv. Soak a small patch of an old dish cloth with oil. I use cheap canola, but you can use whatever you want. I also have one rag I always use for my cast iron and nothing else so multiple cloths aren’t stained with grease. Rub a thin layer of the oil over the inside of your skillet.
v. Place a sheet pan on an oven rack set on the lowest rung available.
vi. Place the cast iron skillet upside down on an oven rack set on a middle rung.
vii. Bake your skillet for an hour. Turn off the oven and let the skillet cool completely in the oven.
Seasoning the cast iron will give you a jumpstart to a nonstick surface. The layer of oil will be continuously added onto, but this is a great place to start!
b. Washing it Correctly – This is crucial! One question I received was how to prevent rust on the pan. It’s all a matter of correct washing habits. You must clean your pan this way every time you wash it. Here’s how you do it:
i. Using warm water, scrub your dirty cast iron skillet with a sponge. Do not use soap, a bristled brush or scrub pad, these will all wear away at the seasoning on your pan. Use ONLY a sponge or dish cloth.
ii. If it becomes difficult to clean using only warm water and a sponge try using very hot water for a short amount of time (the pan will get hot), soak the pan for a little bit, or if very desperate use a scrub pad in that small area on the pan where you need it.
iii. After rinsed, dry the pan completely using a clean towel. This will prevent rust. Make sure to get all surfaces on the pan.
iv. Using your dish cloth designated for oiling your pan, oil the pan in the same manner you did for seasoning it. Just coat the inside in a thin layer of oil.
This seems like a huge hassle. Believe me, I know! I had a cast iron skillet for about a year before I used it just because it seemed like such a pain to maintain. But I promise that if you use your cast iron regularly it won’t seem annoying. It’s just second nature to me to do all this now! It goes really quickly.
3. Enameled cast iron is maintained differently.
a. You will not season these pans.
b. To wash them you should use mainly soft sponges and soap to keep the shiny enameled surface. You can usually stick these in the dishwasher if you want to as well, but the finish on the pans will wear away as you do so.
4. There are benefits to using cast iron instead of the average non-stick pan.
a. The pan is non-stick yet, chemical free, unlike normal pans.
b. If you do a comparison of quality and lifespan between a cast iron pan and a non-stick pan priced the same the cast iron will win. We own a few non-stick pans which actually cost more than our cast iron pans and the non-stick coating has started to wear away. This can cause chemicals to come off your pan and it just won’t last very long. Cast iron is real bang for your buck. (especially bare cast iron!)
c. It can add iron to your food. This isn’t a bad thing! Studies have shown that 10% of women in America are iron deficient. People who need more iron will benefit to adding some cast iron cooking to their routine. It won’t be enough to fix the deficiency, but it will help.
d. You can use cast iron in the oven and on the stove. This was a huge gamechanger for me! I was used to having to do things on the stove and then moving my food to a roasting tin or baking sheet. It caused more dishes and more hassle but using cast iron in these scenarios is simple!
e. Food is cooked evenly. WIN!