If you have never cooked with a cast iron skillet, you are missing out on one of the most fabulous cooking experience known to man or woman. Cast iron skillets are not the cheapest cookware available. Think of it as a fantastic investment that will bring you a lifetime of cooking joy! Imagine light, fluffy, gourmet pancakes, or cobblers coming out of your oven positively perfect! You will hear “ooohs and ahhhhs”, as you present your dishes to appreciative guests. Your family will eat with new gusto! Gone will be the frowns on your kids’ faces, and remarks of, “I don’t like this….”
The following are the secrets of buying, seasoning and maintaining a cast iron skillet. Without the proper “seasoning”, it is difficult to maintain a cast iron skillet properly.
Beginning with Selection: A 10-inch skillet is perfect for family cooking. A 12-inch is convenient if you have a large family or want to cook for a party.
Preparation of your skillet: A new skillet is washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Use steel wool to scrub it the first time. It was primed with either paraffin or shellac by the manufacturer. This is the only time you will scrub with hot, soapy water.
A used skillet may need a little more work than a new skillet to clean. It probably has been sitting for a while, and the cooking residues have hardened, or it is rusty from misuse. It can be cleaned so it is “like new.” You can use coarse sandpaper to get rid of those hard to remove spots.
Seasoning or Curing before Use: Cast iron is the original nonstick cookware – better than Teflon without the dangers – if seasoned correctly. Steps to seasoning:
*Use only oils that are neutral, such as vegetable oil, or shortening. Bacon is also a terrific way to season your skillet. It provides the heat to penetrate the manufacturing imperfections, such as pores or peaks. An added plus is that you can make a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich when you have finished. Let the skillet cool completely.
*The recommendation for oil or shortening season is that you put your oiled cast iron skillet, upside down, in a preheated, hot oven for an hour. It needs the heat to create a bond in the nooks and crannies of the skillet. Let it cool completely.
Note: Remember to remove all excess oil out of the skillet before storing.
Maintaining a Cast Iron Skillet: This goes contrary to most recommendations, but if you want the “best” tasting food, you should use mild soap and lukewarm water to wash (not scrub) and rinse your skillet after use. This writer, at one time, followed the no washing method of using a cast iron skillet. After a while, the fat and grease accumulation become rancid. This light washing does not remove the seasoning bond. Dry the skillet thoroughly.
*Place your skillet on the stove, using medium heat, and thoroughly dry it. While hot, pour a little oil into the pan and roll it around.
*Remove the skillet from the heat, rub it in evenly, and wipe out the excess oil.
*If you do not use your skillet every day, store it with paper towels inside to collect moisture and avoid lint to collect on the oiled skillet.
*In humid climates leave the skillet without the lid when storing.
*Never clean in a dishwasher.
*Be sure cast iron is thoroughly dry. Moisture is its enemy.
You truly will be glad you invested in a cast iron skillet.