Wednesday, January 13, 2010

cast iron cookware

One of the best purchases one can make on any homestead, no matter where you live is a set of cast iron cook ware. The only down fall to cast iron in any cooking situation is the weight of it. If it wasn't for that I would say one needs no other cook ware ever.

why cast iron?
Cast iron is naturally non-stick. Properly seasoned nothing will stick to it. Cast iron eliminates the need for the costly, toxic chemicals used to create the non-stick surfaces in modern cookware.

Eco-easy clean up. All cast iron cookware requires for clean up is hot water and a stiff brush, so you avoid any harmful chemicals in detergent or solvents.

Cast iron can take the heat. It can withstand much hotter temperatures and will distribute the heat more evenly than traditional cookware. And since it holds heat well, you can use less energy to cook. Plus it’s perfect for outdoor cooking. Just remember that cast iron gets hot. so use an oven mitt when handling a hot pan.

It’s a great up-cycling opportunity. Don’t ever worry about buying a cast iron skillet or other cast iron cooking vessel—like a dutch oven—from a resale shop or garage sale. Even if it looks rusty and dirty, it can be cleaned and re-seasoned and continue on cooking, forever.

It’s good for you. Cast iron cookware leaches small amounts of iron into food, so you get a little extra iron each time you use it. Almost anyone, especially women in their child bearing years, will benefit from this.

It is an old-fashioned way to cook fat free. When well seasoned, a cast iron pan will be stick resistant and require no additional oil.

The price is right. Even if you must buy new, you are buying a pan that will last many generations. You will never need to buy another pan of the same type again.

what to look for when buying cast iron
Determining the quality of cast iron that you are getting is very important for both new and used cast iron pieces. Poor quality cast iron will not take to seasoning as well, will not be able to heat as well, will not last as long and some are so poorly made that they are not safe to use.

When you buy a cast-iron skillet, feel it with your fingers. It should feel a bit rough to the touch, something like fine-grade sandpaper. This texture should feel the same throughout the cast-iron skillet. You're evaluating the cast-iron skillet to see if there are any cracks and scratches. Look for any patches of discoloration or areas that don't match the rest of the cast-iron skillet. Then examine the sides of the cast-iron skillet and make sure that they are uniform.

If you find scratches, discoloration, or uneven side construction, it means that when the steel and iron were poured into the sand cast, something was not done properly. As a result the cast-iron skillet will not provide even heat for cooking and will not be durable or strong.

It is highly recommended that you buy pans that are made in the USA to be sure you get good-quality, safe cookware.

Never buy cast iron that has wooden handles. The wood handles can't take the heat that we tend to subject our pans too and burn off.

There are tons of different types of cook ware out there made of cast iron. If I had to suggest a basic, yet complete set of cookware I would recommend a small skillet, a large skillet, a dutch oven and a griddle. With these four basic pans one can cook anything in them.

companies to look for when purchasing cast iron
old reputable cast iron cookware makers from the US are Griswold and Wagner. If you spot used cast iron cook ware, these are the two brands to look for.

The only US company currently making cast iron is Lodge and they are a good quality cast iron.

hints, tips n reminders about cast iron
All new cast iron frying pans and cast iron skillets have a protective coating on them, which must be removed. American companies use a special food-safe wax; imports are covered with a water-soluble shellac. In either case, scrub the item with a scouring pad, using soap and the hottest tap water you can stand.

The surfaces of a new cast iron frying pan are porous and have microscopic jagged peaks. When you purchase new cast iron cookware, they are gunmetal gray (silver) in color, but after using them, they start turning darker until they are very black. This is normal and should be expected. The dark patina takes awhile to achieve!

If the utensil comes with a cast iron lid, like a Dutch oven, make sure the lid fits properly on the pot before purchasing it. Also cure the lid's inside the same as the pot. Otherwise, use a glass lid or whatever you have.

The first most common mistake of why people do not like cast iron is that they say everything sticks. If food sticks to your cast iron pan, your pan is NOT seasoned right and you need to re-season it. Cast iron is a natural non-stick surface and if your pan is seasoned correctly it WILL NOT stick!

Always preheat your cast iron frying pan before fry in them.

Water droplets should sizzle, then roll and hop around the pan, when dropped onto the heated surface. If the water disappears immediately after being dropped, the pan is too hot. If water only rests and bubbles in the pan, it is not quite hot enough.

Do not pour large amounts of cold liquid into your hot cast iron frying pan. This can cause the cast iron to break.

Never forget your potholders! Cast iron pan handles get HOT when cooking!

If your food gets a metallic taste, or turns "black", it means one of two things are wrong. Either your pot has not been sufficiently seasoned, or you are leaving the food in the pot after it has been cooked.

Never store food in the cast iron pan as the acid in the food will breakdown the seasoning and take on a metallic flavor.

Rust Spots - If your old or new cast iron pans gets light rust spots, scour the rusty areas with steel wool, until all traces of rust are gone. Wash, dry, and repeat seasoning process.

Goo or Gook in Pan - If too much oil or shortening is applied to a cast-iron pan in the seasoning process, it will pool and "gum up" when the pan is heated. In this case, the goo can be scraped off and some more grease rubbed over the spot, or the pan can be re-scrubbed and reseasoned.

Heating the pan upside-down may help prevent gumming but protect your oven by using a foiled-lined baking sheet or aluminum foil to catch the grease. Seasoning at higher temperatures, approaching the smoking point, of the oil used will result in darker seasoned coatings in less time that aren't sticky or gummy.

seasoning or curing your cast iron
You season a cast iron pan by rubbing it with a relatively thin coat of neutral oil (I stress a light coat of oil). Use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning your cast iron pans.Bacon grease will also work .

Place the cast iron pan, upside down, in the oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any drips. Heat the pan for 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Once done, let the pan cool to room temperature. Repeating this process several times is recommended as it will help create a stronger "seasoning" bond.

The oil fills the cavities and becomes entrenched in them, as well as rounding off the peaks. By seasoning a new pan, the cooking surface develops a nonstick quality because the formerly jagged and pitted surface becomes smooth. Also, because the pores are permeated with oil, water cannot seep in and create rust that would give food an off-flavor.

Your ironware will be slightly discolored at this stage, but a couple of frying jobs will help complete the cure, and turn the iron into the rich, black color that is the sign of a well-seasoned, well-used skillet or pot.

washing your cast iron
Wash it with dish washing soap and water. Never soak or let soapy water sit in the pan for any length of time - just briefly wash it out. Rinse thoroughly, then dry with paper towels. NEVER put cast iron cookware in the dishwasher.

A lot of people disagree with using dishwashing soap and water to wash cast iron pans.Remember if you only use water in your pans the grease that is left behind will eventually become rancid.

Place the cleaned cast iron frying pan on the heated burner of your stove for a minute or two to make sure that it is bone dry. While the pan is still hot and on the stove burner, lightly oil inside of pan ) with a cooking oil.

Leave frying pan on the hot burner of stove for a few minutes. Remove from hot burner and wipe excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.

Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off (especially in humid weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust). Be sure that you place a couple paper towels inside your cast-iron pan when storing to make sure that any moisture that forms will be absorbed by the paper towel. Never put the utensil in the dishwasher or store it away without drying it thoroughly.

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