Feb 10, 2017

Basics Of Cast Iron

Cast Iron Skillet

I'm terrified of cast iron.

Ok, that might be a little strong. It's not like I'm worried it's going to jump off the stove and get me like a spider would. But it's heavy, the handle gets hot, and Hubby says there are particular ways of cleaning it. So I just don't tend to cook with it. And when I do, I usually leave the cleaning to Hubby.

I secretly thinks he prefers this so I won't mess up his perfect seasoning. Cast iron is a great thing to cook with and you can find it in thrift stores or in the back of barns. So it is definitely an addition to a zero waste home. I'm just not the one to tell you about it. So I got the best expert I know: My husband. So here he goes with his first ever guest post on SkipTheBag. (Be kind and give him lots of love!)

So hi, I’m the husband. I can honestly say I never thought I’d be writing a blog post here but I got the call from the bullpen to write about something near and dear to my heart: cast iron cookware. I’ll preface the rest of this by saying I’m a tool guy. By that I don’t just mean wood working and home improvement stuff. I like having things that make it easier or better to do or make other things. So that’s led to having an inordinate number of power tools in my garage, but that’s also extended into the kitchen because one of the things I like to make most is food.

Over the years my progression toward the use of cast iron cookware has taken a not uncommon path. Immediately out of college I used non-stick cookware because it was cheap. As we started to replace the non-stick pans as they wore out, we got a decent set of stainless steel pots and pans. I still have them by the way, and I love them, but around the same time I discovered the joy of cast iron. Over time my collection has grown to include five pans of different sizes, a Dutch oven, and a stove top griddle.

What is cast iron? 

Well the name pretty much says it all. It’s pots and pans, or really anything, made by pouring molten iron into a mold (or cast), letting it cool, then seasoning the iron with oil or grease to prevent the outer surface from rusting. Over time, as the pans are used, fats and oils are cooked into the surface creating a slick, black, glossy surface. As cookware goes it’s been in use since the Iron Age. Which also seems obvious now that I type it. If taken care of, they can last well over a hundred years as useful cooking implements.

What are the benefits? 

From a cook’s perspective they heat up, distribute and hold heat very effectively. Additionally, a well seasoned cast iron pan is also nearly as slick as a non-stick pan. With just a little cooking spray I can cook eggs over-easy and not have any of the egg stick to the cooking surface. Because the cooking surface is carbonized oil and fat it’s also relatively chemical free, unlike non-stick. I tend not to be someone who believes that all chemicals are bad but after researching what goes into Teflon, I’d just as soon not be eating it when I accidentally scratch a pan. Unlike non-stick pans, which once scratched are permanently ruined, if the seasoned surface of a cast iron pan gets scratched, it doesn’t really change the effectiveness of the pan. If it really gets bad the pan can always be stripped down and reseasoned. It’s even possible to take a rusted pan that has been sitting outside and strip it to bare metal and reseason it as long as it’s only rust and not corroded. Finally, if taken care of, as I said above, they can last a very, very long time. It’s not unusual to come across cast iron pans and Dutch ovens that were made in the 1800s.

What are the down sides to cast iron? 

Most all cast iron cookware is made as a single piece of metal, heat get transferred easily to all parts of the pan, including the handle. The longer a pan sits on a heat source, the more the handle will heat up, necessitating the use of a pot holder or oven mitt to pick them up. Next, you really don’t want to boil water in them. For one, boiling water tends to strip away the outer layers of seasoning. Second, if that seasoning layer isn’t particularly thick water can get into contact with the raw iron underneath and cause the pan to rust if it isn’t appropriately dried out and oiled. Any time I have to boil water I break out the stainless steel pots or pans.

How do I care for cast iron?

Cast iron also takes a little more work to care for. You can’t just throw them in the dishwasher at the end of the night. They have to be cleaned by hand, without soap, to prevent damage to the seasoning layer, then thoroughly dried and a light layer of cooking oil applied. Some people don’t like the thought of a “greasy” pan being put away in their cupboard. Finally, because the exterior surfaces of the pans are cast iron and slightly rough they can scratch surfaces they come into contact with, especially glass range cook tops.

Update: Hubby wrote another post about cleaning and care of cast iron. It has tons of great information. Go check it out!

I have learned so much about cast iron from Hubby over the years and have really grown to appreciate it. Although I still let him wash it, because I'm afraid I'll ruin the seasoning! We currently have a cast iron skillets in 3 different sizes, cast iron dutch oven, cast iron cornbread cast, and griddle.

Do you love your cast iron as much as Hubby does?

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  1. Love cast iron! I have a large cast iron Dutch oven, which we bring camping, and a large frying pan. They're soooo heavy but I love being able to use them on the stove, and then pop them into the oven :) Popping in from Coffee With Us Three - Pretty Pintastic Party. You're welcome to check out my site too :) www.smoresandsundresses.ca

    1. It is nice being able to go from the stove to the oven and not having to worry about the pan!

  2. I love working with Cast Iron. I use mine all the time!
    Thanks for linking up at The Pretty Pintastic Party!

    1. Hubby does too...and I'm working on it. :)

  3. Great read! And very nice of your husband to write a guest post for you! I just bought my first cast iron pan a couple of weeks ago, because I kept having to replace our teflon coated pans because the coating would come off. Now I am convincing my husband that I need another one ;)

  4. I do have issues with the no soap cleaning, I just can't not do it!

    1. If you can hold off your seasoning will get much better.

  5. Oh, I LOVE cast iron and have, lets see, over 25 pieces! I use them for everything, and when I see one in a secondhand/antique store, just have to have it, even if I already have one just like it! I even have 4 of the greatest cast iron ever made, Wagner and Griswold...you can't get them anymore, as they have discontinued them, but the feel is like glass, they are so smooth. Lodge is ok, but VERY rough compared. I just bought a loaf pan to bak bread in, and can't wait to use it!
    Carol L

    1. 25 pieces! That's awesome. Yes, Hubby used to look down his nose at Lodge, but now that he's been working on seasoning it, he likes it much better.