On a camping trip last week, I was the joke of the entire group because I hiked miles into our campsite carrying a cast iron skillet. Funny, yea, sure, until dinnertime rolled around…and then breakfast…then who got the last laugh as we enjoyed steaks, potatoes, and then bacon and pancakes over an open fire.
Iron cookware has been around since long before there were chuckwagons tended by “Cooky”…but today, they’re as relevant in the kitchen as ever. In fact, they’re more modern and healthy and wonderful than ever. Here are four good reasons that cast iron cookware is a must in our modern kitchen.
1. It’ll last forever. What else is there to say? Just look at how long its been around!
2. Consistent heat. Heavy as it is, cast iron conducts heat better than anything else. So if you’re looking for a consistent heat across the entire pan, cast iron is it.
3. Oven to stove to oven to stove! As effective in the oven as it is on the stove, cast iron works just as well whether you’re asking it to bake, broil, roast, saute, fry and more.
4. It’s Healthy! Well seasoned cast iron cookware needs far less oil to give you that wonderful crispy brown chicken, fish, potato, pancake, etc. As a result, of course this means healthier food. So the key is knowing how to season a pan. There are a variety of expert ways to do this. Here’s how I learned to do it from my dad — works great!
Cover the bottom of the pan with a thick layer of kosher salt and about a half inch of cooking oil (canola, vegetable, even light olive oil) then heat until the oil starts to smoke. Now pour the salt and oil into a bowl, then use a ball of paper towels to rub the inside of the pan until it is smooth. A well seasoned pan is shiny and smooth. If it begins to look rusty or rough, it’s time to season it again.
5. No Chemical “Non-stick” Stuff. Did I mention that it’s healthy? Why use any chemical anything if you’ve got a winner? Here’s another great thing about cast iron — you can scrape it all you want and you don’t have to worry about coating scratching off and into your food.
To clean cast iron, don’t use dish soap! Just scrub it with a brush or sponge, rinse it well, and dry it completely. Done! (Another reason I took it camping: no soap needed for washing the big dish!)
If you’ve got a real mess on your hands with the skillet — something burned on it and it’s cooked on pretty well, don’t worry. It’s a cinch to clean: put hot water in it enough to cover the entire bottom of the pan, and then let it simmer for a moment. The problem stuff will come right up now with a spatula.