Cast iron was completely foreign to me growing up. Except for the occasional dessert in a Dutch oven while camping, I had virtually no exposure to cast iron cookware, much less its benefits.
I eventually was exposed to cast iron at my husband’s younger brother’s house, where it was their favorite cookware. Over the last few months, I’ve finally acquired a Dutch oven, a 12″ pan, and a much smaller pan that will probably work well for fried eggs.
Let’s talk about some of the reasons to get a few good cast iron pans.
- They’re tough. Unless you’re really neglectful or ridiculously rough, they can last for decades.
- They’re non-stick without the chemicals in non-stick coatings. They’re not Teflon sort of non-stick, of course, but a well seasoned pan needs little oil when cooking.
- You get a lot of bang for your buck. They’re not terribly expensive for what you’re getting, particularly since they won’t need to be replaced in 5-10 years.
- Cast iron is oven safe. Perfect for a frittata or a cake.
- It can be used over any heat source except the microwave. They can stand up well even with fire or coals; perfect for camping.
The biggest challenge with cast iron is its maintenance needs. They can rust, which requires scrubbing off the rust and reseasoning the pan. They can’t be scrubbed with harsh scrub brushes or detergents, although they can be cleaned with mild soapy water, contrary to myths about cast iron. And of course they need their seasoning maintained and sometimes redone to protect the pan from rust and to make it non-stick. Even a pre-seasoned pan should be given an initial round of seasoning.
I first tried to season by heating them on the stovetop and then adding oil, as one website recommended. It didn’t work too well. The pans were too hot and the oil caught fire in the small one.
By the way, remember that water should not be used on a grease fire. I threw a handful of baking soda on it instead and it went right out.
But now they still need to be seasoned, but I’m unwilling to try to do it that way again.
So I went to the site for Lodge cast iron, where they recommend washing the pan, applying a thin coat of oil of choice (I decided to try rendered bacon grease), and baking it in the oven at 350 for an hour. They should be placed upside down and have aluminum foil underneath to catch drops. So that’s where my pans are now, and we have no fires so far.
I haven’t done the Dutch oven yet because I’m fairly certain it has rust, having been stored in my parents’ shop in an unsealed box for years. It’s going to take some serious scrubbing followed by repeated rounds of seasoning before I can use it.
What do you think about cast iron? Do you use it? What are your favorite things to cook in it?