We all have our favourite pot or pan in our collection, I recently discovered the benefits of cast iron. There is something satisfying about stirring a tasty meaty concoction in a heavy pan. If you take care of cast iron it lasts a very long time. You hear many stories of people who have had them passed down generation to generation, which gives new meaning to cooking with heart.
Cast iron retains heat longer than steel, so when you are cooking low and slow it is ideal for cheaper cuts of meat and casseroles or stews. You can use cast iron on all cooking surfaces including induction. Cast Iron loves induction. I can use any utensil in cast iron, metal, wood and plastic. A well-seasoned cast iron pan becomes almost non-stick. Almost.
There are many, many arguments as to the right and wrong way to use and keep cast iron. But here is my take.
Keep your cast iron seasoned.
This means when you get your cast iron pan home, give it a thorough wash, and then heat in your oven at about 180 degrees to dry out. Pour a little canola oil in it and rub over the inside with a paper towel. Rub the oil over the outside as well. Pop it back in the oven for about half an hour to an hour (it will smoke, so you can use the bbq for this if you like). This puts the oil through a process called Polymerisation, basically it takes the oil from soluble to non-soluble creating a kind of protective layer. Repeat. Enough with the science talk. This will make your pan ready to cook with.
When you are finished cooking wash your pan…… this is where there is some controversy. I do use warm soap and water, for a few of reasons.
- I am a little wary of germs. Let’s not talk about the E-Coli episode of 2004. So if I am cooking particularly with chicken, I wash thoroughly with warm water and dish soap. The Polymerisation (see above paragraph) is what protects your cast iron so the soap shouldn’t really disturb your seasoning.
- If I am baking in it, I want to be sure my apple cake doesn’t adopt a beef chilli flavour.
- I am usually washing everything else so why treat this any differently? Some would say not to use soap and just wash with water. That is fine also.
Up to you.
Either way always season again after you wash it. You can do this on the stove top. So heat your pan to dry, then apply oil and heat again until it smokes. Then allow it to cool and put away for your next cook.
There is a lot of information out there on how to care for cast iron and how to revive it should you find it has rusted. But when it comes down to it there seems to be something quite comforting about cooking with cast iron, weather you want to sauté on your induction hob or put it on an open fire and pretend to be a cow boy. So find yourself a cast iron pan and start seasoning and cooking, casseroles, cakes, pizza, giant skillet cookies! SO many options.
NB: Check out Mario Batali cooking pizza in a cast iron skillet.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=az5D8C6K5Dk