Cast iron skillet

The hardest working item in my kitchen

Feature Photo: Flickr – cyclonebill – Vagtel-spejlæg” by cyclonebillVagtel-spejlæg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Last post I wrote about crazy kitchen gadgets but in this post I’m writing about the most used item in my kitchen.

It’s not high-tech or sexy looking, it’s probably the lowest tech item, it’s my cast iron frying pan. I guess I should say, my cast iron frying pans, since I own several. Many cast iron frying pans (or skillet, if you’re American) get passed down in the family, they’re basically indestructible. They need minimal maintenance and are extremely versatile, going from stove top to oven. You can deep fry, saute, bake or braise in them. If you’re stocking your first kitchen or just getting into cooking, I’d suggest it be one of your first purchases. If you’re on a tight budget cast iron skillets won’t break the bank, you can usually find them for about $20-30.

“cast iron can fortify your food with iron, which is great for people with an iron deficiency.”

Here are a few tips if you’re new to using cast iron.
Season the pan before you use it

Cast iron gets its non-stick finish from layers of oil baked into it but new ones need to be seasoned before use. You should bake them in an oven at 350F for about an hour to burn off the factory coating. After an hour in the oven, put some lard in the pan and bake it for another hour, after an hour, take a paper towel and rub the lard all over the pan, top and bottom then turn the pan upside down and bake for another half an hour. You can now start using your pan.

Wash your pan properly

Soap and steel wool are bad for the cast iron finish so simply rinse with water and wipe out with a dish cloth after use. If you have something baked on, you can scrub with a little coarse salt or a plastic scraper. Dry the pan by heating it on the stove for a couple of minutes until it’s dry, then drizzle a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the pan and wipe it around with a paper towel and that’s it.

The one downside of cast iron is its weight, they’re heavy but that weight is also one of its assets. Because of their weight, cast iron skillets retain their heat and heat evenly, just make sure you give them about 5 minutes to heat up. This means they cook evenly and when frying or sauteing, their temperature doesn’t drop much when food is added to the pan.

Here are some things that are perfect to cook in a cast iron pan:

  • Pancakes (cook evenly and don’t stick)
  • Corn bread
  • Fried chicken (oil for deep-frying keeps a constant temperature when adding chicken )
  • Burgers and steaks (cast iron sears meats beautifully)

Check out this video from Toronto’s healthy butcher on how to cook a steak perfectly in a cast iron skillet.

Oh and one last thing, cast iron can fortify your food with iron, which is great for people with an iron deficiency.

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