Few kitchen tools are as versatile as a good old-fashioned cast-iron pan. If you thought that this relic from your grandmother’s kitchen was a thing of the past with no relevance to today’s cooking methods, then you are greatly misinformed. Many graduates of Chicago culinary schools wouldn’t be caught dead without a cast-iron pan in their kitchens.
The cast-iron pan is capable of all sorts of kitchen heroics. From frying to sautéing to baking and everything in between cast-iron is up to the task. In fact, most cooking techniques taught at a culinary school can be accomplished with a cast-iron pan. Not even the most expensive professional grade stainless cookware can compare to the heat retention and dispersion abilities of cast-iron cookware.
And if properly cared for, cast-iron cookware can be a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation.
The following procedure is good for all cast-iron cookware including griddles, skillets, and Dutch ovens. You’ll want to properly season every piece of cast-iron to prevent rust and maintain the best cooking surface possible. Enamel coated cast-iron cookware does not require seasoning.
- Step 1
If your pan is new, remove any packaging, adhesive, plastic, etc. from the pan and give it a light wash with mild soap and water. Dry the pan completely. Some cast-iron cookware comes pre-seasoned. But much like “pre-washed” produce, you should take the time to do it yourself.
- Step 2
Heat your oven to 250 degrees F. While the oven is heating, take your favorite cooking fat – lard, bacon grease, shortening, cooking oil – and generously coat the inside of the pan. It shouldn’t pool or run, but don’t skimp. The choice of fat to use is subjective. Each can affect the taste of the foods you cook in the pan so choose accordingly. Animal fats like lard and bacon grease are the traditional choices, but lighter fats light olive and coconut oils work just as well and impart a little less flavor into cooked foods.
- Step 3
Place the pan in the oven for 2 hours. This will melt the fat and open the pans pores so the fat will penetrate the surface. There is some argument about heating time. Some say higher temps for shorter times. Others say low temps for longer times. I recommend low and slow just like barbecuing. You don’t want your fat to scorch, which can ruin your pan.
- Step 4
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. When cool enough to touch, wipe it down with paper towels. Leave a thin covering of fat. Let cool until the pan has reached room temperature. Wipe it down again. The surface will be free of fat but slightly shiny. It is now ready for cooking.
Re-season your cast-iron every couple of years if you use it regularly. After daily use and cleaning, place a tablespoon of cooking oil in the pan and wipe it out with a paper towel leaving behind a thin layer that will prevent rust.
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