Monday, April 1, 2013

Seasoning A Cast Iron Skillet To Last A Lifetime

  Created in a world before Teflon, cast iron is said to be the original "non-stick" skillet. It's one kitchen must-have that's in demand for professional chefs and busy moms alike. You may have heard of cast iron, but have not yet invested in your own piece. Some of you may have been lucky enough to be passed down an heirloom piece, because cared for correctly a cast iron skillet can last longer than a single lifetime.
   Some of the best skillets are antiques like these, but if you're looking to buy one or have an old one that needs  a little TLC, we have the steps to get you cooking. Our recommendation for purchasing a new cast iron skillet is the same as if you were purchasing a new AK kitchen: Don't look for the lowest price, look for the best value!
  Pictured above, lodge cookware skillets come highly recommended. Produced in a Tennessee foundry, their seasoning process won a Good Housekeeping “Good Buy Award,” leading to a world wide renaissance in cast iron cooking! Lodge sprays vegetable oil onto the cookware, then bakes it on at high temperatures to create a natural, easy-release cooking surface. Their 13" skillets are $60 which seems like bargain. To continue seasoning a new piece like this, or to repair and re-season and old piece, wikiHow seems to encompass some of the best tips for cast iron:

  1. For crusty cast ironware that you inherited or picked up at a garage sale: Your cookware may have some combination of rust and thick crackly black crud. It can be restored fairly easily to good as new condition! First place the cookware in a self-cleaning oven and run one cycle OR place in a campfire or directly on a hot charcoal fire for 1/2 hour, until dull red. The crust will be flaking, falling and turning to white ash. Then, after allowing to cool a bit to avoid cracking your cast iron,use the following steps. If you have more rust than crust, try using steel wool to sand it off.

  2. Wash your cast iron cookware with warm water and soap using a scouring pad. If you have purchased your cast iron cookware as new then it will be coated in oil or a similar coating to prevent rust. This will need to be removed before seasoning so this step is essential.

  3. Dry the cookware thoroughly, it helps to put the pan in the oven for a few minutes to make sure it's really dry. Oil needs to be able to soak into the metal for a good seasoning and oil and water don't mix.

  4. Coat the pot or pan inside and out with lard, Crisco, bacon fat, or corn oil. Ensure that the lid is also coated.

  5. Place both the lid and the pot or pan upside down in your oven at high temperature (300F to 500F, depending on your preference) for at least an hour to bake on a "seasoning" that protects the pan from rust and provides a stick-resistant surface.Place a sheet of aluminum foil under the pan or on a lower rack, to catch drippings. Let cool to room temperature in the oven.

  6. For best results repeat steps three and four and five.

  7. Ongoing care: Every time you wash your pan, you must season it. Place it on the stove and pour in about 3/4 tsp. corn oil or other cooking fat.

  8. Wad up a paper towel and spread the oil across the cooking surface, any bare iron surfaces, and the bottom of the pan. Turn on the burner and heat until smoke starts to appear. If using an electric stove, heat slowly as hot spots can crack your cast iron. Cover pan and turn heat off.

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