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Cooking with Cast Iron

Submitted by: flier389 on October 5, 2010
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Cooking with Cast Iron

Have ever cooked something in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven? Or does the thought of trying to kind of scare you?

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Maybe you got great-grandma’s cast iron skillet or grandma’s dutch oven and have just put them away some place. Well, get them out! It is …

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Have ever cooked something in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven? Or does the thought of trying to kind of scare you?


Maybe you got great-grandma’s cast iron skillet or grandma’s dutch oven and have just put them away some place. Well, get them out! It is not hard to cook in these. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can cook just about anything you can think of.

Bread? Yep, all types.

Stews and soups? Yep.

Meat, all kinds? Yep.

And my favorite — BEANS!

You can even do pies and cobblers.

I remember my great-grandmother, grandmother and grandfather, even my mom and dad, cooking up stuff in cast iron skillets. Everyone did bacon on Sunday mornings, eggs, hash browns, or sausage and pancakes. Pappy was great at doing his fried pancakes. (Just batter in grease. He called them fry-cakes.)

Brings back lots of memories.

I carried a cast iron skillet for years when camping, hunting, or fishing. And the more you cook in them, the better the food tastes.

If you have grandma’s skillet and have not used it, first you need to clean it with soap and water. If it has some rust, don’t worry, use some steel wool, and it will come right off. After you have cleaned your skillet or dutch oven, make sure that it is dry, inside and out.

Next, you have to season it, and now you get to choose: you can use cooking oil, lard, or — my favorite — BACON DRIPPINGS! They now have some commercial seasoning just for cast iron. I have seen it at like Bass Pro, sporting goods stores, Army surplus stores, and even in some stores that sell all kinds of kitchen gadget who-ha stuff. (Don’t tell my male friends that I have been to stores like that. I have a reputation to uphold with my male counterparts.)

Like I said, I use bacon grease. Take a little glob and run it all over your skillet inside and out. Cover top to bottom. You really do not have to do the handle. Set your oven to 350, place a cookie sheet in the very bottom to catch any drips. Place your skillet upside down on the rack and let bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and let it cool before removing your skillet. Careful, the handle may still be pretty warm to the touch. If there is excess grease, wipe it out with a paper towel.

Now you’ve got a skillet ready for cookin!

If you have a dutch oven you cure it the same way. Cover it with bacon grease, inside and out, lid also inside and out, and follow the same directions as for your skillet. After cooking in your skillet or dutch oven, clean up is pretty easy. Wipe out with a rag. Take a little bit of oil and wipe inside and out. Leave a bit of a shine on it and put away till next time.

The more you use your cast iron, the better it cooks and it will get to where food does not stick. If it does, you most likely have it too hot for cooking.

Now start cooking with your cast iron! Enjoy.


Jim blogs at Granddad’s Corner.

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Comments

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  1. 10-5
    6:00
    am

    Wonderful post! I wouldn’t use anything else- Love my cast iron pans!

  2. 10-5
    6:06
    am

    Be still my beating heart…

    I love my cast iron. I started collecting them back in my early 20’s and my collection has grown to some 30+ pieces.

    I keep some cast iron just for smoking foods. I’ll make a pot of BBQ beans, put the cast iron pot and all in the smoker. Now, anything I cook in that cast iron pot lends the dish a wonderful smokey flavor, whether it is in the smoker or not. Mmmm…

    It is about that time of year where I re-season my cast iron. The weather is finally cooling off enough to crank up the oven.

    We do a lot of outdoor, over an open fire, cooking with our cast iron – in the cooler weather. As soon as the gnats leave I’ll be out there again. This year we plan to at least 3 times a week outdoors.

    Bacon grease is a cure all, I tell ya!
    I have yet to try seasoning my CI with bacon grease. This will be a fantastic excuse to get more bacon in this house!

    I’ve seen that cast iron cure in a bottle, and to be honest with you, it scares me.

    Jim, How do you clean and store your cast iron? I’ve been looking for a decorative way to display my cast iron but still be easily attainable for everyday use. Right now I have my most used CI in the oven and the rest stacked on a bakers rack. I have to rotate the unused often since the humidity is so bad – when they’re stacked they tend to get rust spots.

    Jim, thanks for the wonderful post!

  3. 10-5
    7:14
    am

    Great article, Jim! I love to fry foods in my big cast iron pan. I have a large one and a small one and I want to get a medium size to complete the set. The Dutch Oven is next.

    Dad always fried potatoes in the cast iron skillet. You absolutely can’t beat the taste of potatoes fried in cast iron. Brings back lots of memories. I have a good set of pots and pans but I have started cooking in the old cast iron pan my Dad used. It really does conduct the heat evenly and there are no cool or hot spots as with my good set.

    Yep, Jim! You’re right. Cast iron definitely is great to cook in and when properly cured as you said, easy to clean up. Thanks for the advice.

  4. 10-5
    8:44
    am

    My mom gave me a cast iron skillet, like hers, when I first got married 34 yrs. ago. I absolutely love it! I have never needed to own a nonstick skillet. My fried eggs never stick. For very stubborn, cooked on food,I let water sit on it to soften a little and drain it off. I skip the water part for regular cleaning.I sprinkle some kosher salt on it and scrub with a paper towel. Run a little cooking oil over the pan and you’re good to go.

  5. 10-5
    8:59
    am

    I love my cast iron! I have 3 skillets and a Dutch oven. My mom has 4 skillets that will be passed on down to my sister and me. They were passed down from her mom and so on.

    I bake a ham in my Dutch oven for Christmas each year and everyone loves it. I also bake my homemade sourdough rolls in my big skillet. There are so many uses for cast iron!

    I enjoyed your post! Thanks!

  6. 10-5
    9:08
    am

    A little information that hasn’t been posted yet (as far as I can tell) Cooking in cast iron adds the nutrient iron to your food! I didn’t know this until I was pregnant. My doctor had the information in a handout.

  7. 10-5
    9:10
    am

    I love my cast iron too and use one piece or another most every day, however I do have a question. Several years ago I bought a cast iron kettle (new) but have never been able to use it, no matter how it is seasoned it always finishes up rusting, I am speaking of the kind of kettle with a bail handle used for heating tea water etc. Anyone have any ideas? Joyce

  8. 10-5
    9:52
    am

    Thanks for the post Jim! I love my cast iron too, I will wash mine if I need to though, I know, sacrilege! I do avoid soap, but it does need it from time to time so even then I just dry it, heat it up on the burner and grease it well. Sort of a mini-seasoning. Food rarely if ever sticks in it, like Irma said, it’s better than a non-stick!

    Most of mine is older and super well seasoned, so maybe that helps it stand up to a bit of water now and then. I wouldn’t want to be without mine!

  9. 10-5
    10:04
    am

    Judy, a fairly uninformed opinion here, but I have read that new pieces can be tricky to get to a point of being ready to handle acidic and non-frying kinds of uses. That makes sense to me.

    Most of my cast iron is well used, but we have acquired a few pieces lately that while well used, have not been cared for well, and are in the wire brush for cleaning category. We have started the seasoning process on them, treating them as new pans because we had to take off so much iron to remove all the oxidation.

    So, these newer pieces to the seasoning process are being used for things like frying potatoes, frying bacon and such only for a while. Next will be trying out cornbread in them. Nothing abrasive in there. After giving them a little TLC, and not expecting too much from them, they will move into the regular rotation to include stews and such with tomatoes, pineapple upside down cake, cobblers and such.

    Have had folks give me down the road for using soap in my cast iron! If you don’t want to do that, please don’t! But I use it on recycled iron ware to make sure that it is thoroughly clean before starting the seasoning process. After they are seasoned well, it is no longer necessary, but until they are, I want them to be clean!

    Oh, and I find that in my best pans, any bits of food left in the pan just flake off when the pan is heated. That’s how I know that the pan can now be used for anything.

  10. 10-5
    11:16
    am

    Very good post, thank you! I have read of people cleaning their seasoned cast iron ware with nothing but salt and paper towels, like Irma wrote above. They claim the finish is smooth as any non-stick skillet. I enjoyed your post, and am now about brave enough to get out the pieces I inherited and give them a try.

  11. 10-5
    1:41
    pm

    Nothing beats a cast iron skillet! My grandmother and mother used them every day. It’s a must for corn bread. They’re cheap and last forever. If I had my choice of one of those $300 skillets and cast iron, I’d chose cast iron every time.

    I just put some salt and a tiny bit of hot water and scrub it with a stiff brush. Put it on a low burner on the stove to remove the excess moisture so it doesn’t rust and nothing sticks to it.

  12. 10-5
    3:56
    pm

    Thank you for this post. Nice to see such a handsome fella posting such useful information.

  13. 10-5
    4:29
    pm

    Not only are they awesome to use, the look of a cast iron skillet, is SO much nicer than any other cookware.

  14. 10-5
    5:00
    pm

    Thanks for the info. I’ve been tempted to buy CI at garage sales but didn’t know how to season them. A question: Do they work as well on electric stovetops? When you put bacon grease inside and out, wouldn’t putting it on an electric stovetop create a greasy mess, and possibly smoke? Thanks again.

  15. 10-5
    6:45
    pm

    Pat, I use my CI on my glass top stove almost every day, never had any problems.

    The bacon grease would only smoke and make a mess if you put too much on. You put on a thin coat and wipe any excess off. Too much can cause a gummy sticky residue too.

  16. 10-5
    9:53
    pm

    First off, thank you all for the comments. I will try to answer all of the questions I can, and maybe add a little also.

    There are several ways that you can clean your cast iron.

    There is the salt method,as mentioned above.

    Another way is to boil hot water in your cast iron. Dump the water, dry by hand, place on a burner to let it dry more. Then while cast iron is still warm from the washing, apply a fine coat of oil, or what ever you used to season it, all over it.

    Another way to clean cast iron and get the crusty black stuff off your cast iron is to place it in your oven and run it through a full self-clean cycle.

    DO NOT!! DO NOT!! use oven cleaner on your cast iron or in your oven when you do this. Once the oven is done cleaning let stuff cool for awhile. (You don’t want any burnt fingers or hands.) Your cast iron should be nice and clean. From here, re-season your cast iron and it is ready to go.

    When sesoning your cast iron, whether it is new or hand me down, you can use your oven. And yes it does smoke. Or if you have a fire place with an arm for your dutch oven, hang and make sure you have a good draft. You might get some smoke. Or, crank up your gas grill. And do it just like you would in your oven. You can also use a smoker to cure your cast iron. Food comes out then with a bit of a smoky taste. I have heard of some folks curing cast iron on a camp fire. That’s somthing I have not tried yet.

    If you have a cast iron tea pot, you should cure the outside only, just like you would your skillet.

    Storage wise, keep cast iron utensils dry. Avoid storing lids on skillets and dutch ovens in order to avoid condensation, especially in humid conditions. When storing for an extended time, wipe lightly with lard, or what ever you used for curing, prior to putting away.

    Or, have a dry place for your cookware. Place the largest skillet on paper towel. Then place a paper towel in it, and place the next sized skillet in it. So on and so on, largest on the bottom to smallest on top. You can also use pot holders in the same way, or dish towels. They prevent moisture from rusting your cast iron and prevent mustiness. Paper towels can be replaced after each use. Wash pot holders or dish towels when needed. Store lids separately.

    Some stores sell protective storage bags and covers for your skillets and dutch ovens. I have not seen them in a lot of different sizes, but they are out there.

    Also I have seen a rack that you can get. It holds 5 of your skillets on their sides. They also make a rack for your stoneware and Pampered Chef stones and what not. They are like $48.00 and thats with shipping. Here is a web site at: http://www.castironskilletrack.com

    So there you have it.

    I really enjoyed being a guest blogger. And again thank you for all the comments. I hope that I got all your questions answered.

    So come on by grandsdads corner, set a spell, have some coffee. (And you can even do it in your PJ’s — no one will know.) I hope that I can give out some useful info, tell a few stories, and put a smile on your face for the day.

    To all of you. God Bless, and have a great day.
    http://www.granddadscorner.blogspot.com

  17. 1-7
    3:51
    pm

    Never put your cast iron in a hot fire to burn stuff off of it. You risk cracking it.balso, never put cold water in a hot cast iron pan, it could crack. That is direct from Lodge Cast Iron.

    If buying new cast iron, make sure it is iron and NOT blackened aluminum. They have to tell you it is aluminum.

    Next, run your fingers over the bottom. It is super rough? A little rough? Kinda rough almost smooth? I have found that the really rough ones never smooth out. Even with the patina, food sticks badly.

    We use our cast iron to make artisan breads, pizza, meats, casseroles, eggs, omelets, pancakes, cake, muffin cake ( muffin batter poured in and baked like a cake) and pies. I use atleast one piece of cast iron daily.

    To season your new cast iron, use leftover bacon grease that was poured through a napkin when it was hot to get out the little bits of stuff. Warm the pan slightly and using a paper napkin, rub a light layer of bacon grease all over the pan, inside and out. Place in cold oven upside down with a pan to catch drips underneath. Turn oven in to 350 to 400 degrees. Bake the pan(s) atleast an hour with your hood fan on for there will be some smoking. Turn oven off, let pan(s) cool in oven.

    You may then cook up some bacon in it to season it more. To clean all you need is hot water and a nylons brush. If you use soap, you will need to reseason the pan.

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