I’m not exactly sure why anyone wouldn’t have cast iron in his or her cooking arsenal. Yes, it is quite heavy compared to stainless steel and copper-clad cookware. But, if you care for it the correct way, it can far outlast its higher-priced counterparts. Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your cast iron and keep it around for a long time.
If you currently are without cast iron, you seriously should consider making a purchase, as it has a number of advantages over other cookware. For example, if you season it correctly, your cast iron cookware can be every bit as nonstick as stainless steel and copper pans. Also, it’s incredibly versatile and durable. Assuming there are no wooden handles on the pans, you can use them in the oven, on the stove, and even on the grill. Cast iron will outlast any other cookware you have, as long as you care for it properly.
The first thing to be aware of when caring for your cast iron is to never wash the cookware in the dishwasher. Cast iron is prone to rusting, and this obviously will have a negative effect on a well-seasoned pan. Your cookware should always be hand-washed.
When washing, be sure not to use soap. If the cookware is properly seasoned, warm water and steel wool will do the trick. Dry with paper towels and store with the lid off. Excess moisture will encourage the cookware to rust.
A well-seasoned pan will last much longer than one that is not. The seasoning will fill in the small pores in the cookware and provide a protective coating. Simply rub it lightly with shortening, lard, or oil, and bake it for an hour in a 300-degree oven The more you repeat the process, the greater the likelihood your cookware’s life will be extended.
If you want your cast iron to be around for a long time, then cooking acidic foods would be a cardinal sin. Cooking things such as tomatoes and lemon juice will ruin the seasoning of the pans since cast iron is such a highly reactive metal.
Finally, never store foods in cast iron cookware. It’s okay to keep food in it while you’re eating, but when you’re done, move the food to another container and clean the pans thoroughly.
So if you currently are without quality cast iron cookware, I would suggest starting out with a good skillet and a Dutch oven. You’ll be amazed at the versatility of these pieces, whether you do a lot of pan frying, pan roasting, stewing, or deep frying. As long as you adhere to proper care and cleaning, your cast iron will be your friend for many, many years.
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