Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron is seen as the ‘hard-to-use pan’ in the kitchen, but in reality, it couldn’t be easier. There are just a few rules with cast iron, and once you know them, you’ll understand why those who cook in cast iron pans, love them.
- Heat: heat the pan properly before you use it. That means putting it onto a low to mid-flame when you start prepping, and letting it heat while you chop onions and get your things together. Rotate the pan every few minutes to make sure the whole thing is heated, and when you come to actually cook, the whole cooking surface will have heated evenly and, this is important, will stay hot for ages and transfer that heat really well. If you try to cook in a cold pan, you’re quite likely to have food stick, because heating also helps to close the microscopic pores in the surface, preventing food from sticking.
- Oil your food: whereas with other pans, like stainless steel or non-stick, you’ll squirt a little oil into the base of the pan before you cook, with cast iron (especially griddled cast iron), you’re much better off brushing oil onto your meat or veggies before you cook them. This helps to prevent oil from cascading into the grooves on the pan and making clean up such a pain. When you add your food to the pan, use tongs and a firm grip and drop and lift it a few times to create the initial sear, then pop it down and leave it.
- If you are searing steak, don’t flip it constantly. Leave it to cook for the full cooking time on one side, then flip it. This caramelises the sugars in the meat, searing it and preventing it from sticking. If you lift it too quickly, you’ll break the searing process, resulting in a flabby steak and stuck on mess on your pan.
How to season a cast iron pan
1. Firstly, scrub off any rusty or lumpy patches. Use a scrubbing brush, and really go at it to clean all the undesirable bits off the pan. This is the last time you’ll use soap and a scrubbing brush or sponge on your pan, so really make a good job of it.
2. Now, preheat your oven to 180°C (you can do this step when you’ll be using the oven to roast veggies or bake a cake).
3. Rinse, then dry your pan thoroughly. Using a brush or a wadded paper towel, wipe a thin layer of oil over the inside of your pan. You can use any oil, but choose one with a high smoke point as this oil forms the basis of your seasoning layer, and cast iron gets really hot.
4. Using a roasting tray with a grid, lay the pan upside down (the roasting tray will catch any stray drips) and bake the pan in the oven for an hour.
5. Turn off the heat, leave the pan inside to cool to room temperature along with the oven. You can repeat this process as many times as you like, as each layer helps to build the non-stick layer of the pan. You can also just do it once and allow the seasoning to build up as you cook. Either way works.
Good oils to use for seasoning cast iron pans
- Peanut oil
- Coconut oil
- Almond oil
- Flaxseed oil
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