CARE OF YOUR CAST IRON COOKWARE
CLEANING CAST IRON COOKWARE
Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware seems to be a mutch debated topic no matter where you look. Various techniques have ben discussed, deabted and even argued about. So here’s our take on the subject, specifically for Black Iron.
Normal cleaning of cast iron cookware is no different than cleaning any other good pot or pan you may own. Avoiding the dishwasher is a must for cast iron as it is for a lot of other fine cookware. The abrasiveness of dishwashing tablets and powders can damage the finish and lead to rusting. A technique we’ve employed for years is the method of “Neat Cleaning” which was the subject of an article I published a while ago (available here) discussing various cleaning techniques for cast iron cookware. To Summarise:
1) Watch your cooking temperature. Like it as not food does stick at higher temperatures.
2) Start off by rinsing in hot water using a plastic scraper or brush to remove heavy soil.
3) A few drops of a MILD dishwashing detergent on a sponge to “roll up” the cooking oil won’t hurt. This is called “Neat Cleaning”. Don’t fill the pot with soapy water and let it stand.
4) Rinse thouroughly with hot water and dry thouroughly inside and out with a paper towel.
5) Place on a low burner and give the cooking surface a quick spray of spray cooking oil. Let cool, wipe, and store.
Seems like a lot of work, but the next time the pot comes out, it’s ready to go. Well worth the effort.
After a lot of use, it may become necessary to give your pan a thorough cleaning and re-seasoning. Lodge recommends re-seasoning if the food sticks to the pot or it attains a dull grey color. Our 10 year old pot gained a lot of baked on residue requiring a bit more than the usual re-seasoning and a lot of good old fashioned scraping and brushing to remove it.
Manufacturers of pre-seasoned cast iron cookware season it as part of the manufacturing process. Cast iron is porous by nature and subject to rust so the cookware gets a spray coating ( Lodge uses an electrostatic process) of some form of vegetable oil and baked at a high temperature for a period of time allowing the oil to penetrate the surface sealing it against moisture. This process gives the cookware a black virtualy non-stick surface that’s as hard as nails.
Typical seasoning oils include vegetable oil, and animal fat (lard), but we prefer using a non-stick vegetable spray as it coats the pan well and doesn’t smoke during the heating process. After coating it place into a 350 degree oven upside down for at least an hour A catch pan or aluminum foil directly beneath helps with the residual bake off. After cooling check the surface and repeat seasoning if necessary. This is especially important if you’ve procured an unseasoned pot or pan.
As a general rule, cast iron heats and retains that heat extreamly well, which is why it cooks even and well, even over a low heat. Start your pan at a medium heat for about 10 minutes on medium heat before adding food, stock, or whatever fluid require for cooking. Range tops can attain a very high heat in a very short time, and a cracked or warped pan will pretty much render it useless. Forget the “Heat Pan Till Volcano Hot” advice offered by some. It’ll do just fine at medium.
On the subject of temperature, a lot of cast iron cookware, especially the black iron variety, comes with no protective handles( most are just small loop handles). A good set of gloves is a necessity when moving a pot or skillet on the range or in the oven. Due to the weight factor it’s best to have a set of gloves or sturdy pot holders as it may require two hands to move the cookware.
An advantage of the weight, of course is that it’s much more stable on the range top and less likely to shift causing spills, and less likely to be pulled off the stove by little hands. Taking a bath in hot boiling liquid can be a disaster.
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