How to cook with cast iron

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cast iron skillet

Cast iron cookware is a versatile way to bake, roast or fry your favorite foods. Stew simmering in an iron pot hung over the fire. Seared pork chops with a side of sweet yellow cornbread. Savory meat and vegetables roasted in a Dutch oven.

Cast iron cookery was king of the early 1800s kitchen. By the late 1800s enameled cast iron became available. Porcelain enamel made cast iron pots and pans more attractive and easier to take care of. Unlike bare cast iron, enameled cast iron does not rust or retain flavors from food cooked in it.

Seasoning cast iron cookware

Bare cast iron requires seasoning. Adequately seasoned cast iron cookware is stick-free.

To season bare cast iron, rub oil into the pan and heat it to 400-500 degrees F. Heating breaks down the oil. Multiple seasoning applications create a desirable dark-black, well-seasoned sheen.

Restore neglected cast iron with re-seasoning. First remove residue by running cookware in your oven self-clean cycle. Finish with fresh seasonings according to directions above.

Cast iron cooking troubleshooting and tips

  • Medium heat is the best temperature to cook in cast iron. Always preheat cookware. Test heat level by sprinkling water in the pan. If droplets sizzle, the pan is properly preheated to medium; if water evaporates, the temperature is too high.
  • Bare cast iron cookware leaches a small amount of iron into food. Iron leaching is no cause for concern unless you have iron sensitivities. Season cast iron or use enameled cast iron to minimize leaching.
  • Iron is a reactive metal. Cooking acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus may alter the color and flavor of the dish. Good seasoning reduces the reaction. Enameled cast iron is non-reactive.
  • Cast iron is slow to heat up and slow to cool down. Food requires a longer cooking time in cast iron than in metal or glass cookware.
  • Cast iron cookware maintains even heat, cooking food more consistently than metal or glass cookware.

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