Cooking with Cast Iron

The hottest trend in cookware goes back thousands of years.

| November/December 2008

Skillet stir fry

The cast-iron skillet is one of the most popular cookware items on the market. Dennis
Chicken-Apple Sausage Fry-Up
Seasoning Your Cast-Iron Pan 

When Food Network stars Mario Batali and Paula Deen, genius Mexican restaurateur Rick Bayless and domestic diva Martha Stewart are all pitching lines of cast iron, you know it has to be scorching.

When French stalwart Le Creuset, longtime makers of Dutch ovens for the gourmet class, serves up its old faithful designs in colors like Kiwi and Caribbean Blue, there’s got to be some serious luring of youthful tastes going on.

If you talk to kitchen connoisseurs – from cowboy cook-off champs to trendy chefs – one pan rules them all. There’s one pan you want if you were stranded on a desert island, or had to move into a new home with hungry mouths to feed and no luggage but what you can fit in the trunk of a Prius.

That pan would be the cast-iron skillet.

The conductive quality of cast iron smoothes out the uneven heat of the crankiest electric burners, gently sweats onions, brings frying oil to just the right temperature and keeps it there. The skillet leaps into service to flatten a chicken breast, crush cookie crumbs or, in a pinch, hammer a nail or clobber a mouse. Iron puts the perfect crust on corn bread, releases frittatas without regrets. You can sear a sesame-crusted salmon fillet one moment, rinse the pan, wipe it clean with a paper towel and then poach pears for dessert. Fire it up dry to toast nuts or spices. Plop it on a wooden cutting board at the table to keep a gratin warm. Exploit its willingness to go from stovetop to oven to table. Use it. Use it again.

Cast iron sees frequent use as proof of your love.

3/27/2015 3:59:06 PM

Use real coarse salt if you can order it or rock salt for a pool if no other available. A old towel or washrag is great for this. Boil a quart (or so) of water with salt to aid in cleaning now and then. I heat my oven to about 450 degrees and roast the cleaned ironware with a coating of lard. Use Lye to soak off congealed crud from the outside of the iron and re-season it. I used a plastic pan big enough to hold water and ironware. Even used Easy-Off oven cleaner to a few of them.

3/27/2015 3:53:10 PM

Having grown up with cast iron as our main cooking gear; I have some that is from the 1800's and some from the 1930-1960 lifetime use. My Great Grandmother crossed the plains with a wagon and used a barrel of river sand to clean her pans and skillets with a old rag to scour it around, then she rinsed the pan/skillet with a cup of water if she had it to spare. The Heat of Cooking will sterilize the pot/pan/skillet well enough that no one got sick. Lard from pigs was preferred as it takes heat real well adn cooks into the metal real well. Vegetable shortening was used by Mom for over 75 yrs and she used a lot of bacon grease to coat the pan for cooking in general; Biscuits were made with a good dollop of bacon grease by the way. No measuring occurred in doing so. Dad made a hole in the top of the stored flour in a 6 gallon can. Added ingredients by eye and Never touched a scoop, spoon, or cup. Mixed it with his fingers (no thumb) and lifted it when a ball of dough occurred. Placed the dough on a floured board and cut it out with a used a soup can instead Used SEGO canned milk for up to 4 dozen biscuits at a time. No whole milk as a rule.

betty riddle
8/31/2011 8:00:43 PM

I was so looking forward to seeing how to clean and season my cast iron pots and pans. I have serveral. Was reallt disapointed. Betty

8/30/2011 2:12:23 PM

Lard is the best to season your pan; it doesn't go rancid. And, to clean a cast iron pan, scrape out the loose stuff, sprinkle in some salt and scrub it with a Scotch Brite (or similar)scouring pad. It leaves the finish on the pan but removes stuck on food surprisingly easily.

ma b
8/30/2011 1:57:19 PM

VERY disappointing article. Where's the "best way to season your cast-iron pans" info? Three pages of not really anything worthwhile.

8/30/2011 12:29:38 PM

Simply an article touting cast iron, which I love, but no cleaning advice or tips in using. Also doesn't mention that many new cast iron skillets that come out of china are recycled, which you would think is great, except that they have been found to have lead in them. So think twice before using no-name cast iron. Lodge brand is he only one still made in the US from what I can find, so I stay with them and European brands.

8/30/2011 10:29:22 AM

Nice article, but misleading in the email as to the contents of the article. You say that there is info on how to season a cast iron pan, and a "few tips for cooking" with cast iron cookware. Nowhere did I find this info, (I read it twice). I have a small enamel coated cast iron fry pan that EVERYTHING sticks to and was hoping for some wisdom on how to get around this problem. Most of the article was very informative about the different brands available and some history and collectability of cast iron cookware, thank you for that. But I guess I need to look elsewhere for the information I need.

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