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RE: Best cookware for induction? (Follow-Up #19)

posted by: alanrockwood on 05.31.2005 at 12:43 am in Cookware Forum

URSpider,

A few tips about cast iron. You might already know some or all of them, but here goes. First and most important, the pan has to be seasoned before use. This basically means heating the pan with a thin coating of cooking oil until it turns dark and quits smoking. Usually, several treatments are required to get a good seasoning layer. I do it in my propane BBQ to keep from filling up the house with smoke. The seasoning will get better as you use the pan, provided you take care of the pan correctly. After a while it gets to be a non-stick surface, almost like teflon.

Second, don't wash the pan with soap and water because that will ruin the seasoning. Often you can just wipe out the pan with a towel or paper towel and put it away. Sometimes you might have to use warm/hot water and a mild (not aggressive) plastic scratch pad. If you do have to resort to soap and water you will probably end up needing to reseason the pan.

Third, when you cook something in the pan it is best to heat the pan first. Otherwise the food is more likely to stick. For a typical example, to make skillet cornbread you would preheat the pan, either on the stove top or while you preheat the oven. Put a little oil in the pan. (You can put the oil in first, but if you do it will smoke a lot when you preheat the pan.) Then pour the batter in the hot skillet and return to the oven to bake. This technique makes a superior crust.

Fourth, never put really cold water into a really hot pan. Perhaps I should say don't put a lot of really cold water in a really hot pan. A small amount won't hurt. The problem you are trying to avoid here is cracking the pan from thermal shock.

Fifth, don't soak the pan for long periods before washing, and be sure to wipe the pan thoroughly dry. It works best if the pan is warm when you dry the pan so any water residue will evaporate. Some people even heat the pan briefly on the stove. The idea here is to avoid rust.

Sixth, store the pan with a thin coating of oil on the surface. This prevents rust. Cooking oil works if you use the pan regularly, but it tends to go rancid rather fast. Shortening is said to work well... doesn't go rancid. There is a product from a company called Camp Chief that is supposed be work well and doesn't go rancid. I usually use a very thin coating of food grade mineral oil.

Do some googling on cast iron cookware and/or dutch oven cookery to find more information on the care and use of cast iron cookware.

If you take care of it cast iron will reward you. It heats evenly, it holds heat a long time, and a well seasoned pan has a non-stick surface that will rival teflon, and unlike teflon the surface can be renewed if it gets damaged. Take care of it and your great grandchildren will be using the your pans long after you are gone. Besides, for some reason food tastes better when cooked in cast iron.

Did I mention that cast iron is relatively inexpensive? You can get a plain cast iron indoor-style dutch oven (Lodge brand) for a fraction of the cost of porcelain covered cast iron (Le Creuset), and the plain cast iron is more non-stick, and less likely to be damaged by mistreatment. If the surface does become damaged you can always renew it, as mentioned earlier, whereas with the porcelain covered cast iron if you chip the surface it can never be fixed. In comparison to teflon covered cookware, cast iron will last forever if treated well, whereas with teflon you will buy new pans every few years or so.

A couple of more things, the first few times you use your newly seasoned cast iron cook some nice greasy things. It helps develop the seasoning. Avoid acid foods, like tomato sauce or things with a lot of vinegar until you have used the pan a lot to develop the seasoning.

Alton Brown, host of the TV show Good Eats, is a proponent of cast iron cookware, as befitting his southern roots.

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clipped on: 09.12.2009 at 03:31 pm    last updated on: 09.12.2009 at 03:32 pm