Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware

Julie Miguel is a digital content producer with a specialization in food media as well as an active food blogger located in Toronto, Canada. The focus of her blog, Daily Tiramisu, is to empower home cooks to be fearless in the kitchen and she does this by taking traditionally difficult recipes and making them easier to execute.

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IMG 5173 Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware
After the cure

IMG 5166 Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware
After the cure
Your cast iron cookware can look this shiny and new!  Keep reading if you would like to find out how!
Benefits of Cast Iron Cookware:

-Even heat distribution (more than lightweight aluminum pans)

-cooks food evenly

-Easy to clean

-Holds heat longer (thus requiring less fuel)

-medicinal qualities (food may absorb and pass onto us traces of the essential mineral)

Cast iron cookware must be properly maintained.  To maintain cast iron it must be properly seasoned (cured) – and that cure must be maintained.   Curing cast iron means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, such as shortening, which subsequently gets baked in.  If the cure is maintained your cast iron will have a smooth, non-stick surface on both the inside and outside of the piece.  Also, your cast iron will not rust nor will food stick to it and burn.

New Cast Iron Cookware:

Most cast iron has a protective coating on it when you first purchase it and this coating must be removed.  If this is the case with your cast iron:

-Scrub the item with a scouring pad, using soap and the hottest tap water possible. 

-Once the coating is removed you should NEVER LET SOAP TOUCH THE IRON AGAIN.  The reason you cannot use soap is because the cure is based on grease and soap’s job is to remove grease. 

-Immediately dry your cast iron

Seasoning Your Cast Iron:

-Wipe a fairly heavy coating of shortening over all of the metal (including the handle, and any legs or other protuberances).  Try to use shortening and not lard because lard, like all animal fat, has a tendency to turn rancid.  Never use butter, margarine or any fat containing milk or salt to season cast iron).

-Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake your cast iron pieces for about 1 hour.  Put aluminum foil underneath the cookware to catch the drippings.

-Remove the items after an hour, blot up any extra puddles of grease with paper towel, and then let the pieces cool (you can also shut off the oven and let the pieces cool in the oven).  Do not be alarmed if at this point the cast iron feels sticky as it will lose this once the cure is complete or during the first time you cook with it.  These first few times you fry with it will complete the cure – turning your iron into the rich, black colour that is a sign of a well-cured and well-used cast iron skillet.

Cast iron makers will say that cookware is now ready for cooking, though most recommend that you use it only for frying the first few times.

IMG 5160 Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware
Before curing  my skillet

IMG 5156 Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware
Before curing my grill

Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware:

Properly cleaning your cast iron is the secret to maintaining the cure. So, DO NOT USE SOAP ON CURED CAST IRON. EVER! 

-All you need is hot water (the hotter the better) and a scrub brush. Let the hot water flow over the iron as you scrub it with the brush. If you want to sterilize it or remove stuck on food particles, pour boiling water over it after you have brushed it. Keep in mind that cast iron if cured properly will not harbor pathogens. 

-Immediately dry the cast iron, and then coat it with a thin film of shortening as to replace any you have lost through the cooking and cleaning process. This prevents rust from forming.

Never put a hot cast iron utensil into cold water or on to a cold surface. Thermal shock can occur causing the metal to warp and crack.

Cooking with Cast Iron:

It is important to heat the piece slowly:

-Set your burner on very low and allow cast iron to gradually warm up. Then turn your heat to medium or medium-high, as necessary. (There is no reason ever to use the highest setting with cast iron, as it collects and conducts heat so readily).

-Alternatively, you can evenly heat your ironware by popping in into an oven set on low. Once it is heated, simply transfer it to the range top and cook as usual.

Be particularly careful when cooking with an electric range, because the burners create hot spots that can warp cast iron or even cause it to crack. Be sure to preheat the iron very slowly when using an electric range and keep the settings to medium or even medium-low.

Removing Rust from Cast Iron:

Simply scour the rust off using a very fine grade of sandpaper or steel wool, then re-season the cast iron.

Check back for:

Cinnamon Buns in a Cast Iron Skillet Recipe
Pizza in Cast Iron Recipe

With Love,

Daily Tiramisu

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