With thousands of options when it comes to kitchen appliances and cutlery, it is difficult to find something everyone agrees on. This is mainly based on personal experience and the availability of these kitchen tools. However, the one thing that everyone seems to be on the same page about is the cast iron skillet.
With more tech-aided kitchen appliances making their way into our homes, some may think that cast iron pans have taken the back burner. On the contrary, cast iron pans remain a favourite in all homes because, unlike other items found in the kitchen, they are durable, multipurpose, efficient, and low maintenance.
Those that are still using these fantastic kitchen items have lots of questions. These range from how you prep a cast iron skillet to how you clean it and, most commonly, how to use a cast iron skillet. This piece will provide tips and tricks on using, cleaning, and maintaining cast iron skillets.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron Pan
If you have a new pan or just finished a thorough cleansing of yours, it is time to break in your skillet. To do this, you need to season it. Cast iron seasoning is what stands between your skillet having a rough and uneven surface that food sticks to and a smooth non-stick skillet.
To properly season your skillet, you might want to repeat the process as necessary. The more you do it, the better it will be. Here is a simple step-by-step process for seasoning your skillet correctly.
Step 1: Properly Clean Your Skillet
Cleaning your skillet removes any impurities, including rust and stuck-on food. You need a piece of steel wool, mild dish soap, and elbow grease to do this. Scrub the pan paying attention to every nook and cranny. Do not forget the handle and bottom.
Step 2: Drying the Cast Iron Cookware
Once you are done cleaning, you should place your skillet on a rack to air dry. Wipe down the pan using paper towels or a clean and dry dish towel. Next, place the skillet on the stove and turn it on to high heat. The heat from the stove burner will get rid of any water you missed.
Step 3: Oiling the Cast Iron Pan
With your pan dry, rub a thin layer of oil on it. You can use flaxseed oil, canola oil or any other neutral oil. Make sure to rub oil on the entire pan, including the bottom and the handle. However, if your handle is wood or enamel, you can skip it.
Once you are done oiling it up, place the pan on its side for a few minutes before removing any excess oil. This will ensure that the pan absorbs the oil it needs before you wipe it down.
Step 4: Baking the Cast Iron Cookware
With the excess oils off the cast iron, it is now time to bake your cast iron skillet. You need to turn your oven to the highest temperature and place the pan upside-down in the hot oven for approximately one hour.
When putting the skillet inside, remember to place a baking tray or aluminium foil under the skillet to catch any oil, primarily if you use too much oil. When this is done, take your cast iron out and allow it to cool. You can use it for cooking once it has cooled.
Cooking With Cast Iron Skillets
With your skillet cleaned and seasoned, you can start cooking. When cooking with cast iron on a stovetop, always preheat it for five to ten minutes before using it. Do this in a low to medium heat setting.
To know if your skillet is properly heated, just hover your hand over it to feel for heat. You need it properly heated to prevent food from sticking.
Once the pan is properly heated, place your food on it and leave it. Do this to avoid sticking. With one side of the food cooked, you can then flip it and cook the other side. Wear kitchen mitts when flipping or tossing your food because the handles are hot.
Being made of cast iron allows the skillet to take on anything thrown at it. Meaning you can use any utensil on a cast iron, including a metal spatula, metal utensils and wooden cooking spoons. It is, however, not recommended to use plastic spoons or spatulas because too much heat from the skillet can melt them.
What Can You Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet?
As mentioned earlier, cast iron pans are versatile, and if seasoned well, they can cook anything and anywhere. Most foods cooked on a cast-iron skillet are best started on the stovetop and finished in the oven. Here is a list of food items you can cook and bake on a cast-iron skillet:
- Pan-roasted cabbage slaw
- Crispy cauliflower
- Charred peppers
- Vegetarian chilis
- Roasted chicken
Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet
Cleaning a cast iron pan or skillet is very easy, especially if done immediately. All you need is hot water and a cleaning sponge for proper cleaning. If you want to deep clean your skillet, then kosher salt or other coarse salts will do the trick. Salt helps get rid of any stubborn stuck-on food.
When cleaning, do not forget to clean the sides, the bottom and the handle. Once you are done cleaning, you must make sure you dry it. Moisture on the skillet will cause rusting. After drying it with a clean cloth or paper towel, place it on the stovetop. The heat will eliminate any remaining moisture.
Proper Maintenance of a Cast Iron Skillet
As a proud owner of a cast-iron skillet, you need to make sure that it is in pristine condition before and after using it. To do this, you need to maintain it. Here are a couple of tips when it comes to cast iron cookware. These are basic and simple rules:
- Cooking acidic foods messes with the seasoning of your skillet. These foods include tomatoes, bottles of vinegar, and wines. You can cook acidic foods on your skillet; remember to re-season it before cooking other meals on it.
- Exposing your cast iron to extreme temperature changes can crack your skillet.
- Fish and other meats with flaky textures may stick and have trouble releasing from the pan. This leads to the meat falling apart when flipping. Cooking with cast iron may not be the best option for these meats.
- Your pan always takes the flavour of what you cook on it.
- Never leave your skillet submerged in water.
- Preheat your skillet before cooking on it.
- Only use scouring pads to clean your skillet when you want to bring it down to its base layer.
Restoring a Skillet
While restoring a skillet is easy to do at home, you can always have it professionally done. If you choose to do it yourself, you need a ball of steel wool, vinegar, baking soda, and salt. With all these at hand, it is time to start scrubbing. Once all the rust and grime are off, wash it with hot water and a sponge.
Next, you want to dry it before seasoning it, like a new skillet. You may have to wash and scrub it a few times before seasoning it.
Using a Cast Iron Skillet the Right Way
We hope you found this guide on how to use a cast iron skillet helpful. Remember, cast iron cookware can be fun to use, but it needs to be seasoned, cleaned, and maintained properly.
Do you have questions relating to cast iron skillets? Let us know in the comments section, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!