I know you have your grandma’s old cast iron skillet in the back of your cabinet somewhere. Or maybe the Lodge you impulse bought on Amazon? Either way, it’s time to get it out and start using it!
Cast iron is trendy and popular, so lots of people buy one online so that they can feel like a real farmhouse cook, the problem is that when they throw it on the stove, they ruin their food. It sticks, its messy, and you’re not supposed to wash it?
If you’ve got an old skillet or a pre-seasoned one that you bought new, here are my tips for doing one of the tasks most dreaded by people who are new to cooking with cast iron.
Cleaning Cast Iron
First, we have to make sure it’s clean. Cast iron cleaning is as simple as scrubbing it down with hot water, drying it thoroughly, then wiping on a thin layer of oil (whatever you have) to protect it in your cabinet. That’s it. As you cook with it this will get easier and easier.
If you don’t want to worry about the details that you’ll find online about oil polymerization and all of the details around seasoning, just cook with it and it will get better and better. You think your grandma knew about oil polymerization or used flaxseed oil? Nope. She just cooked in it every day.
How to Cook With Cast Iron
Ok. Here it is. The simple steps to keep things from sticking:
- Preheat that pan! Cast iron has a high thermal mass, which means it takes a while to heat up, and we need those eggs or whatever we are cooking to form a solid bottom surface right away if we don’t want them to stick.
- Put your food in the pan.
- DON’T TOUCH IT!
This final step is the critical mistake people make with cast iron. They think they need to keep food moving so it doesn’t stick. Wrong. Let the food build up a crust on the bottom through what’s called the Maillard reaction, then it will naturally release itself from the pan!
This is true with any food in a cast iron pan. If you go to flip it and its stuck, the natural reaction is to jam the spatula under and rip it off, which will destroy something delicate like eggs.
Why Cook with Cast Iron?
First, cast iron pans are the quintessential piece of American cookware. Invincible and versatile, there is really no kitchen which should be without one. Next, they are cheap! Compared to the use you’ll get out of one, cast iron is affordable and durable.
Additionally, teflon pans are generally recognized as safe, but they always concern me. I’m not trying to be a fearmonger, and I use them occasionally too, but I try to avoid them day-to-day.
Enjoy and Keep Going
Keep cooking in cast iron and your skillet (and skills) will get better and better. Soon, you’ll have a cast iron skillet living on your stove where it should be, not in the back of your cabinet! If you aren’t lucky enough to have an old cast iron pan hanging out in the back of your cabinet, here is a cast iron skillet that I recommend.