October 21, 2008
While non-stick cook wear is most popular these days, I don't care for it at all. Don't get me wrong, I used to use it and rarely used my cast iron skillet. But once my non-stick pan started peeling and leaving nasty bits of icky plastic junk in my food, I ditched it and went with my cast iron for good! I never thought I'd be able to make things like eggs without non-stick pans, but I can and do!
Cast iron also has health benefits- it's known to increase dietary iron. As well, some health and environmental concerns have been raised over Teflon (the stuff that makes non-stick pans not sticky). Also, a well kept cast-iron skillet can be used literally for generations, making it environmentally friendly as well as economical.
You first need to season your new skillet. This is very easy. Just heat your oven to 300 degrees F, coat the skillet with shortening (all over the whole thing) and leave it in for an hour. Turn off the oven and let it cool before you remove it. After it's cool wash it off with water and dry it completely, then rub a very small amount of shortening back into the pan. Now it's seasoned and ready to go!
The trick to cooking with cast iron is simply to make sure it remains well seasoned. I don't feel I have to use large amounts of fat to prevent sticking as long as my skillet is well seasoned. If things start sticking, it's time to re-season the pan.
To care for your cast iron, clean it immediately after use, especially if you've been cooking acidic foods (they'll damage the seasoning). Generally you want to avoid fully submerging the pan and avoid dish soap (baking soda and water works well) but occasionally it's just too messy and I do have to. I just re-season if it seems needed after that. The most important aspect to caring for cast-iron is to make sure it's completely dried after washing. If it's not, it will rust. If you're having trouble getting it dried with a towel, pop it on a hot burner for a couple minutes (just make sure you use potholders when heating your skillet- the heat is conducted throughout the skillet, including the handle). After it's washed and completely dried, I like to rub a little shortening in, but if you've had your skillet for a long time and maintained it well it's not normally necessary.
The skillet I use is made in the USA by Lodge, and is similar to the picture above (click on the picture to go to their website). I love my cast iron skillet. I've had it know for 5 or 6 years and I know it well last for many more!