How to cook with a cast iron pan
An article on how to cook using a cast iron pan is probably no surprise to many. After all, a cast iron pan is one of the most versatile kitchen items you can have. It’s tough and rugged, which makes it great for cooking over open flames or campfires, and since it’s so durable it means that you don’t have to keep buying pans. The only limit here is your creativity!
Since they’ve been used for hundreds of years, most people know how to use a cast iron skillet in some capacity or another. But just because everyone does something doesn’t mean that they do it properly. When I first started working with my dad at his restaurant he had me scrubbing pots and pans — fun stuff, right? But I noticed that he was scrubbing them in the same motions over and over again.
Here’s a scenario: You’re 25 or 30 years old, you’ve been doing your job for what feels like an eternity, so of course you do things the same way every time because it’s “the normal way.” Granted, if it isn’t broken why fix it? — but there are always improvements to be made! So I started asking questions.
And it turns out that how my dad was cleaning his pans with steel wool wasn’t actually the best method. There is a much better way to clean your cast iron pan than using steel wool — water and elbow grease! That’s right! Water may seem a bit counter-intuitive , but water and heat are what will get your pan so clean that it will be good to use in no time.
I’m going to go through a couple of beginner tips on how to cook with a cast iron pan, then I’ll share some more advanced methods as well. But for the beginning:
1. Wash it! — Cleanliness is important in any kitchen, and this goes double if you’re using cast iron pans on an open flame or over an open campfire. If there’s food scraps stuck inside or grease build up from last time you cooked something, those things can cause your next meal to taste nasty! Therefore I suggest giving them a good scrubbing with hot water (and maybe some dish soap) before using them for a new meal.
2. Rinse it! — You may be thinking “I just told him to wash it, why are you telling me to rinse it?!?” Well, because not all of the soap is going to come off just by running hot water over it, and once you start cooking some parts will get hotter than others so what was once rinsed well might end up kind of soapy still. So if there’s any soupiness left (and there probably will be), give your pan another quick rinse before use.
3. Heat it! — This step isn’t necessary for cleaning purposes, but I think that seasoning cast iron pans is something that everyone should do at least once in their life… and doing this step first will help you achieve a better result later on. The best way to season a cast iron pan is by using it! How, you ask? Well, get your pan nice and hot (but not smoking) over some low heat — place it in the oven on 250 degrees if you can and let it warm up for 20-30 minutes before putting away. This will prepare the pores of your cast iron for seasoning with oil so once that oil drips into those little holes they’ll be coated and ready to trap the fat there for good!
4. Oil it! — Whether it’s before or after you season your cast iron pan, make sure you are applying an even coating of vegetable oil all over its cooking surface when storing. This will keep it from rusting as well as making your next meals taste even better.
5. Savor the flavor! — I love using cast iron pans in my kitchen because they add a subtle, but wonderful smokiness to the foods that you prepare in them. This is called “flavor enhancement” and it’s awesome! One of the reasons for this tasty transformation is because of what I said earlier: seasoning. The oil that coats your pan after every cooking session will build up over time, creating a thicker and more non-stick layer with every use until you are able to transfer eggs without breaking the yolk or sautee shrimp tails-on without worrying about them sticking to the bottom!
As you may have noticed by now, many of my behaviors involve cooking. I like to cook for myself and others. I also love eating food that other people cooked for me.
I’ve been cooking for a long time and even though I can’t say that I know everything there is to know about cooking, I still believe that every day counts as knowledge in the kitchen. So here are some tips on how to cook with a cast iron pan along with some more advanced techniques:
1. Wash your pan (even if it doesn’t look dirty)
2. Rinse your pot (remember not all the soap is going to come off just by running hot water over it)
3. Heat your pan to prepare it for seasoning
4. Coat your pan with oil to prevent rusting and increase flavor
5. Enjoy the deliciousness!
Additional cooking tips:
– If you have a cast iron pan that has been sitting around for a while, it might be time to give it a good scrub. You can do this with hot water and maybe some soap to remove the gunk left behind from your last meals. This step is important because cleanliness will make your next cooking session more pleasant and less stressful!
-If there’s food scraps stuck inside or grease build up like from last time you cooked something, those things will cause your next meal to taste nasty! So try giving them a good scrubbing with hot water (and maybe some dish soap) before using them for another meal.
– Before storing or cooking in any cast iron cookware, make sure that it’s thoroughly dried and oiled to prevent rusting.
– Another reason why seasoning is important: cast iron cookware needs to be heated slowly over low heat (and possibly in an oven) to allow for the pores of the metal time to adjust before being filled with your food. The more times you do this, the better it gets so I recommend doing this every time that you use your cast iron pans!
I hope these tips will help you decide whether or not having cat iron pans are worth investing in and maybe even lead you on a journey of exploration into cat iron pan cooking! Happy eating! And if after reading my article you feel like