I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I know here in the south cast iron is king… or queen. Either way it rules the south with an iron fist and for good reason. Cast iron is easily the most versatile item in your kitchen. No need for six million pans, one cast iron skillet and a good Dutch oven/ stock pot is really all you need. Big dinner or small, it can do it all. Yes, it’s corny but it’s true. There are so many benefits to cast iron that it is definitely worth using. Here’s why we cook with cook with cast iron.
Cast Iron Is King
For years I have been a firm believer in my non stick skillets and other cookware. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really last that long. We’re talking five years tops before the coating comes off the pan and into our food. Not to mention that most non stick coatings are toxic. After listening to me complain for years Jared, being from the south, asked, “Why not cast iron?”
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Why Not Cast Iron?
The main reason was simple: I’m not used to it. I grew up with everything crappy pots and pans to the best of the best. We wrecked every one of them. So when we made the move to the homestead, out went the non stick and in came the cast iron. The learning curve was huge. I had no clue what I was doing. But with Jared and YouTube’s help? I’ve got the glassiest cast iron on the planet. Well, not quite but we are getting there.
If you’re anything like I was, you have no idea what the best brand is, how to use it, or even how to cook with it. Rest assured, I’ve got you covered. After a ton of research, I could tell you just about everything when it comes to brands and oil. What’s the best, the worst, and the in between. But the reality is that it’s a lot of information. Or, I could just tell you what I did and you can take some of the learning curve out of it.
What Brand to Buy?
Well this one is pretty simple. Lodge. I don’t say this lightly, remember we beat the crap out of every single product that comes into this house. It has to stand up to that. So far my Lodge pans are the only ones that have done that. The other reason I’m a fan of Lodge is because I can find it at pretty much any store. Living in a rural community, that is important to me. I don’t want to have to go around the world to find what I need. Almost every town has a Wal-Mart or at least the next town over does, so it’s easy to find. If you live in an area where stores are minimal, here are some links to the cast iron I bought from them.
Lodge 12in double handle pan (corn bread pan)
If you are just starting out cooking with cast iron, I don’t recommend going to the yard/garage/junk sales. The reason I say don’t is this; do you know how to strip, grind, and season? If not, then maybe not start there. Let’s set you up for success instead of frustration and possible failure.
Just be forewarned, it is addictive . You will end up with all the cast iron!
How To Cook With Cast Iron?
Again, it’s pretty simple. Turn on your burner, put your cast iron on it and add your fat. Once the pan is hot, start cooking. That’s pretty much it.
But You’ve Heard….
You’ll see groups, posts, articles, etc that will tell you that you can only cook certain things in cast iron. You’ve probably heard that you can’t use soap. Or that there are rules as to what can go into cast iron. Y’all! It is simply not true! I cook everything in cast iron. Everything! Gumbo, fish, eggs, you name it, it goes in the cast iron. I have used *gasp* soap on my cast iron. I’ve burnt cinnamon rolls on my cast iron…. Though that one almost ended in a fight between the hubbins and I….oops.
Maybe you’ve heard that you can’t use cast iron on electric stoves or glass top stoves? Literally, none of these things are true. But I feel like some guidelines would be helpful to those that don’t know anything about cast iron.
Cast Iron Guidelines
I was going to say rules, but I believe that rules (especially around cooking) are made to be broken. So here are some of my guidelines for cooking with cast iron.
Acidic Foods- Tomato bases, lemon juice or vinegar bases, and the like, should be treated with caution. I still do it, all the time in fact. But I make sure to clean, scrub and season my pan after every use. It’s not something I’m super worried about
Limited or No Soap- I’m not going to go in depth about using soap here because I go over it more below, but I feel like it needs to be repeated. If you are going to use soap on cast iron, try not to use harsh soaps that “cut grease”. You will wreck your seasoning with prolonged use. I use Mrs. Myers soaps on my cast iron and it hasn’t wrecked the seasoning.
Truly Non Stick- Uh, unless your pan has been used many times, seasoned many times, and so on. Your pan is probably not going to be non stick for a minute. It takes time to build up the layers of seasoning. I can cook eggs in my pan without them sticking, but not when we first got them. So make sure you are using a good fat and heating up your pan before cooking.
What Fat to Use?
This is totally up to you. I prefer the higher smoke points. For example: avocado oil has a smoke point of 520*. Grapeseed oil is 420*. Olive oil is 375*. Why is this important? The smoke point is when the oil starts to break down. The best temperatures to season cast iron is over 400*. That being said, I normally reach for grapeseed oil when searing, seasoning, or just general cooking.
Clean up is just as easy as using it. However, you will hear every possible way to clean your cast iron. Jared boils water in it to help loosen up whatever is stuck on and then after a good rinse he will re-season it. I scrub whatever is stuck on off with one of these these. Other times, I will boil…. And even other times, I will was it with soap. It really all depends on what is going on with the pan and what we cooked.
When you have scrubbed off all your dinner and wiped it out, put back on the stove heat it back up, add a light smear of fat and let it absorb. Once that oil is moving, turn off the burner and let it cool. Once you can comfortably touch it, wipe out that excess oil and store it.
The pan above is clean but not oiled (seasoned). You can see in the middle that it still needs to be oiled. I will usually add grapeseed oil to a lint free towel and then smear the oil around. Once the pan is cool, I wipe out all the excess and then store.
Can You Use Soap?
I might lose some followers here, but yes, you can. And yes, I do. But I only use mild soaps like Mrs. Myers, or a Castile soap. The reason why is because the cast iron has gotten nasty for some reason. I don’t always do it and I immediately re-season it, but it does happen. So don’t feel bad about it. Your seasoning won’t come off just because you used soap. And if it does? Your pan wasn’t seasoned in the first place.
That’s pretty much it. If you have any questions feel free to let me know! If you like this post hit that subscribe button and share it!
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