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?”
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 all about every brand 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. Let’s get started!
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 only 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. You’ll see groups, posts, articles, etc that will tell you that you can only cook certain things in cast iron. This is simply not true. I cooked everything in cast iron. Everything! Gumbo, fish, eggs, you name it, it goes in the cast iron.
A word of caution though. If you put something acidic in it, you will need to make sure to clean it well and season really well. What are some acidic things? Tomato bases, lemon juice or vinegar bases, and the like.
You can also put your cast iron in the oven and make bomb biscuits, baked chicken, and many other foods without having to break out the cookie sheets or casserole pans.
But 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. The only hard fast rule I’ve heard with cast iron is no soap. Yes, you heard right, no soap.
The reason why is that most soaps will remove that layer of oil, or seasoning, and you have to start all over again. But don’t worry, all but the most extreme bacteria and viruses die at like 150*. So 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.
Before you cook on it you’re going to heat it up again. The surface of your cast iron is going to go way past 150*.
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.
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!