A few years ago, we were talking about getting a cast iron skillet to cook in. Travis had told me that he loves to cook in cast iron and that if I tried it I might just like it too. He told me how his grandmother had a cast iron skillet that she cooked eggs in, and never had a problem with the food sticking, plus you don’t have the toxic chemicals you do with aging teflon cookware.
We ended up buying an 8 inch skillet from Cracker Barrel to try this out. I was excited and nervous to see how well the skillet did. The next day I was able to cook some homemade hashbrowns and it did a good job. The only problem that I ran into was that since it was new, the potatoes were sticking. I had asked if this was supposed to happen and he said that if I would season the pan, then this should help keep the food from sticking. I did some research to see how people seasoned cast iron.
We found an article that stated how to season cast iron. The article said you should clean the pan then coat lightly with vegetable oil and place in an oven on the cleaning setting. This particular article also said that if you do this indoors you will need to open a few windows, as the oil will smoke as the pan becomes seasoned. The article also state to repeat this process several times. After about 4 times, we decided we would go ahead and give this a try to see how well it works. It was far better, but still we had some issues with food sticking.
So, after further research we heard that you should always use a metal spatula when cooking with cast iron, and that you should use oils that do not break down at low temperatures, so we switched to using lard instead of butter and olive oil when cooking in cast iron. The good old fashioned lard and using a metal spatula has created a smooth surface on the pan over several months of cooking, and food rarely sticks as it did before seasoning it.
I am very greatful to Travis for introducing me to cast iron cookware. I highly recommend cooking with cast iron. I love the fact that the food tastes better and stays warm for a very long time. We take our cast iron cookware camping with us, and use it over our camp stove and occassionally over the open fire. One of my favorite campfire meals that we make is chili and cornbread.
We have since purchased several other cast iron cookware pieces for different needs. We picked up a cast iron griddle from his folks, and Travis bought me a 12″ cast iron skillet from Cracker Barrel for my Birthday. The most critical thing to remember when using cast iron is that it is like a fine wine – with propper care it will only get better with time.
When cleaning your cast iron remember to never use dish washing detergent, though it is safe to use baking soda or vinegar, and always hand wash. If you have stuck on food, fill the bottom of the pan with water and place on a burner. The water will loosen the stuck on food as it warms up, making it easy to scrape clean. Never put your cast iron in the dishwasher, as the detergents are too harsh and will break down the seasoning. If your food starts sticking to the pan it could be that your pan has lost its seasoning. If the seasoning is lost, you need to start the seasoning process from square one, and build it up over time by repeatedly using it.
With proper care and maintenance of your cast iron, I am certain that you will grow to love it as much as we do. I am hoping in the near future to replace all my teflon pans with cast iron cookware in my kitchen.