Properly “seasoned,” cast iron is the true original non-stick cookware. Maintain your cast iron by “seasoning” or “curing” and food will not stick when properly seasoned. Seasoning or curing cast iron cookware means filling the micro-sized pores and voids in the metal with grease or cooking oil of your choice which then gets baked into the surfaces.
If the cast iron pan is not properly seasoned or a portion of the seasoning has been allowed to wear off or if there is rust present, food will stick to the surface and the cookware should be properly cleaned and re-seasoned.
Seasoning a New Item
- Use your oven or gas barbecue in a well-ventilated area.
- Grease the inside and outside surfaces with your choice of non-flavoured cooking grease or oil. A light coating is sufficient.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the item on the centre rack. To eliminate any concerns about using too much oil or grease, you can put the pan upside down in the oven. Put a cookie sheet on the rack below to catch any drips.
- Bake in the oven for about an hour or so. Shut off oven and let it cool down. Can be repeated.
Some cast iron pans and skillets may have a protective coating on them from an indeterminate source. For example, you may have picked up an item at garage sale and have no idea what or where the seasoning came from or it may be a new purchase from a department store.
For this reason it is recommended that you thoroughly wash the purchase with soap and water to remove the previous coating and season as a new item detailed above. This way you can be certain what the seasoning is and that it is to your taste and diet.
Cooking with Cast Iron
Cast iron cooks evenly, even over uneven heat. It takes a bit of time to warm up and a drop of water on the pan that sizzles is a good indicator if the pan is ready. If the water instantly evaporates, you may have the pan on too high. However, whatever you’re cooking will dictate the temperature.
As with all other non-stick surfaces, use an amount of cooking oil or butter of your choice.
Any utensils that you use with cast iron has to be metal. Don’t get concerned that the metal will scratch the surface and ruin the skillet. The thing is that in this case, we want it to scratch the skillet. But not just any scratching. We want just the right kind of scratching, the surface of the skillet will get better and better. Smoother and slicker and flatter. Bumps of fused on gick will be scraped off and any pits will be slowly filled in with seasoning leading to a better cooking surface.
When finished cooking, do not allow the remaining food (if there is any) to sit in the cookware. Empty it and allow the cast iron to cool. Do not attempt to clean at this point. The cast iron needs to be cool to the touch.
Care and Cleaning
When the cast iron is cool:
- Remove any residual food and grease that you can with a paper towel and discard,
- Run under hot water and use a non-soap pot-scrubber (ie. not an SOS pad) to remove the food but not the seasoning. A properly seasoned pan will wash clean in minutes under hot water. We use a plastic pot scrubber and recommend you stay away from steel wool or anything what might remove the seasoning,
- Wipe dry with a clean cloth,
- Put a small amount of the seasoning you originally used and wipe all over the cooking surface and set aside. it’s now clean and ready for the next cooking session
It’s that simple!
- Never put cast iron cookware in the dishwasher.
- Never soak in water.
- Don’t leave cast iron exposed or outside.
- Don’t leave food sitting in cast iron.
- Keep it dry.
- Use a little non-flavoured cooking oil or grease for seasoning – your choice.
- Clean cast iron immediately after use and apply a then layer of seasoning.
- Avoid soap. There is a myth about how you should never use soap on cast iron. The reality is that you can use a little soap on cast iron but it is better if you don’t.
- There is miss-information currently circulating that cast iron contains carcinogens. The reality is that burnt food, not the cast iron itself, contains carcinogens. Burnt toast, Grilled steak. Any food that has turned black in the cooking process contains carcinogens and is not the result of using cast iron. This would be true of any cookware regardless of the material used.
- At some point something will get stuck to the cookware. The solution is to wash the item with soap and water or use a soaped pot-scrubber. Afterward, dry and re-season as you would a new cookware item.