Sedona Creations

Cooking With Cast Iron

Written By: Michael

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, when I was in my twenties I really didn’t give too much thought as to the pots and pans I used.  When I got into my thirties, I started following my spiritual work; which took me to Sedona, Arizona.  I really began to get intouch with living naturally and in balance with nature.  I learned about the leaching of aluminum into the foods I cooked and the potential health hazards.  I started to become very interested in cooking with cast iron.  I bought a skilet just to try it out and yes I made some mistakes.  Through those mistakes I found myself really liking cast iron so I bought a Dutch Oven from Lodge, http://www.lodgemfg.com/.  By now I was hooked on cast iron.  Yes it is heavy and yes there is leaching of metals in the food, though it is iron which is good for us!

One day this guy I new through a friend, he knocked on my door, and said, I heard you like cooking with cast iron, well I have this set of pans that I was about to through out and I thought I would check with you first.  The pans looked like hell, though in the back of my mind I already new one of the greatest things about cast iron; they can be cleaned-up and resurfaced with a little work.  I snatched them up fast, what a gift!

Cast Iron Pizza

My partner and I moved to Hawai’i to take care of a coffee orchid for three years.  When we moved we had nothing, we left all of our belongings in storage. Our lodging was extremely basic, really it was just a roof over our head.  We didn’t want to invest too much while we were there, we new we would be going back to the Mainland.  The very first thing we did when we went shopping was to buy a cast iron pan and that was our buddy and friend for the next three years. I learned how to do so many things with that pan and a few others we picked up along the way.  I defrosted food with it, made pizza in it and cakes too.

Cast Iron Cake

Well the time came for us to move back to the Mainland, currently I have been reunited with my cast iron set.  If you have an interest in cast iron I strongly support it.  It can last you a life time and be pasted on as well.  Try that with teflon! Below I will share with you what I know about cast iron.

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About Cast Iron: Cast iron is heavy and the entire pan, skilet, pot will get hot.  Many times you will use two hands when moving the skilet, pan or pot.  Always use pot holders!  Never assume cast iron that is sitting on the stove is at room temp unless you know it’s cool. Lightly touch the handle with a finger or better yet just wave your hand over the pan to see if you feel heat.  Again the safest thing to do is just us a pot holder.

Cooking with Cast Iron: One of the greatest things about cast iron is that the entire pan heats evenly.  When you are going to cook with cast iron, begin heating it up on the stove before cooking.  After the pan reaches the desired cooking tempature you will want to turn down the heat; which saves you on gas or electricity.  Cast iron will continue to reach higher temps if you don’t turn it down.  Food also cooks quicker because the entire pan is evenly heated.  Once your pan has been well seasoned; which I will discuss later, it actually acts like a teflon pan.  Even if you burn your food badly the pan cleans up easily.  Try that with aluminum.

Defrosting with Cast Iron: Let’s say you take something out of the freezer and your looking to defrost it quickly.  Lay your frozen food in the pan, wrapper and all.  The black pan absorbs the cold temp easily, no heating needed, just turn the food over a few times so it can thaw evenly.  Once you are done defrosting your food, give the pan light washing with dish soap, rinse and place the pan on the stove.  Heat the pan to make sure all the water has evaporated and then turn off the stove and let it cool.  This is why I said earlier never assume the pan on the stove is cool.

Cleaning Cast Iron: Cleaning a cast iron pan is very easy once it has been seasoned.  Once the food is out of the pan, lightly wash out with mild dish soap and hot water; then place it back on the stove.  Heat it up until the water has evaporated and then turn off the stove.  There have been times after taking the food out of the pan I just layed the pan back on the stove.  Keeping in mind the pan is still hot so the remaining food, gravey or whatever will cook to the pan.  It’s no big deal.  Put some water in the pan before your going to wash it, oh say about fifteen minutes or so.  Now when you go to wash it, everything left in the pan just washes right out.  Nice and easy.  Never use a hard abrasive to clean the pan unless you really have to.  If you use a hard abrasive it will scratch of the coating on the pan that builds up over the years.  You want your pan to be jet black.  That jet black is the seasoning coating that protects the pan.  As a side note, that jet black look is carbon build-up and everything living uses or has carbon traces.  Occansionally after washing the pan you will want to re-season the pan.  I do not recommend using the oven’s self cleaning mode to clean or season a pan.  It can crack!

Castiron

Cleaning Cast Iron that’s in bad shape: Sometimes you will find cast iron at a yard sale or maybe someone gave you cast iron that is rusty and it looks like hell.  The pan is going to take a bit of work to strip it down, though it is well worth the effort.  Some say you can put it in a bucket of lye.  I have used oven cleaner which is lye and yes it does work.  I also used another method that works quite well with little effort on your part.  The down side of this method, it works best in the Summer.  Pour ammonia lightly over the pan, then take a rag and lay it in the pan and cover it with ammonia.  Place the pan in a black plastic bag and close it tightly to keep the fumes down.  Place the bag in the sun for a few days checking it occasionally and to move the rag around on the pan.  The ammonia fumes sofen the black stuff, (carbon) on the pan.  Afterwards work with the pan using a putty knife, steel wool or a wire brush as needed.  This method I like the best.  A little work, yes, though it can be well worth it in the long run.

Seasoning Cast Iron: Seasoning cast iron is pretty easy and straight forward.  There are things to know and things to be careful about.  To season a pan, you will apply a small amount of grease to the pan until the whole pan has a shine.  Then apply heat to the pan just until you see smoke, yes smoke rise from the pan.  Turn off the heat and let it cool on it’s own.  That’s it.  Now, what type of grease do you use?  You can use Crisco, though it is very smokey and it can make you cough alot.  You can use cooking oil, though it doesn’t leave a good film on the pan.  It’s easily washed off.  I have found using bacon grease is the best.  So after your done cooking your bacon, save the oil and keep it in the frige until you are ready to season your pan.  Use a paper towel and rub some grease onto the paper towel and then into the warming pan.  Lightly wipe the pan again with a clean dry paper towel once the pan has cooled to remove any excess grease.  I do not recommend seasoning your pan in the oven, it can get to smokey and it can set off the fire alarms.

Milled Cast Iron

Buying Cast Iron: You can buy cast iron rather easily today, though there are some things to keep in mind.  If you are buy new, don’t pay the extra for the pre-seasoned pans.  What a waste!  Do it yourself.  Remember light weight pans are thin pans and they’re cheap, poor quality.  Get the heavier pan.  If you are lucky and you find a pan with what looks like rings inside of it grab it quick.  This is a pan that has been milled, cut after it was casted.  It will be an even pan, no rough spots or dibets and I will usually be more expensive unless the seller doesn’t know about the quality.  I did buy a few pans from Lodge, http://www.lodgemfg.com/.  I would shy away from the two burner griddle.  I did try that only to find there is a no heat zone between the two burners.  Our stoves are different today then back in the hay day.  The one burner griddle is great… Love it!

Baked Bread in Cast Iron PanBaked bread baked in a cast iron pan.

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