Kitchen Care Tips: Caring For And Using Iron Skillets And Pans

Follow these easy instructions for preparing and seasoning cast iron cookware. Also included are directions for removing rust from cast iron.

The benefits of cast iron cookware are many. Unlike nonstick or aluminum cookware, cast iron will last forever when properly cared for. It provides even heat distribution, and it is oven and broiler safe. Cast iron can even be used on an outdoor grill for high temperature deep fat frying.

Cast iron cookware is available in many sizes and shapes; there are skillets of every size, stockpots, saucepans, Dutch ovens, and molds for making corn bread sticks.

Although cast iron is sturdy, it does require special care. A brand new cast iron skillet or other cookware item must be prepared and properly "seasoned" before using it for the first time. This is a very important process that must be done before using your new cookware. Begin by washing the item to be seasoned in hot soapy water. Dry it thoroughly with paper towels. Next coat the entire cast iron item with a thin glaze of vegetable shortening. Place the item on a sheet of aluminum foil in a 350-degree oven for approximately one hour. Seasoning new cast iron cookware provides a tough nonstick surface. This surface not only keeps foods from sticking, it helps protect the item from moisture that can cause rust.

When frying foods in a cast iron skillet, always heat the oil first to prevent foods from sticking. Doing so will also help prevent foods from absorbing too much oil during preparation. To check if cooking oil is hot enough for frying foods, add a drop or two of water. If the water sizzles and evaporates on contact, it is ready for use.

Do not prepare acidic foods such as tomato-based sauces in cast iron cookware. The naturally occurring acid will remove the nonstick surface.

If the nonstick surface of your cast iron cookware is removed, season the item using the same method you did when it was new. A cast iron item that is well seasoned will have a smooth black finish. The longer it has been used, the darker it will become. If your cookware is well cared for it will become more and more nonstick as you use it.

Clean your cast iron cookware by wiping off excess food and oils using paper towels. Wash them using plain hot water and a dishrag. Stuck on foods can be gently removed using a scratch pad and hot water. Never use soap to clean cast iron cookware. It will damage the nonstick surface, and it will absorb the soap and cause the foods you cook to taste like soap.

Thoroughly dry cast iron cookware after washing it. Even minute amounts of moisture will cause it to rust. Make sure your cookware is completely dry by setting it on a hot burner for 5 minutes or until all traces of water have evaporated.

Before storing cast iron skillets, apply a thin layer of shortening to the inside surface. Cover the interior of each skillet with a paper towel, and stack them accordingly. Never store cast iron cookware with lids on. They require air in order to stay free of moisture and rust.

Rusty cast iron skillets can be salvaged. Begin by scrubbing them with fine-grade steel wool. Wash and rinse the item, and dry it completely. Apply an even coating of shortening to the entire item, and season it as instructed previously. If necessary, repeat this process.

Cast iron skillets are great for broiling foods such as chicken, steaks, fish, and other meats. They are also great for melting cheese on omelets, and for browning the tops of deep-dish pizzas. Cornbread is excellent when baked in a cast iron skillet. The edges are crisp, while the inside is moist and tender.

You'll find that you love your cast iron kitchen items. Fried foods are crispier and full of flavor. You'll also love saving money. You'll never again have to spend money to replace worn out nonstick cookware.

© High Speed Ventures 2011