Cast iron cookware has been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient china. In the middle ages over in Europe cast iron was considered just as valuable as other riches of the era, such as jewelry and gold. Cast iron products manufactured in the United States was one of the first industries that was organized. It is not as popular today because of the advancement of other metals but is still widely used for cookware because of it’s conductivity and durability.
Cast iron cookware has been one of the longest lasting types of cookware if not the longest lasting type of cookware out there. There are preseasoned and enameled products out there today. Cast iron cooking products come in wide variety of shapes and sizes, not just for pans and skillets. You can find dutch ovens, roasters, muffin pans, corn bread pans and more. Because of technology, the iron alloys used in todays cast iron has improved it greatly, adding more strength and durability.
Original cast iron pans still need to be preseasoned as they rust easily and food will stick to it. To preseason your pan preheat your oven to 250-300 degrees. Coat the pan with some type of fat such as lard or bacon grease, you can also use “manteca” a type of lard used in mexican cooking. Avoid using a vegetable oil because it will leave a sticky coating on your pan and will not be seasoned properly. Coat your pan with the desired animal fat ( grease )and put into your preheated oven. After about 12-15 minutes remove the pan and discard any excess grease and return to your oven for 2 hours. This ensures that your pan has absorbed the grease into the pours of the metal. It is recommended that this procedure is done a few times to strengthen your seasoning bond.
If you have an old cast iron pan that has been rusted or food is sticking to it don’t throw it away, it can be salvaged. Simply heat the pan to a temperature that you can still work with as this will open the pours of the metal and then use a scouring pad and hot soapy water to clean it. Dry your pan thoroughly and then reseason. If it is really rusted bad try using salt when scrubbing your pan, this will help with rust removal.
Always keep your cast iron pans dry when you are not using them. Clean them while they are still hot with hot water, no soap because it will break down the seasoning. Don’t use anything abrasive when cleaning such as steel wool because this will scrape off your coating. You will not want to cover your pans with lids as moisture can collect which can start to rust the metal. Try not store food in them either as acids from the food will react with the metal and break down the seasoning and the food will take on a metallic flavor.
Over all cast iron is great for cooking and baking. Because of it’s conductivity it is perfect for browning and frying. It is relatively inexpensive but it is heavy. It is the perfect type of cookware for camping because it is so durable and will hold up to campfire cooking. It is great for cajun style blackening and searing. I believe everyone should have at least one cast iron skillet at there disposal.