Chicken Coop Chatter©
I've been using my Cast Iron cookware for eons. I have a few skillets that are well over 100 years old and inherited from our dad. These skillets probably crossed the plains with the pioneers, then used on the cattle trails until they finally made it to my kitchen when I was a young housewife. I have added other skillets, kettles and dutch ovens and chicken fryer and a huge roaster to my original, 8", 10" and 12", skillets, and have used them daily from the beginning. The newer cookware is lighter weight, not as thick walled, but still reliable and still cooks evenly no matter what I'm cooking in them, and whether on the kitchen range, over a camp fire, over coals in the ground or sitting on a b b q.
My cookware has always been kept seasoned, so I've never had an issue with rusting or even a build up of gunk, however I have come across some at garage sales, that needed tending to restore their usefulness. Some have been used for planters, others used for who knows what, but each one was easily restored and brought back into use for the intended purposes, and you would recognize it from a new pan.
First, wipe out what you can with a soft cloth. Scour with fine steel wool to remove residue and rust. Set over a campfire or on a b b q, to cook off any residue. Use a metal turner to remove stubborn residue. Wipe out with a soft cloth. With a clean cloth, take about 1 tablespoon lard or shortening, and rub all over the inside of the cookware, to be sure it is well coated. Set in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool enough to handle, then wipe out any excess oil. Repeat again, until the oil is absorbed into the pan. Treat the outside of the pan in the same way but turn it upside down in the oven.
After a couple times of thorough seasoning, the cookware should be ready to use, rust and crud free with a non-stick cooking surface. If not, repeat the steps above.
For daily cleaning, heat the pan so that any crud that is stuck to the sides, is easy to scrape off with a pancake turner (do not gouge, just scrape). Wipe with a clean cloth. You can rinse in hot water, and dry in the oven or on a burner of the stove with the heat on low.
Season as needed. Mine are seasoned once or twice a year as needed, but if you are cooking with them daily, you should not need to season very often.
NEVER set your hot cast iron pan on a wood bread board, vinyl counter top, in a sink or in cold water, it could crack and will definitely burn the wood bread board and counter tops, from the heat that is stored in the iron. NEVER rinse in cold water, and NEVER leave water setting in the cast iron. Water is the enemy of cast iron and if rinsed with water, should be dried immediately in the heat of the oven or stove top burner.
I've heard of people using ammonia, salt, sand, baking soda and all kinds of concoction to clean the cast iron, but in my opinion none of that is necessary. A good piece of steel wool and shortening and a clean cloth is all you should ever need to keep your cast iron useful for a lifetime and beyond.
I have a good set of stainless steel with a cast iron core that I use as well for a variety of purposes, but for daily cooking my cast iron is the workhorse and will always be a part of my recipe ventures.
I hear from people that cast iron is too heavy to use. I'll agree that it is heavy, but you are not moving it around all the time, and I'm not a big person, so if I can use cast iron, about anyone else can as well. Learn your limits, and move the pans when necessary, but it does not have to be drudgery. My cast iron roaster requires two people to move it, especially when it's full of meat and vegetables, but it is not moved all the time, so I don't worry about how heavy it is when I know I just need a helping hand when it is used.
Cast Iron is the natural non stick cookware, that is not made up with foreign material that scrapes off and eventually has to be replaced like modern non-stick does. You will never find cookware that heats more evenly, holds the heat throughout cooking nor cookware where the food consistently comes out just right. I have used the modern non-stick, stainless steel, copper bottom and you name it, my cast iron is still the workhorse and the mainstay in my kitchen. Cast Iron also has the ability to be used over fire, bbq, coals, in the oven or on the cook stove. There is not one manufacturer of the newer types of cookware that can make this claim.
When you purchase cast iron, make sure to buy from a quality USA manufacturer, and you will never be disappointed with the product. Most manufacturers now offer pre-seasoned cast iron cookware, however, don't pass up a good garage sale find. Cast Iron is also still cheaper than most stainless steel products on the market and can be purchased separately or in sets. There are also a number of cast iron specialty pans and cast iron accessories available.
OUTDOOR COOKING WITH CAST IRON:
An easy formula for outdoor cooking with castiron on coals is: Multiply the size of your pan by 2, then divide by 2, 12 for the bottom, and 12 for the top. Remove 3 from the bottom and add that three to the top for 15 on top and 9 on the bottom. With this formula, you will achieve 350 degrees for one hour. The same formula works for 10-12- and 14 inch size dutch ovens and skillets.
CAUTION: Cast Iron is not recommended for glass stove top cooking. Though I have read more recent manufacturers indicate their product is safe to use on glass top stoves. Research brands if you have a glass top oven to be sure it is safe to use cast iron on the surface of your specific stove.
CAUTION: If you find a very rusted piece of castiron cookware, do NOT use a sand blaster to clean off that rust. I mention this because someone has asked about it. The sand blasting beads will pit the cast iron and that will set up a scenario for future cleaning issues. Simply follow the procedures above for long lasting and effective results.
Please refer to my recipes, in *the self reliance section* and in the *Pantry section* using Cast Iron Cookware, and be sure to check the sidebar in each section for a variety of Cast Iron recipes.
For a good buy on American made Cast Iron, please refer to the links below:
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