Hi, my name is Kelley and I'm a cast iron-aholic. There, I said it! lol.
I love cast iron. Let me but count the ways...
-Baking in the oven. (Cookies, pies, breads etc.)
-Roasting in the oven. (Meats, veggies etc.)
-Sauteing on the stovetop
-Frying foods. (The best eggs in the whole world!)
-Cooking soups and stews.
-Cooking over the campfire.
The lists and uses can go on and on! :)
The benefits to using cast iron are numerous too. Just a couple of my favorites...
-Cast iron is one of the oldest types of cook wear around. Chances are, your grandmother, great grandmother, great great grandmother (and so on) used cast iron! And in many families, those original pans are still around.
-If taken care of properly, it can last indefinitely, unlike the non-stick pans that usually have to be replaced.
-You can buy one piece of cast iron at a time. Garage sales, flea markets etc. are great places to find cast iron.
-Even if it's been neglected, it's easy to bring it back to a beautiful condition.
-Cast iron heats evenly and holds it's heat even after you've shut the burner off.
-I love the ability to take something from the stovetop and pop it in the oven if needed. Less dishes, less clean-up! (Not to mention you don't need to store as many pans!)
-And the best thing about cast iron is that it doesn't give off toxic fumes like the non-stick cook wear does.
(If you are thinking of buying some cast iron used, the only thing to avoid would be pans with a warped or pitted bottom.)
Here's how I restore and season my cast iron. (This is assuming that I'm starting with a grungy, used piece of cast iron.)
-Pre-heat the oven to 450*
-Next, I grab some steel wool and start scrubbing. I scrub the pan until it's nice and smooth and all of the old seasoning/grime has come off.
-Once the pan is clean and naked, I pop it in the oven. (I only leave it in the oven for a few minutes, this is just so that it completely dries the iron and it gives it a nice dark, uniform color.)
-I let the pan cool on the stove top until I can handle it again.
-Next, I lightly coat it with a fat of some kind. Many people use Crisco, but I can't stand that stuff and usually use lard or another natural fat. (I have found that olive and coconut oils are NOT the best for seasoning. Animal fats like butter, lard, and tallow seem to work the best and create a good, non-stick seasoning.)
-After lightly and completely (make sure you cover the handle, sides and bottom) coating the pan with a healthy fat, I turn the oven down to 400* and put the pan back into the oven for 30 minutes. (I usually flip the pan upside down in the oven.)
-When the 30 min. is up, I shut the oven off and allow the pan to cool in the oven on it's own. Once the pan is cooled, it's ready to be put away.
That's it! I routinely season my cast iron to keep it "healthy" and rust free. The only difference in the routine seasoning is that I don't need to do the scrubbing :)
Every day use and care is even easier.
While my pan is still hot from being used, I put a bit of water in it and return it to the burner it was on. I use a little scrub brush and gently swish off any particles of food that may have been left behind. (If I feel the need to sanitize the pan, depending on what was cooked, I let the water come to a simmer in the pan.) Then I dump out the dirty water, quickly rinse the pan and put it back on the warm unit. The heat from the pan and unit quickly dry the pan, and then I put a light coating of fat on the pan to keep up the seasoning. (I find paper towels are the best for this.) Once the pan has cooled, I put it away.
It is actually easier for me to clean and season a cast iron pan than it was for me to clean the old non-stick ones!
The bread pans are even easier. I coat the pans with butter before putting the dough in them, bake as I usually would with any pan, and then while they are still hot, I wipe out any moisture or crumbs. That's it! They get re-seasoned occasionally, and are so easy to use!
Is it any wonder that I love cast iron? ;)
-Healthier (And the flavor is far superior!)
-Lasts a loooong time