Cast Iron Skillet

Every kitchen should have some cast iron cookware, and a well looked after and maintained cast iron skillet will last a life time (and more).  Being one of the most versatile pieces of cooking equipment in the kitchen everyone should own at least one cast iron skillet. The cast iron has fantastic heat retaining qualities which is great for frying. Use the skillet for frying bacon, pork chops, browning meat and frying steaks.

The down side to cast iron cookware is it’s incredible weight, I get over this by using a kind of two handed grab on the handle planting both feet firmly on the floor. I find that one arm is not strong enough. However, the fact that the skillets cook food so well makes them a worthwhile addition to your kitchen equipment collection.

How to season a cast iron skillet.

When you buy a cast iron skillet you will need to season it, this will produce a kind of non stick surface so that your foods will not stick, and the pan will be easy to clean. Also if you have an old skillet that you want to refurbish, for example, if it has been washed incorrectly and has lost its non stickiness. Some manufacturers sell their skillets already seasoned so you don’t have to go through this process.

To season the skillet.

First of all clean the skillet with soapy water to remove any dirt from the surface. Rinse well and dry thoroughly with either paper towels or a clean lint free dish cloth. It should be noted that after the initial seasoning the skillet, would only need to be washed briefly in water if at all.

The principle of seasoning the skillet is to cook oil at a high temperature so that it penetrates the pores of the cast iron and produces a non stick surface. Heat your oven to 350F or 180C. Take olive oil and coat the skillet surface generously with the oil, but the skillet shouldn’t be swimming in oil. Take the skillet and place it upside down onto the highest rack of your oven. Underneath the skillet place a roasting dish to catch any oil drips from the skillet. Keep the skillet in the oven for about an hour, you find that some smoke may be produced, and you will get a burnt oil smell, but this is to be expected and should not cause concern. This process may need to be repeated a few times to build you a good non stick layer.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet.

There are three main ways to clean a cast iron skillet.

1. wipe out after use with kitchen paper.
2. quickly wash with mild soap, warm water and a washing up brush, followed by an application of a thin layer of oil.
3. rub the skillet out with coarse salt, using either kitchen paper or a dishcloth.
Cast iron should never be cleaned in the dishwasher, soaked in detergents and water for long periods, or scoured with iron wool. If your iron pan has been treated this way then the seasoning process will need to be repeated.

If your cast iron skillet ever gets rusty, clean the rust off with wire wool and repeat the seasoning process.

Good cast iron skillet brands to look out for include, Griswold and Wagner, Lodge and John Wright.

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