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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cast iron cooking

Cast iron pots and pans are very versatile and I highly recommend having a variety of shapes and sizes in your kitchen cupboard. Cast iron can be used over an open fire, on your woodstove or on your regular kitchen gas or electric stove or oven. You can hang a Dutch oven on a tripod over an open fire or place a frying pan on a grate over your campfire. You can use it over a fire in a fireplace as well. It can be used just about anywhere you need to cook so it’s a great item to have in your prepared kitchen.

If you are planning on using these a lot, I highly recommend Griswold. I don’t believe these are sold retail any longer so you’ll really need to search flea markets, tag sales, thrift stores or antique shops to find these. They are very high quality and have a nice smooth interior finish.

If you can’t find Griswold, you’re probably going to end up buying Lodge. You can find these readily at Walmart or directly from their site: http://www.lodgemfg.com/. These are the two brands that I am most familiar with.

This is what I feel you should have as a minimum.

10” Skillet – This is your basic frying pan. Some are deeper than others. I like to have mine with high sides so that I can make spaghetti sauce, chili or beef stew with it. Some come with covers and some do not. If it comes with a cover, you can flip it over and use it as an extra frying pan.

12” Skillet – Depending on your family size, you may choose a 12” skillet over a 10” skillet. I have one of each depending on what I want to cook. My 12” skillet is deep and the cover can be used for an extra frying pan just like my 10” skillet.

Dutch Oven – There are a variety of Dutch ovens depending on how you want to cook with them. Dutch ovens can generally be found as small as 2 quart and as large as 8 quart. Dutch ovens can be used for soups, stews, small roasts, etc. If you are using it on a woodstove or kitchen stove, a standard Dutch oven with a cover will work fine for you. If you plan on using it over an open fire, you may want a camp Dutch oven with a handle on top to suspend it over the fire on a tripod. If you’re planning on using it in front of a fireplace or on the ground next to an open fire, consider a three-legged Dutch oven.

Griddle – This is a large, flat, rectangular pan that can be used for pancakes, hamburgers or anything else you want to fry in larger quantities.

Oval Roaster – If you want to bake a chicken or a larger roast, consider investing in an oval roaster pan with a lid. These are generally 12 quart and at times the lid doubles as a griddle.

Trivets – If you are cooking on your woodstove, I highly recommend a set of trivets. Once your meal is cooked, you cannot turn off the woodstove and let the pan just sit there to keep warm. It will continue to cook & probably burn. The solution is to set the pan on top of a small decorative cast iron plate with legs called a trivet. They have many different sizes to accommodate the size of the pan you’re using. My favorite brand is Wilton but really any will do. Some are more decorative than others. You can see my favorite Wilton Heart & Pinwheel trivet in the picture above.

Cornbread pan – These mold pans are used to bake sticks of cornbread. They’re optional depending on whether or not you like cornbread. They can be very decorative. Many are in the shape of an ear of corn.

Before you can cook in cast iron, it has to be seasoned or prepared. Some cast iron is sold already seasoned so check the box if you’re buying it new. If you buy it second hand, chances are it’s already been seasoned but you can certainly do it again.

1. Scrub the cast iron skillet with a stainless steel scrub brush. If it’s new, use hot, soapy water to clean it. If it second hand, you can skip the soap and just use hot water.
2. Use a paper towel to cover the pan with oil inside and out.
3. Heat uncovered for two hours at 250F degrees.
4. Let cool & it’s ready to use.

Cast iron should not be washed with soap. Just use simple hot water and scrub gently with a plastic scrub pad. You don’t want to scrub off the seasoned coating.

Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to add some cast iron to your prepared kitchen and get cooking!

1 comment:

BonFX Blogger said...

I collect cast iron articles at my cast iron skillet blog, but had not heard of trivets before! Great primer. I see you also recommend lower heat for seasoning. I find that higher heat causes the oil or shortening to form sticky spots on the pan, which makes it cook unevenly.

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