So you’ve bought your cast iron, and it is different to your regular light-weight, nonstick pan. You’re probably wondering how on earth you should use this!
Don’t worry, below is all the information you need on how to use your cast iron. This article includes how to clean it, how to store it and how to prevent it from rusting to ensure this beautiful purchase lasts you for years to come!
Using Your Cast Iron
Cast iron is made of iron and other metal scraps, smelted and poured into moulds. This makes it non-malleable and extremely strong. Iron rusts when moisture is left on the surface. Some cast irons are coated through seasoning (oil heated through the pores of the metal, making it nonstick) or with enamel or porcelain to protect it from rusting. Read more about cast irons here.
You can use cast iron for anything and everything. There is a myth that you cannot cook acidic foods in cast iron, as it strips away the seasoning, but that is not true. If you cook with enough fat, it will not strip it away. If it does, you can always season your cast iron again, and it will look brand new!
It’s all about maintenance.
Cleaning Your Cast Iron
Maintaining your cast iron takes time and effort. You will need to ensure you follow these steps in order to maintain your cast iron to the highest quality possible.
- After you have finished cooking, let your cast iron cool down to a temperature so that it is easy to hold and wash. You can easily burn yourself using a cast iron. Please make sure you are careful, and let it cool down before you touch it.
- You can wash your cast iron with warm soapy water. I use plant-based washing liquids because it does not include harsh fragrances, parabens and any other hormone disruptors. There is a myth that you cannot clean your cast iron with soap, but the truth is that you can, but you must use a gentle tool. Sponges are great. Avoid scouring pads and sharp scrubbing tools.
- If you have stubborn food bits stuck on your cast iron, you can use salt or baking soda to gently scrub it off. You will need your cast iron to be fully dry before you do this because warm water will dissolve the particles, making it ineffective as a scrub.
- Using gloves or a soft brush, gently rub against the cast iron and scrub off the burnt food. Feel free to repeat this step until all the burnt food falls off.
- Once you have gently scrubbed off the burnt food, give your cast iron a thorough rinse with warm water, and let it completely dry it using a strong cotton dish towel (you can also put your cast iron over the stove top to dry it).
- Once your cast iron has cooled down, you may notice the seasoning stripped off and some of the raw iron shining through. Don’t worry, you have not ruined your cast iron, you can fix this really easily by ‘seasoning’ your cast iron.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron
- Liberally oil every edge and crevasse of your cast iron. You must use an oil that has a high smoke point or at least as high as the temperature you plan to season your cast iron in. If not, you may change the chemical composition of the oil during the seasoning process, and make it toxic for you (full article on this here). Oils that are great for this process are:
- Avocado oil
- Almond oil
- Coconut oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Rice bran oil
- Refined or virgin olive oil (not extra virgin as this has a low smoke point)
- Note: vegetable oil tends to be soya bean oil, so check the label as this is GMO. I avoid vegetable oil for this reason.
- Dab the excess oil off using a paper towel.
- Once your cast iron is completely oiled, place it face down in the center of your oven.
- Switch on your own to the highest heat or as high as your oil can handle, for 40 minutes to 1 hour. Let your cast iron ‘season’ for that entire duration without opening the oven door.
- Once this process is complete, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU LET YOUR CAST IRON COOL DOWN. You can seriously injure yourself if you are impatient and do not cautiously handle this extremely hot piece of metal.
- You may use thick oven gloves to take out your cast iron and let it cool over the stove top, or you may switch your oven off, and let it cool down with the oven door open for another hour or so.
- Whatever you decide, please take the best precaution for you and your family.
- You will notice your cast iron is darker and more even in color now, with no areas of raw iron. If you still see parts of the raw metal, repeat the seasoning process.
- Finish off the seasoning by lightly oiling your cast iron again. This prevents the cast iron from rusting from the humidity.
Storing Your Cast Iron
- If you are stacking your cast iron, do place a cloth or paper towel in between each pot or pan to avoid it scratching against each other.
- If you’re storing your cast iron upright, be sure to place a cloth or paper towel at the bottom of the cookware, as the oil from the cast iron may drip. This can help prevent stubborn oil stains in your wooden cabinets.
- Be sure to store your cast iron in a cool, dry area of the house, and avoid direct sunlight or humidity as that can affect the metal as well.
After every use, you must ensure your cast iron is completely dry and oiled to avoid it from rusting.
If you cast iron turns rusty, please follow these steps.
Cleaning A Rusty Cast Iron
- Use a scoring tool to gently scrub off the rust on the surface of your cast iron
- Wash all the rust off with warm soapy water
- Completely dry your cast iron
- Use the ‘seasoning’ steps above to help make your cast iron look as good as new!
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