Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Cast Iron Skillet

MiddleBar Cornbread
Before there were non-stick pans, we Southerners had the cast iron skillet. Seasoned with nature's Teflon, bacon grease, the cast iron is a piece of cookware that can outlast you IF you properly care for it.

The cast iron and it's cousin the dutch oven are two examples of cast iron cookware used pre-stovetop days when we were all cooking over an open flame. Cast iron being "cast" out of one solid piece of "iron" distributes heat evenly and also retains that heat extremely well.  These two attributes make it a perfect cooking pan for everything from fryin' chicken to makin' cornbread. You can also smack the hell of a boneless chicken breast with the back of that heavy pan, then batter and fry it up of course! Before you get cookin' here are a few easy steps to keep your cast iron in tip top condition for hundreds of years to come.

Seasoning The Skillet:
Metal is a porous substance and those pores open during the heating process. If those pores are filled with oils and fats food will not be able to stick in those pores. The thin layer of seasoning also seals the metal so that oxidation does not take place causing rust. Before using your pan, and if your skillet begins sticking or rusting use this simple process to season your pan.
1. Preheat the oven to 275
2. Heat skillet on the stove top 
3. When the pan is very hot, coat with bacon grease 
(use the bacon grease for this (or lard if you are really brave) and save your olive oil for a vinaigrette)
4. Once the pan is coated, dump any excess grease
5. Bake for 2 hours
*Use your pan for frying for the first 2 uses after seasoning*

Even this tragic pan can be saved, just re-season!
(And no, I do not own this pan. My Southern blood wouldn't let
something like this happen!!!)
Cleaning your skillet:
While the pan is still warm, rinse with scalding hot water and with a gentle sponge (no soap), remove any remaining food particles. For really tough grit gently rub with sea salt and hot water. Dry thoroughly with a towel and to avoid dust, place a thin layer of paper towel over the surface (it's very important not to store the pan with the lid on. This can cause rust and 2 more hours of your time to re-season the pan) Before each use gently wipe the surface with a paper towel to remove any dust.

If this whole process seems sketchy since you aren't using any soap to clean your skillet, I get it. I was a bit disturbed by this process myself the first time I actually thought about it but if your pan is properly seasoned, the hard patina layer keeps you safe and clean. (After all I've been eating out of cast iron my whole life and I seem ok....)

The Lodge Brand Cast Cookware. Buy This. 
Dos & Donts:
--Don't: Store with a lid on especially when it's humid, this can cause
--Do: Use your pan for frying the first 2 or 3 times after seasoning. (This locks in the oils even more!)
--Don't: Plunge the skillet into cold water when hot, this can cause cracking or warping
--Do: Heat the pan slowly starting at a low heat gradually raising the heat
--Don't: Wash with harsh cleaners, soap, or in the dishwasher
--Do: Enjoy your pan for years to come!

You can buy cast iron skillets anywhere these days and they are quite affordable especially since they last forever you really get your money's worth.  If you can get your hands on your grandmother's skillet though, that's a much better idea!
Cook like a Southerner Ya'll!


  1. I don't know what I'd do without a cast iron skillet. IMO, a roux is not a roux unless it's prepared in one. These are fabulous tips!

    PS - we got our newest one at the hardware store. I don't know if they'd be stocked there in any place outside of the South, but isn't that part of their charm!

    1. Just wait until friday we got a roux recipe that will knock your socks off!

  2. Thanks for the tip! Practical bit of info. My skillet can use a redo!
    Debbie (Wed. Meet)

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