Cast iron pans are enjoying a renewed popularity that is well deserved. These rugged kitchen tools fell out of favour because of their weight but cooks are rediscovering their value; a well-chosen, well-seasoned pan can cook everything from simple bacon and eggs to exquisite boeuf bourguignon, including tomato soup and cheese sandwiches. Once properly seasoned with oil and heat, good cast iron pans are virtually indestructible. Unlike most other cookware, deeply burnt-on food damage on cast iron can be simply remedied by reconditioning and re-seasoning.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Plastic scraper
- Stiff bristle brush
- Plain steel wool pads
- Fine grit sandpaper
- Grape seed oil
- Vegetable shortening
- Clean white cloths
- Basting brush
- Oven gloves
- Aluminium foil
Spread newspaper on a counter near the sink for a work space.
Allow the cast iron pan to cool completely. Do not submerge the cookware in water; it will cause uneven cooling, warping and even breakage of hot cast iron.
Scrape off any burnt bits of food with a hard plastic scraper or small stiff bristled brush. Get as much as you can off the surface.
Run hot water over the pan and continue to work on the burnt area with the brush or a piece of plain steel wool. Repeat until bits of food are gone.
Sand the dry cast iron surface with fine grit sandpaper or rub well with steel wool until it is smooth and all trace of burnt food is gone.
Dip a clean white cloth in some grape seed oil or melted solid vegetable shortening and rub the surface, turning and changing cloths until the cloth no longer turns grey.
Scrub the pan well in very hot, soapy water with the brush. Rinse well and dry it completely with a clean cloth.
Lay a sheet of aluminium foil on the bottom shelf of the oven and preheat it to 177 degrees Celsius
Wipe a thin coating of scorch-proof oil, such as solid vegetable shortening, all over the pan's top and bottom with a basting brush. Put it on the top shelf in a hot oven for one hour.
Turn the oven off. Allow the pan to cool completely in the oven.
Wipe the pan with a clean cloth to remove any extra surface oil.
Tips and warnings
- Bring food to room temperature and preheat cast iron cookware to avoid food sticking and burning. Stir or move food as you begin cooking it to seal food's fibres and avoid sticking. Consider lowering the heat when you cook; cast iron is slow to heat but cooks more evenly and efficiently than other metal cookware.
- Advice varies on soap and cast iron. Soap removes seasoning and can work into the pores of the cast iron. Try to avoid its use and never let it sit in a pan.
- Other suggestions for cleaning cast iron include scrubbing with pickling or kosher salt and setting the pan in the oven and running the self-clean cycle. In both cases, you must re-season the pan.
- Never use detergents on cast iron. Alkalis will affect food taste and possibly allow rust to get a foothold inside the metal.
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