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It has been said, over and over in fact, that there is nothing better than food prepared in a cast iron pan. Several dishes, including Mexican fajitas, Cajun seafood, sausage & eggs, and of course, cornbread, are hailed as delicious when prepared in these pans. Cast iron is also the cookware of choice amongst serious campers and hikers, but be sure to bring the pack mule, this stuff is heavy!
Why Cast Iron? Edit
There are several reasons that people rave about this type of cookware, many won't use anything else. Besides being an ideal heat conductor, cast iron heats evenly and consistently, is inexpensive, and will last a lifetime with the proper care. When seasoned, a cast iron pan will be stick resistant and provide delectable meals every time.
When you season cast iron, you are embedding grease in to the pores of the cookware. Without proper seasoning, cast iron will rust after coming in contact with water. To season your cookware, first warm your pot or skillet, then rub a thin layer of shortening (or corn oil as some cooks suggest) all over the surface of the pan, inside and out. Lay the pan upside down inside a 350 degree oven. Most cookware manufacturers suggest heating the pan for one hour, while some cooks suggest up to 4–5 hours for just the right amount of seasoning. The shortening will turn in to a non-sticky, hard coating. Allow the pan to cool overnight as it will be quite hot. Remember, cast iron retains heat very well, so allow for ample cooling time. Some cooks recommend repeating this process one, or even two times, before using your cookware. Seasoning should also be repeated after each use of the cookware.
Note: Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, can deteriorate the seasoned coating of your pots and pans.
Using Your Cast Iron Edit
Preheat your cookware before preparing your meal. Water droplets should sizzle, then roll and hop around the pan, when dropped on to the heated surface. If water disappears immediately after being dropped, the pan is too hot and will surely burn your food. If water only rests and bubbles, the pan is not quite hot enough.
Caution: Do not pour significant amounts of cold liquid in to a hot skillet or pot, this can cause the cast iron to break.
- Blackened Catfish and Shrimp
- Famous Dave's Corn Bread with Honey Jalapeño Glaze
- Famous Dave's Pineapple Upside-down Cake
Caring For Your Cookware Edit
The conventional method, and most often recommended, is to wash your cast iron pots in boiling water, no soap, and to use a high quality scrub brush. Some cooks say there is nothing wrong with using soap when cleaning your cookware, you can even use synthetic scouring pads, just use extra care when scrubbing. Regardless of the mothod you choose to wash your cookware, be sure to dry it thoroughly with a lint free towel directly after washing, as cast iron is prone to rust. Seasoning your cookware after each use is also a must to retain the quality and life of the pan.
- Durable and improves with age
- Claims have been made repeatedly that food is more flavorful
- Good heat conductor, heats evenly and quickly
- Can place pots and pans directly on glowing coals (camping)
- Last a lifetime with minimal or no damage
- Weight - cast iron is quite heavy
- Having to maintain the seasoning
- Not dishwasher safe
Recommendation - Extremely high. For the value that cast iron provides, the delicious meals that it develops, and the durability that it maintains, the time it takes to care for this cookware is well worth it.
Special thanks goes to Fabulous Foods for allowing the reprint of the fabulous cast iron recipes used in this article.
Amanda Formaro may be contacted at http://www.thefamilycorner.com WebMom@thefamilycorner.com . Click here to view more of their articles. Amanda Formaro is the mother of four children. She and her husband live in Henderson, Nevada. She is also the owner of The Family Corner website at http://www.thefamilycorner.com
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