Those who have them and know how to use them absolutely love them for the blending of flavors that comes together for every dish… but there are some secrets to cooking with cast iron pans. It’s not rocket science, but it is worth paying attention to because it will make the world of difference in whatever it is that you’re frying up – whether it be steaks, chocolate chip cookies, or bacon. So… what are the secrets?
Clean it Right
First and foremost, you must know how to care for a cast iron pan: dish soap is a big no-no, and water should be used carefully. Part of the brilliance of the cast iron pan is that oils and flavors add up to create a brilliant seasoning for every dish (think – bacon flavored chocolate chip cookies). Dish soap strips the pan of these seasonings in a way that kills its purpose; water, while necessary sometimes, should never be left to sit on the pan – it’ll rust quickly and the seasoned coat will chip off, ruining your pan forever.
So, how do you clean it? A little warm water with some salt should do the trick. Take a clean rag, dip it in the warm, salty water, and scrub debris away. Rinse it with a little warm water and then dry it thoroughly. Lastly, it’s always important to smear a little oil on it before putting it away: drizzle a little olive oil a paper towel and spread it conservatively on the inside of your pan. Doing this preserves the seasoning that’s already on there, and keeps the surface moist for next time.
Pulling it out once in a blue moon just isn’t going to do the trick: you need to use that bad boy regularly to build up those layers of seasoning. Here’s the deal – as you cook with it, you add layers of flavors. Every once in a while, you’ll need to really scrub it to get it clean, and that will take some seasoning away. It’ll change constantly, and for that reason using it often (a lot more than you actually clean it) is key to having your smooth and shiny blackened surface to cook on.
Don’t Give Up
As previously mentioned, seasonings will come and go. You will, inevitably, find yourself in ruts of seasonings that aren’t so great for the meal at hand – but that’s okay. Work through it and be strategic: What’s missing? It it too salty? Too smokey? Actually thinking through the process will help in determining what should happen next, whether it be a good salt scrubbing to remove layers of seasoning, or a new potent meal that will add layers on. Either way – don’t give up on it.
If you don’t have a cast iron, consider getting one. You’ll never be able to naturally season anything better – and if taken care of over the years, it’ll serve as a great and useful heirloom for family members. You just have to pay attention to the secrets of cooking with cast iron pans.
Do you have any tips for cooking with cast iron pans?