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Cooking with cast iron pots and pans is a skill that everyone planning to homestead, enthusiastic over camping, or serious about prepping should learn how to do. If you’ve spent your life surrounded by cooking indoors and non-stick pans, the idea of cast iron can be a little intimidating. Words such as seasoning and the idea that you can’t wash your pans the way you’re used to washing them can turn many potential users away.
Never Fear – We’re Breaking Down Cast Iron Myths and making it user-friendly for new homesteaders.
Seasoning Cast Iron
The idea of seasoning cast iron is one of the biggest reasons people move away from cast iron. It seems like a hassle, but really it’s quite the opposite. In fact, you’ll rarely have to re-season your cast iron if done the first time properly.
To season cast iron, you’ll pick a good quality oil with a high smoke point. Many people choose coconut oil. Cover the cast iron, inside and out, every inch with the coconut oil in a nice, thick layer. Bake the cast iron in the oven for an hour at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull it out and look it over – it should have a sheen to it. If you see any ‘dry’ patches, re-oil and bake again.
This process should be done on any new cast iron, even pre-seasoned cast iron. It just guarantees that the pan achieves that non-stick ability that is part of cast iron cookware.
Cooking with Cast Iron
There are a few simple tips to cooking with cast iron that you must be in mind.
The first is to always cook with a cooking fat such as butter or oil. This helps keep you from having to season your pans all the time. It also helps create a thin, non-stick buffer between your food and the cast-iron surface.
Secondly, always preheat your pan BEFORE you put your food in it. You do this for two reasons. The first is that you want the cooking fat molecules to be moving quickly and keeping your food from sticking, but also because the temperature of cast iron can be difficult to regulate at first.
When you start your cast iron over low heat with just your cooking fat in it, it’s easier to gauge how high you need to turn up your burners. It can take cast iron a while to preheat, but once it’s hot, it stays hot and quickly gets hotter. This means you will probably never have your burners over high heat but more likely just around medium-medium high – once heated you can fine-tune the higher temperatures.
It’s important to note that cast iron doesn’t flake, so if you cook with it and small black bits flake off into your food, it’s not your pan. It’s actually built-up, sticky cooking oil, and perfectly safe to eat.
There is a small period of adjustment in getting used to cast iron cooking. It’s a great way to learn how to cook with lots of benefits, some you might not even be aware of like helping to alleviate anemia. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about the electricity going out – cast iron is best for cooking over an open flame!