—  The Cast-Iron Skillet Trend Is Here 

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Recently  In the past five years all the non-franchise upscale eating places I have dropped into,  I noticed and in with conversations with some great chefs I am witnessing the return of the cast-iron cookware to high class dinning. Some older chefs tell me it never left.

Universal thinking from steaks to veggies.  It just does a better job than the aluminum junk ( Junk a Chinese word for boat) they are selling on TV out today or what we call the cheap stamped saucier pan color of the week turned out by Gotham for those who know nothing.

Home Friendly - Ask Grandma  Is the workhorse of many a dedicated home cook, and for good reason. Constructed in one seamless piece of metal, it’s virtually indestructible, conducts heat extremely efficiently and, when seasoned properly, has a nonstick surface that even fried eggs will not stick —But you have to treat your pan right.  Learn what the most common cast iron mistakes are and how to fix them.

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  • So,  cast iron pans are great for searing meat. 
  • Cast iron, is great for keeping food warm since it holds heat for a considerable length of time. … 
  • Every time you cook in your cast iron pans you are making them better by seasoning them. 
  • During the cooking process a small amount of iron is absorbed into the foods. Actually good for you.
  • Cast iron is tough. There's a reason why there are old cast iron pans at yard sales and antique shops. It is very difficult to completely ruin them.  
  • And on Youtube there are videos to restore them to new if you can steal one…they are 100% restorable and a steal --
  • Once cast iron is hot, it stays hot. So cast iron pans are great for searing meat.
  • Cast iron is great for keeping food warm since it holds heat for a considerable length of time. Michigan State University Extension suggests that you check to make sure that the food that you are keeping in your pan or dutch oven doesn’t get below 135 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.
  • Every time you cook in your cast iron pans you are making them better by seasoning them.
  • During the cooking process a small amount of iron is absorbed into the foods. Healthy, no pills…
  • Cast iron skillets and dutch ovens display your food beautifully. 
  • It may be the most versatile pan around, yet it’s hundreds of years old and comes in one color:  BLACK — the cast-iron pièce de résistance. For generations of cooks, the pan has been passed along from kitchen to kitchen as an heirloom.

Among the fans of the heavy-duty pan is Ross Sveback of Afton, Minn., a lifestyle promoter and the state’s answer to Martha Stewart ( who puts her name on any kind of sh*t that sells)    Sveback himself has a cupboard full of cast-iron cookware. One of his recipes appears in the new book, “Lodge Cast Iron Nation,” edited by Pam Hoenig. The only company that still makes its cast-iron cookware in the United States is Lodge Manufacturing of South Pittsburg, Tenn., which opened in 1896.

Whether the cookware is used to fry chicken, bake cornbread, roast Brussels sprouts or sear steak, the pans add a special sizzle to cooking. Sveback tells us how he uses this versatile pan: on the stove, in the oven, on the grill or campfire. And at the table, where the dish can be presented direct from the heat.

Why the attention to cast-iron cookware these days?  — It’s that old-time magic. It’s the sense of heritage. People are on a budget. But they still want to buy things and treat themselves. This is one reason that cast iron is so popular. People want beautiful things in their home and they want to entertain and have a perceived elevated lifestyle. But they are going back to things that their grandmothers did — like canning. We’re in a time where people are valuing again what people do with their hands. It’s a more personalized world.

What are the advantages of cast iron?  —  It’s approachable. Anyone who really loves cooking can afford this cookware. I can’t buy a $300 copper pot, but I can get a really good cast-iron pan for $50. It’s a fantastic investment in your kitchen.

How often do you use cast iron?  —  I cook with it almost every day, especially in the summer. I love the heat retention with the pan. I can set food out on the table in the pan and it stays warm for a long time.

What are the biggest problems with cast iron?  —  People don’t rinse the pan right away. Don’t leave food in it or it’s harder to clean. After you’re done eating, remove any food from the pan, wash it with hot water and a scrub brush (not metal). Sometimes you have to be patient a bit to get it clean.

How do you restore it?   I use a scouring pad. I scrub it with warm water to get rid of the rust. Then I add the oil. Don’t use bacon grease or olive oil; use some kind of mineral or vegetable oil. I prefer canola oil. I use my fingers or a paper towel and get it all over inside the pan. You can lightly put it on the outside on the sides and liberally on the inside.

Then I heat the pan on medium until it starts to smoke, take it off the heat and put it in the oven (which isn’t on). I put it in there to be out of the way and because it’s hot. After it cools, wipe off the excess oil and it’s like a brand-new pan.

You Don’t Understand Seasoning  —  You know all that talk about “seasoning” a cast-iron skillet? It’s not just talk. Seasoning refers to a layer of polymerized oil that has been baked onto the surface. Seasoning makes your skillet release food easily, clean up quickly and remain stain- and rust-free. 

Some cast-iron skillets, including those made by Lodge, come pre-seasoned. You’ll notice they have a smooth, non-greasy, softly lacquered surface. Those that don’t come pre-seasoned have a matte gray finish—until you season them, at which point they become shiny and closer to black in color. However, even if your skillet comes pre-seasoned, for best results right out of the box, consider seasoning it yourself before you use it.

You’re Not Seasoning The Skillet Right  —  If you’re just swiping a layer of oil onto the surface of your skillet, you’re not seasoning your cast-iron correctly. Seasoning involves a chemical reaction made possible through heat. In a nutshell, here is how to season your cast-iron skillet:

  • Apply a thin coat of any kind of vegetable oil to the entire pan (inside and outside and the handle too)
  • Place the pan inverted in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for an hour
  • Turn off oven and allow pan to cool inside the oven.

You’re Not Cleaning It Correctly —  In a nutshell, this is how to clean your cast-iron skillet:

  • Immediately after cooking, rinse in warm water, sprinkle with a bit of baking soda, and scrub gently with a nylon brush. The baking soda neutralizes any flavors and odors from what you’ve just cooked, and has anti-bacterial properties.
  • Since water will cause cast-iron to rust, don’t soak your skillet (thanks to seasoning, you shouldn’t need to), and be sure to thoroughly dry it with a dishtowel.
  • To help maintain the existing seasoning for as long as possible, apply a thin coating of vegetable oil while the pan is still warm.

You Never Use Soap  —  Think your cast-iron skillet is a delicate flower that can’t handle soap? Wrong! Cast iron can take almost anything you throw at it, even a little dish soap. Yes, if you take care of your skillet perfectly, you might never need to suds the skillet up. We all make mistakes, though, so sometimes you might need some soap to really clean the skillet well or to help you if it gets rusted.

You Used Harsh Chemicals  —  While soap can be used on cast iron sparingly, there is no need for any harsh chemicals to clean your skillet—even if it’s rusted. Skip the oven cleaner, skip the scouring powder and just rely on baking soda, a towel and, if need be, mild dish soap.

You’re Not Re-Seasoning —  Season a cast-iron skillet once, and you’ve got a kitchen workhorse…for a while. Season a cast-iron skillet regularly, and you’ve got a kitchen workhorse for a lifetime. Every time you use your cast-iron skillet, you’re wearing some of the seasoning down, and eventually it won’t function as well. So season it again whenever you see dull spots. Or do what I do: season it whenever it’s out and your oven is on.

You’re Not Doing Enough Cast-Iron Cooking  —  While seasoning does wear down with use, the more you use your cast-iron cookware, the better it performs. Every time you use it, you’re also adding new molecules of polymerized oil. Over the long haul, your cast-iron will darken and grow shinier.  

You Get Scared Off By A Bit Of Rust  —  One day, you will take your cast-iron skillet out of the cupboard, and there will be a spot of rust on it. Yes, it happens even to the most careful cast-iron caretakers. But don’t worry; it’s not fatal to your cookware. Simply eliminate it any way you can, even if it means taking steel wool to it. Just be sure to wash and re-season before you use it again. Here are some more tips on dealing with, and preventing, rust.

You’re Not Preheating   —  Cast-iron performs best when heated gradually, so give it a few minutes to pre-heat before adding your food.

You’re Overheating  —  Because cast-iron is so efficient at conducting heat, it can get hotter than what you may be used to with other cookware. So start with a lower heat setting as you get used to how incredibly efficient your cast iron skillet actually is. And if it gets too hot (you’ll know, but one sign is that it’s smoking), turn off the heat, let it cool down a bit, and then get back to cooking.

You’re Using The Wrong Spatula  —  Technically, you can use any spatula (and any tool) on a cast-iron skillet. However, metal spatulas provide the best results, especially when cooking delicate food such as eggs. Delicate food?  Sturdy spatula.

You Believe The Myth That You Can’t Cook Acidic Foods —  It’s a total myth that you can’t cook acidic foods in your cast iron skillet. Some are under the impression that acidic foods can discolor cast-iron, but a baking soda scrub should eliminate any discoloring. Some people think that acidic foods cause iron molecules to leach out into your food, but that’s actually a good thing! Cast-iron cooking can add significant amounts of iron to your food and into your body.

You don’t realize how forgiving it is  —  So maybe as you’re reading this, you’re thinking about that cast-iron skillet you haven’t taken the best care of. Maybe you’ve made every single one of the mistakes listed above. That’s okay! Just scrub it down, re-season it, and start using it again. Cast-iron is forgiving like that. That’s why it will last forever…or at least until Thanksgiving…when you can try all of these holiday recipes tailor-made for your favorite skillet.

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