The Care and Feeding of Cast Iron: Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron pots and pans are the basis of a well-stocked kitchen, and will last a lifetime if you learn the methods for cleaning and seasoning cast iron cookware to maintain the cured surface.

| December 1999/January 2000

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    Curing (seasoning) cast iron means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside of the piece.
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    Cast iron cookware heats evenly and can last a lifetime.
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    There's a cast-iron piece for most any cooking job you can dream up.

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Learn the tricks and tips to cleaning and seasoning cast iron cookware. 

The hallmark of any country kitchen is an old black cast iron skillet sitting atop the woodstove. And there's good reason for that: Whether you're baking biscuits in a cast iron Dutch oven, flipping pancakes on a cast iron griddle over a woodstove or pan-frying chops on a modern electric range, cast iron makes the best cookware. When it comes to cast iron its important to learn about cleaning and seasoning cast iron cookware to get the best from your cookware.

Types of Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware has been used steadily in America since the 1600s, though over the last half century or so it has been known primarily as an outdoor cookware, used mainly by campers, hunters and living historians. But with more and more people discovering its virtues, there has been a resurgence in the use of cast-iron cookware in the home.

When folks think of cast ironware, most tend to think of skillets and fry pans, but the fact is there is an iron pot or kettle designed for just about any cooking chore. You can bake in Dutch ovens, make stew in a kettle or even do up a stir-fry in a cast-iron wok. Then there are griddles for making flapjacks, specialized pieces for making corn sticks and muffins, baking pans and large pieces designed specifically for putting up preserves. Cast iron also provides more even heat distribution than today's lightweight aluminum pans. It cooks evenly, cleans up easily and holds heat longer (thus requiring less fuel). Moreover, cast iron also has medicinal qualities. In fact, many medical authorities believe that there are health benefits to cooking in iron since food may absorb and pass onto us traces of the essential mineral.

Cast Iron Cookware Maintenance

But in order to live up to its potential, cast-iron cookware must be properly seasoned (cured) and that cure must be maintained. If done correctly, the iron will not rust, nor will food stick to it and burn.

Curing cast iron means filling the pores and voids in the metal with grease of some sort, which subsequently gets cooked in. This provides a smooth, nonstick surface on both the inside and outside of the piece. While the curing process is similar whether you start with new or used cast iron, there are a few important differences. Let's look at new cookware first.

12/1/2007 1:38:14 PM

you can make a used pan as good as new by putting it in a self cleaning oven for a few hours. I've done this a few times w/ garage sale iron skillets and it's worked great. Once done in the self cleaning oven, you'll have a layer of ash in and out of the pan, so it behooves you to put a baking dish below the pan you're cleaning. Once you wash off the ash, season as you would a new pan.

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