Cast iron and I have had a bumpy road to success! Like many gals who didn’t take time to learn particular skills from their old fashioned mothers, so was I. Somehow, I managed to escape the learning curve when it came to seasoning and caring for the black brutes!
The result when I brought these hefty pans into my own kitchen?
At a time when cooks were raving about the wonders of cast iron, I was contemplating if I should forever banish them from my home! Only the nastiness that comes with Teflon-coated pans kept me going.
Today, I’m glad –so glad- I (quite literally) stuck it out.
Perhaps you’ll be able to relate with the 9 (poor) habits I practiced and better care for your black beasts by implementing the changes outlined here:
Poor Habit #1: Heating the Pan Without Oil
What I did: In the morning rush, I would plop a clean, beastly pan down on the stove top. When it was hot enough, I’d apply a bit of oil and immediately fill the pan with food.
What I should have done: I’ve since learned that applying fats or oils before heating helps maintain the finish and keeps food from sticking.
Poor Habit #2: Leaving a Oil-Free Pan on the Burner for Too Long
What I did: Because I begrudged the time cast iron requires to heat up, I’d place the bone dry pan on a very-much-alive burner, then walk away. Other tasks would distracted my attention. All too often, it was my nose that brought me back to reality! The finish on my pans was slowly burning off.
What I should have done: the answer is painfully obvious! Don’t walk away from cast iron!
Poor Habit #3: Storing Food in the Cast Iron
What I did: Regardless of what we had for supper (meats, sauces, starch or vegetables), food would be left to cool in the dutch cast iron. Then, I’d place the entire deal in the fridge, pulling it out to reheat the next day. Less dishes to wash, right?
What I should have done: For the best non-stick results, I discovered oil/fats should be reapplied with every heating, before food is added to the pan. Which leaves no room for refrigerated cast iron dishes!
Poor Habit #4: Soaking and Washing with Soap
What I did: Because I had left the confounded pan in the fridge and foodstuff had stuck to it, I had to scrub, scrub, scrub to clean it off! Hot soapy water worked best. Sometimes, I’d even leave my cast iron to soak overnight. In the morning, I’d scrub it long and hard.
What I should have done: emptied the food into yet another container and gently rinsed the cast iron out with warm water while things were still soft and easily removed!
Poor Habit #5: Letting the Cast-Iron Drip Dry
What I did: After I’d give the pan a good scrubbing, I’d set it in the dish rack to drip dry. Rust-like spots would appear, and I’d sigh over the difficulty of using cast iron.
What I should have done: after washing the pan, I should have immediately dried it with a towel, removing water droplets and thus avoiding rust.
Poor Habit #6: Failing to Re-apply Fats
What I did: After my intense pot washing session, I’d stash my parched pan away, hoping that things would go better next time I heated it on the burner!
What I should have done: After gently washing and drying, I should have re-applied a light layer of fats before returning the pan to the cupboard.
Poor Habit #7: Not Using Enough Fats When Cooking
What I did: Fats can be expensive (coconut oil, anyone?). I used less in attempt to be frugal and conserve our supply. Plus, I wondered if heated fats were all that healthy? Time and time again my foods would stick. And stick. And stick.
What I should have done: I’ve learned that those who worry about heated fats shouldn’t use cast iron. Apply liberally. If foods are beginning to stick, apply more! I’ve also learned that its worth investing into a (mostly-free) fat source (such as tallow or lard), either from neighbors or the local butcher shop!
Poor Habit #8: Curing with Too Much Oil
What I did: When curing could not longer be avoided, I’d slather my cast iron with oil, then plunk the pan in the oven and wait. More often than not, the finish was bumpy and uneven. Cast iron and I seemed to make a hopeless pair!
What I should have done: applying very light layer of fats (coconut, tallow, lard) a few times is the best way to go! It bakes on evenly and smoothly, leaving you with a beautiful finish.
Poor Habit #9: Curing my Cast Iron Right Side Up
What I did: when cast iron needed a cure (which I hated doing because of the smoke), I’d slather it in oil and pop it into the oven, right side up. Let’s just say I’m very familiar with cooking on bumpy, uneven surfaces!
What I should have done: Since applying less fats and turning my cast iron cookware upside down in the oven with a catch pan beneath, I’ve have accomplished some almost beautiful finishes.
I’ve learned several (dark) lessons when it comes to a cast iron kitchen, but in spite of all I’ve experienced, I’m still a learner!
If you have any tips for cast iron success, we’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below!