Sunday, February 19, 2012

Care and Feeding of a Cast Iron Skillet

A cast iron skillet (henceforth referred to as a CIS) should, IMO, be the first piece of cookware acquired when one arrives at a situation where they will be responsible for feeding their own damn self...usually moving away from home, finishing college, or whatever occasions your first apartment. (Yankees may be exempt from this rule, I have no idea what you cook. Or with what you cook it. Some kind of pot, I assume.)

Anyway, besides cornbread, fried chicken, corn fritters, fried eggs, and...well, anything fried really, the CIS can also be used as an emergency home defense tool. Just apply like any other bludgeoning weapon. Generally to the head. But I digress.

If you are fortunate enough to inherit a well seasoned CIS from your Grandma or mom, congratulations, you're halfway home. If you have to purchase your own, fortunately, they're cheap and readily available. Get the standard 10" skillet. Don't get the cute little 7" or the giant 13", they have their places, but are of marginal utility. Don't get non-standard stuff until you know exactly why you need it. (This applies to everything, not just cookware. eg. Electronics, gun accessories, makeup, whatever.) (Again, but I digress.) (Apparently all I do it digress. I should change the blog name to Parenthetical Digressions.)'re home with your brand new CIS. Yay! Now, of course, you want to season it properly so it will provide a lifetime of good cooking. First, remove labels that may have been stuck on. If glue is left, remove it. (***If you absolutely have to, you may use soap and water, just this once. Water should never again touch your skillet. Dry it immediately and completely. Iron rusts!***) Now that it's clean and dry, get some corn/vegetable oil and oil the whole skillet liberally. Completely. Cover it all. Now bake it at low oven (225ยบ) for about an hour. Remove and wipe the excess oil from the handle, bottom, and outsides with a towel. Now it's ready to start using.

Here's the secret to proper seasoning and making it non-stick. After using your CIS, don't wash it. Just wipe it out with a towel or bar mop. (Yes, I keep about a dozen or so bar mops and use them in lieu of paper towels. I use about half a roll of paper towels per year, so that's my contribution to the environment.) If necessary, it can be scraped, but make sure it doesn't stay dry. Eg, baking cornbread will soak up all the oil, so after wiping it out, oil it again to make sure it is well protected. As you use it over the years, just follow these steps and you'll eventually have a well seasoned and pretty well non-stick frying surface.
Happy cooking,