Monday, June 18

Good Eating Monday: Caring for Iron Pans

Today's topic is ironware.
A set of iron frying pans is the healthiest cookware you can own! The last forever, don't chip or break and won't scratch. They won't rust either----if you care for them in the proper way!
Plus, according to http://www.clarkehardware.com/castironcookware.htm: "You may not be aware that iron cookware imparts a significant amount of dietary iron to your food, which is absorbed by the body. In other words, cast iron cookware is the healthiest cookware on the market. 
Absorbable iron being the key word. It is, of course, minuscule amounts.

Another feature of cooling in an iron skillet--nothing browns and crisps food like iron!
I'm so used to it, I'm spoiled if I'm in circumstances where I have to cook with other kinds of skillets.
They're so slow to brown and crisp anything and the color is nothing like what I'm used with my iron!

I have an assortment of skillet sizes: a  8 inch, a 10 inch and a 12 inch. I keep them stacked from small to large on top of each other on my stove, ready to use. I can't put them in a cabinet because their interiors have a coating of oil and keeping them on the stove keeps them clean & dust-free, since I use them all the time.
The 12 inch used to be my Mother's and it's probably 50 years or more old and in perfect condition!
An iron skillets are easily found at Walmart or Kmart, etc and, if you don't have one, I highly recommend investing in at least one iron skillet. (Unless you have a medical condition the prohibits extra iron.)

I'm just going to focus on the care and feeding of an iron skillet, since that 's the most common iron implement, though these instructions would apply for any iron ware.
The 2 most important things to know are:
1) How to Season Your Skillet
2)  How to Keep It Seasoned & Usable

How to Season an Iron Skillet:
I use a quick seasoning method.
First rinse your pan with plain water, then put it on the stove burner.Turn the burner on med-high and dry it with heat of burner. Once dry, turn burner to medium and pour in a layer of Morton's salt over the bottom of pan, about 1/4 inch deep. Saute the salt around the pan, brushing it up the sides of pan slightly for 6-7 minutes. (The salt will discolor.)
. Now, using a hot pad to hold into the handle, remove pan from heat, take it to sink and rinse the salt out of the pan, then return the pan to heat to dry it out. Once all water has evaporated, turn off the heat. Let cool, then apply a thin coat of cooking oil or olive oil to the exterior of the pan.
Initial seasoning is now complete. Iron is porous and salt seals the pores.
Your pan is ready to use, but must be used regularly to continue the seasoning process, which creates that stick-resistant interior!
Adding a Tablespoon of your preferred cooking oil before you cook something every time you use your skillet helps continuously enhance the seasoning.

How to Care for Your Skillet So It Keeps It's Seasoning:
Number 1 is never, ever use dish soap on your iron skillet!!
Never submerge an iron pan into soapy dishwater! 
Dish soap removes the seasoning! You'll have to re-apply the salt all over again!
(I hope you'd never consider putting iron in the dish washer.)
Here's how you clean a iron skillet:
Step 1)  Scrub it out with PLAIN HOT WATER.
I use a scrubby sponge and just scrub my pans out in the empty sink under running hot water.
If there's any stubborn, stuck on food, I just put a shallow amount of water in the pan and let is sit a few minutes, then it usually scrubs right off.
And, in case no soap worries you, of course, just rinsing it under HOT water makes it clean enough!
Never leave standing water sit in ironware longer then 10 or 15 minutes. Iron pans will rust if not dried off and oiled promptly.
Step 2)  Dry Your Pan: either with a paper towel or you can turn a burner on and dry it over heat.
Step 3) Once dry of water, re-apply a thin coat of oil to inside of your skillet.
 I usually just spray mine with an oil cooking spray and that works fine. I only apply a coat of olive oil right after the initial salt seasoning.

Where to Keep Your Seasoned Iron Skillet:
Well, because it's oily inside, don't nest ironware. (It makes the bottoms that will have to be on a burner later, oily.)
And don't store in a cabinet where who knows what dust and other stuff will accumulate or run across their oil interiors!
My best suggestion is keep your iron skillet either on the stove-top or on a rack inside your oven---just remember to remove them before you pre-heat your oven for some baking project.
My Mom kept all her iron skillets in the oven--you just have to remember to remove them before you pre-heat your oven for a baking project.
If I had more then just skillets, I'd probably go with the oven. Now if I had a iron dutch-oven, because it has a lid and had the room, I'd store it in a cabinet.
If you were to forget you had iron stored in your oven, you just use a good pot holder to safely remove the hot ironware and put it a stove top burner to cool off.

I usually don't have to re-season my skillets except in rare cases, such as someone staying at my house in our absence, who washes the pan in soap, not knowing better or the one occasion I forgot a burner on under my 10 inch skillet and it burned the seasoning completely off in one spot. (We're talking a couple hours, but after a fresh application of salt and continued use, you can't even tell that ever happened!)(It eventually regained it's seasoning after a fresh salt application and continued use, you can't even tell!)
Unlike Teflon, ironware is pretty indestructible.

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