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Caring for Cast Iron Cookware

Caring for cast iron cookware isn't that difficult. Like any high quality cookware, you want to take care of it the right way so it will serve you well for many years. Unlike some types of cookware, cast iron is durable and can last for more than a hundred years.

Many of the cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens used by the pioneers as they crossed the prairie would work just as well today once they were cleaned and reseasoned.

Cast iron can be used safely indoors or outÂ… it can even be used for baking! It heats evenly and retains heat for a long time, keeping your food warm. The trick with maintaining cast iron cookware is that the seasoning is built up every time you cook with it, making your pans better and better as time goes on.

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

After cooking, wash the pan while still hot, if possible. If the pan cools down first, it may help to reheat it a little before washing. Add a little oil or water to help loosen dried foods. Always wash your pan in hot water, but try not to submerge your pan. For most jobs, plain hot water will be effective enough to remove any grease or food residue, although a little soap can be used if absolutely necessary.

One method often used with stuck on foods in a cast iron skillet is to add warm water to the pan and reheat to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a metal spatula or other utensil to loosen the cooked on food. This method almost always results in easy removal of the offending material. Hot water also dries quickly, helping to protect your pan from rust.

Do not, for any reason, ever put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher.

Don't over scrub. This is an important point when caring for cast iron cookware. Over scrubbing will remove the seasoning that has built up on the cookware. Most dried foods can be removed by scraping it off with a spoon. If hard scrubbing is needed, be prepared to reseason your pan.

To dry your cast iron cookware, place it in a warm oven or on a warm burner. The heat will evaporate every drop of moisture and protect your pan from rust. Be careful when removing your cast iron from the oven or stove top as it will be hot.

After your pan is thoroughly dried, add a thin layer of oil with a paper towel to keep the seasoning fresh. This step in caring for cast iron cookware prevents rust and deterioration of the existing seasoning layer. Wipe out any excess, and return the pan to that warm oven you just removed it from. Turn the heat off and let the pan sit there overnight to reseason the pan, readying it for its next use.

Cooking with Cast Iron

Don't cook acidic foods in your cast iron cookware. Foods like tomatoes can eat away at your carefully seasoned pan, creating food with a metallic taste. Don't store foods in cast iron for the same reason.

When cooking with your cast iron, always preheat the pan before adding the food. You can test the pan for readiness by sprinkling a few drops of water in the pan. If it pops and sizzles, the pan is ready. If the water evaporates immediately, the pan is too hot, and if the water just sits there and bubbles, it needs to heat a little bit more.

When cooking with cast iron, never add cold liquids to a hot pan or rinse a hot pan in cold water. The temperature differences may cause cracking or warping of your pan.

Store your cast iron cookware with the lids removed to prevent any chance of condensation and rust. Some people prefer to put a paper towel in the pan to catch any additional moisture from the air that may cause rust.

If you live in a humid climate, this is a good tip to remember when caring for cast iron cookware. If you do spot rust developing, you will need to scrub that portion off and reseason the pan.

Other clues that mean your cast iron cookware are in need of seasoning are a metallic taste or scent to the food that has been cooked in it.

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