One of the common misconceptions I hear about cast iron cookware is the difficulty in caring and that food sticks to the surface. In my humble opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s only drawback is its weight. This limits, somewhat where you can use it, i.e. it’s not for packing on your back into remote base camps. That said, I will pack it in on horseback, and use it in a good wall tent in the areas out West. However, it’s my go to cookware for everything else; RV, Home, and cabin cooking.
The issue with cast iron is in its care, and that begins with prepping it prior to your first use. Good quality cast iron is essential. My preference is Lodge cast iron which has quite literally been passed down through generations in my family. It’s beauty is it’s longevity and it’s ability to get better as time goes on, if, it’s been properly cared for, which, is not nearly as laborious as you might think.
Before you use your cast iron, it must be properly seasoned. This is a simple process, that will insure it will have the nonstick properties we appreciate and desire.
The first step is cleaning and drying. Utilize a mild dishwashing soap then thoroughly rinse. When done, dry it with a towel or paper towel then allow to sit out and air dry for about 30 min.
Once dried, put a small amount of vegetable oil, maybe a tablespoon or two and pour it directly onto your cooled skillet, dutch oven, pot, or griddle. Spread it around to obtain an even coat on the base and up the sides of the cookware. Once done, place it in a 350 degree oven, upside down. Bake it at 350 for one hour. Turn the oven off and allow it to cool. The cookware is now ready to use.
Note: Before you bake it, line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil to catch any oil drippings in your oven.
Cooking With Your Cast Iron
Cast Iron has the ability to disperse heat more evenly than any other cooking medium. Because of this ability, and it’s ability to retain heat well, high temperatures are not often needed. Medium heat is always a good starting point and will prevent burning food items. The least of your worries is damaging the cookware. It has the incredible ability to handle heat extremely well, and given it’s all metal construction won’t char or burn the wood handle on the higher end cookware.
I chose a dreaded egg to demonstrate the effectiveness of the cookware and later show the nonstick properties. We’ve all seen the egg cause untold frustration in sticking to the surface. If you’ve seasoned your cast iron and kept it lightly oiled, it’s an issue you won’t have to deal with again. The cookware will clean up quickly and easily with minimal effort.
Care after use
I’ve found the easiest and most effective way to clean my cast iron is to do so while it’s hot. The construction of good cast iron such as Lodge is that it will not warp when water is placed in the pan while it’s hot. I allow it to cool slightly, place hot water in the cookware, then use my metal spatula to scrape any residue off the bottom. I’ll pour out the water and left over food items then add a small amount of hot water. While it’s sitting, I add a healthy amount of coarse salt and let it sit. The salinity of the water will prohibit bacteria growth and keep it clean for next use.
If I’m in the woods and needing to get out on stand or begin my hunt, I find this method saves me a lot of time in the after meal clean up and even helps prepare the pan for later use.
If time permits, prior to heading out in the field, I’ll rub a light coat of oil on the inside cooking surfaces and set it aside for the next use.
About every 3-4 months I will re-season the cookware, depending on the amount of use I’ve given it, using the steps outlined above for initial seasoning. This insures a couple of very important things for me.
- The cookware will continue to remain nonstick.
- I can vouch that the cookware will get better and better with each use.
Storing Your Cast Iron
I prefer to stack my case iron, one inside the other, with a layer of paper towel in between. Prior to stacking and storing, I coat the cooking surfaces with a light coat of vegetable oil, then line it with a paper towel. Doing so insures my Lodge cast iron will remain in great shape for its next use.