Season That Cast Iron!

Gotta Love Grandma's Cast Iron

In my dreams, I still smell the heavenly fragrance of bacon sizzling in Grandma’s cast iron skillet.  Today I have Grandma’s skillet, and boy, do we fry up some killer bacon…made from a turkey.  Grandma would roll over.

Cast iron is not only vintage enough these days to be ultra cool, but it’s also now reported to be the safest and most effective nonstick cookware out there.  Don’t you just love coming full circle in the kitchen?  When it comes to browning just about anything, there’s no substitute for cast iron.  And truthfully, unless I’m pan frying fish, cooking eggs, or making something acidic like tomatoes or vinegar-based sauce, I’d choose my cast iron skillet any day of the week, and twice on Saturdays (literally).

I prefer the 10” because the 12” is so dang heavy, it’s almost more trouble than it’s worth.  But the advantage of the 12” is that you can fit more stuff in there (especially pieces of meat when browning).  Either way, at least one cast iron skillet is something that should grace every kitchen.  And if I didn’t say that, my grandma might convince St. Peter to keep me out of heaven.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have inherited one, you can find them at yard sales, kitchen stores, Wal-Mart, or just about anywhere.

Of course, the secret to cooking with cast iron is proper seasoning, which ensures a nonstick surface that will rival any Teflon coating.  If you get a yard sale find, be sure to scrub off any rust with salt, baking soda, a little water and a paper towel.  If that doesn’t work, try vinegar.  If there is a thick coating of rust, you may need to go to extremes and dunk the whole skillet in a bucket of equal parts vinegar and water for up to an hour.  Just be sure to do it outside because it will smell like someone doused your kitchen with rotten eggs.  Scrub it clean with soap and water, then dry it on the burner on low heat for a couple minutes.

Now comes the fun part.  Get yourself some Crisco shortening. (Yes, you can do it.)  Smear a very light coating all over the skillet, then stick it in the oven upside down on 450 for about an hour.  Repeat the Crisco smearing at least twice, then turn off the oven, leaving the skillet inside to cool completely before removing.  Voila!  A seasoned cast iron skillet!

The more you use your skillet for cooking with any kind of fat in it (oil, butter, meat), the more seasoned it will become, and the better your skillet will be.  Two rules to remember:

  1. Don’t ever use soap on your cast iron!  Only hot water, a plastic scraper if necessary, and a paper towel.
  2. Don’t ever leave your cast iron on a hot burner without fat in it!

Breaking either rule will strip the seasoning and you’ll have to re-season it.  I like to keep my cast iron out on the stovetop with just a very light coating of oil.  If you store in a cabinet, be sure not to store other pans sitting directly on the cast iron.  If space is a problem, place a paper towel in between the cast iron and anything else.

Okay, now go enjoy one of the oldest and best cooking tools ever!  And shake that booty!


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