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Cast iron skillets
A cast iron frying pan or skillet is a fantastic cooking implement. It spreads heat extremely evenly (eliminating hot spots), provides a great non-stick surface and tolerates extreme heat - it is the only type of cookware which offers this combination. It even provides traces of iron supplement to your diet.
- Use a spatula with a perfectly flat edge and rounded corners.
- Keep it dry. Using water short term (minutes, not hours) is fine. Be sure to dry thoroughly with heat.
- Avoid detergents - if it is needed for more intense cleaning, use less than you normally would, rinse thoroughly and remember apply a little oil afterwards.
Choose a frying pan with glassy-smooth cooking surface.
Old cast iron(before 1970) is generally very smooth to the touch.
- They are generally thinner
- If it has a score mark on the bottom, it may be from the 1800's.
Newer cast iron (1970's on) is generally rough due to the mechanized seasoning process. Though they are rougher, through repeated seasoning they can also be made non-stick.
Seasoning is creating a polymer of oils on the surface of the iron. This is done by releasing atoms in the oil (free radicals) with heat, and allowing them to polymerize and bond to the iron through cooling.
To break down the oil and release the most atoms you will want a low smoke point food-grade oil(Linseed Oil is ) along with high heat (450-500 degrees F, if you can manage it) Another good feature of Linseed oil/Flaxseed oil is that it is a drying oil. This means it will completely dry and will not feel sticky.
Repeat this method until satisfied:
- Thoroughly clean the cast iron to bare metal. Electrolysis works well.
- Coat the cast iron with a thin layer of oil, everywhere. Food grade, refrigerated, Linseed oil works well. Lard works too.
- Wipe with a towel again, don't worry, there is still a layer of oil.
- Place in the oven upside down, cooking side down.
- Turn oven up as high as it will go (500 degrees F is sufficient)
- Turn oven off after 1 hour and allow cast iron to cool
In a well seasoned pan use a tablespoon of coarse sea salt to scrub any cling-ons away.
If things get too messy and you need to use water, avoid detergents.
- After cleaning, dry it out with a few seconds on a hot stove, or a good wipe with a dry tea towel followed by air drying.
- Wipe on a tiny amount of oil or grease after use. If it is well seasoned this may not be needed every time.
- Cookers - notes on efficient and effective cooking
- using a cast iron skillet ain't so hard! - richsoil.com article with explanation and instructions, information on seasoning and choice of oil.
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