In this weeks kitchen utensils series, we give you the skinny on kitchen heavyweight, the cast iron skillet.
Yes, yes, we know you all have a skillet in some shape or form. But, do you have a cast iron skillet? These babies have been around since before cast iron was cool, and for good reason.
With very little maintenance, a cast iron skillet is an oven-proof, naturally nonstick tool that will actually last you a lifetime.
This is the most valuable tool in your skillet arsenal. Cast iron is a porous material, so it needs to be sealed, (or “seasoned”) to ensure that food doesn’t stick to it.
To do this, you need to first ensure that the skillet is clean. Normally, no soap is needed on cast irons, but you can use it just this once as you are about to season it.
Heat the pan on a stove to make sure it is hot and dry. With a clean dishcloth or paper towels, apply a thin layer of fat all over the inside and outside of the pan. You can use oil, lard, or shortening for this. Bake upside down in the oven at 350 F (180 C) for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and let the skillet cool inside. You won’t see the tell-tale shiny black coating just yet; this builds up over time.
If and when your skillet starts to get sticky, simply give it a good clean and repeat the initial seasoning process.
Rejoice! The best way to clean and preserve a cast iron skillet is to rinse it off as soon as you are done cooking. If you have pesky residue, you can give it a scrub with coarse salt and a nonwire brush or sponge. It’s also important to make sure it is dry, so towel-dry it straight away or pop it on the stovetop briefly to bake dry. That’s all. Really!
Almost anything and everything can be cooked in a skillet, except water. Use your other pans for boiling water please.
Otherwise, from frittatas to pies to organic steaks, this skillet can handle just about anything you throw at it. It is equally at home on the stovetop, barbecue, and in the oven. Just watch out for the hot handle!
Aside from potentially singeing your fingers and flinch-worthy repercussions if you drop it on your toes, a cast iron pan is a hazard-free zone. It is free of toxins such as PFOA and PTFE, which can be a worry with many nonstick options.