How to care for and restore cast-iron cookware
Cast-iron cookware: Instructions for use, preparation and care.
Cast-iron pans are one of the most ancient types of cookware, tried and tested through the ages. They are so durable that they can even be passed down from generation to generation as a family heirloom. However, of all the materials used to make cookware today, cast iron is perhaps the one that requires the most care. It is very important to properly prepare and care for a cast-iron pot before using it to cook with. Following a few simple rules will help avoid any trouble or disappointments.
Preparing and caring for uncoated cast-iron cookware
If you have decided on an unprocessed cast-iron pot, you will need to do a few things before using it. This is to remove any traces of manufacturing oils and to prepare it for further use.
1. Wipe off any oil with a dry cloth.
2. Wash the product with hot water and detergent.
3. Coat the pan with salt and heat it (for 40-60 minutes) - this will get rid of the smell of the manufacturing oil. The best way of doing this is to bake the pan in an oven set to 175-200°C, but a conventional stove or an open fire will also work.
4. Grease the pan with vegetable oil (oils that dry well, such as linseed, tend to work the best) and bake it for a further 25-30 minutes – this procedure will create a protective layer that prevents corrosion and has slight non-stick properties.
Once you have gone through this somewhat lengthy procedure, your cast-iron cookware will be ready for use. You can skip these steps if you have purchased cookware that has already been pre-prepared at the factory.
An important thing to remember when looking after your cookware is that cast iron is susceptible to corrosion. You should therefore observe the following rules:
1. Do not use your cast-iron cookware to store food.
2. As far as possible, avoid harsh abrasives and detergents when washing your cookware, as they can break down the non-stick coating. Wash them by hand, not in a dishwasher.
3. Make sure to dry your pan properly after washing it. The best way to do this is to heat it over a flame for a few minutes until it is completely dry. If you have had to scrape off burnt food, then you can re-grease your pan with a small quantity of vegetable oil before drying it. There is a myth that a “good” cast iron pan won’t rust, but this isn’t true – so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
4. Store your cast-iron cookware in a dry, ventilated place. Some manufacturers recommend you grease your pot with vegetable oil before storing it, but, as long as you follow the other rules and do not live in an area with high humidity, you should be fine without doing this.
If for some reason your cast-iron pan rusts, you can restore it fairly easily. To do this, remove all the rust with an abrasive (in mild cases a dish sponge is enough; in more severe cases you can use sandpaper or even a sandblaster). Then wash your pot, grease it with oil and bake it for 25-30 minutes.
It is also useful to note that high temperatures and metal utensils are no problem for an uncoated cast-iron pan. You can use metal spoons, forks and spatulas without worrying, and you can even use it as a chopping board – unless you are concerned about damaging your knife, of course.
Small nicks and bumps are also no problem, although if a pan is dropped onto a hard floor from a height, then it might break, as cast iron is fairly brittle.
One of the great advantages of uncoated cast-iron cookware is that the longer you use it, the better it becomes. It is no secret that the best dishes are those cooked in your grandmother’s old cast-iron frying pan.