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Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware

Caring For Your Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware, in my opinion, is a Godsend. It heats and cooks evenly, cleans (relatively) easily without any concerns about toxic elements chipping off to poison you (I’m talking about you, Teflon), and is borderline indestructible, which, I suppose, means that it can be useful as a weapon in a pinch.

But, given that most people in the U.S. did not grow up on a homestead, many people don’t know how to care for their cast iron to get the most usable life out of these pots and pans. We’re here to help.

The first thing to remember is that your cast iron cookware needs to be “seasoned.” Fortunately, these days, some cast iron cookware comes seasoned when you buy it. That’s very handy if you can find it. On the other hand, if what you buy isn’t pre-seasoned or if you are bringing back into use cookware that has been stored for an extended period of time, then you need to to season it before cooking with it. Steve Coffman writes,

Let us presume you have rusty, dirty or poorly cared-for cast iron. Start by cleaning off the rust. This can be as simple as scrubbing it with some salt mixed with oil, or using bare steel wool, or even gently sandblasting in the most extreme cases. Once you are down to bare iron, now the fun begins.

Some say to use bacon grease or some other animal fat. Others pull out a bottle of mysterious seasoning oil passed down through the generations and based on an old pioneer recipe that was given to them by a wise old American Indian. But if it’s an edible oil, it will work. Wipe your entire piece of cookware down liberally with oil, and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. (Some prefer 350 or even lower.) The trick is to heat your skillet enough so the iron absorbs some of the hot oil. Bake for at least half an hour or so, and then let the cookware cool down. Done properly, you now have oil-seasoned cast iron. I like to fry up a few batches of bacon or repeat the seasoning process a couple more times to build up the seasoning. Afterwards, as long as you keep your pans properly oiled, you can maintain the seasoning forever, and you will eventually develop a rich, shiny coating in your cast iron.

Coffman also recommends, once seasoned, to never wash your cast iron with soapy water because this can strip the seasoning. Fortunately, though, cleaning is easy. Warm water and a little elbow grease, some salt and oil and a buff, wipe it off, apply a thin coat of oil, and you’re done. Simple, fast, and straight-forward.

Because of this simplicity of use and care, cast iron cookware may be the ultimate cookware for a survival situation. It’s nearly indestructible, easy to care for, and can last (seemingly) forever.

How to you take care of your cast iron cookware? Tell us below.

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