Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The joys of cooking with Cast-Iron

They are a thing of beauty.
For us, old is new again.
We have carefully packed away most of our copper skillets and pans and have turned to cast iron here in the Voodoo Kitchen.

We cook everything from cornbread to fried chicken to Adobo in them.
We see the difference in even heat, durability and taste.

Yes, there are times when we use our expensive copper pans, but that's becoming less frequent.

A good cast-iron skillet, properly cared for, can last for generations. 

There is the seasoning process that is essential for cast-iron cookware. The seasoning process serves smooths the surface of the pan, and the more you use and season a cast-iron skillet, the more non-stick the surface becomes.

So, let's go over a few easy steps:

If the pan is new, wash, rinse and dry the pan.
Grease the inside surface with cooking oil, we use peanut  oil for this.
Put your greased utensil in a preheated 350°F oven for 1 hour.
Remove, cool and store the pan.
"I do believe my mother could have fried plutonium in her big skillet." 

Until the pan is very well seasoned, with many uses or repeated seasonings, don't cook foods with a high acid content (like tomatoes). The corrosive nature of high-acid foods react well with unseasoned cast-iron.
Once a pan is well-seasoned, however, you can cook anything.

You can purchase pre-seasoned pans, but we still season them anyway.
Cleaning seems to be the most difficult step for a lot of people.
Convincing cooks not to use soap or detergent in the cleaning process can be prove difficult.
But there is a right and a wrong way to clean them.
Seasoned cast-iron utensils may be cleaned with really hot water, and a stiff-bristled kitchen brush. 
Brush the skillet thoroughly and wipe it with a paper towel. 
It is important to dry cast-iron  after use, otherwise they will rust.
Cast-iron utensils will darken with use, turning from a steely gray, when new, to dark gray or black.

But why did the Voodoo Kitchen switch over?

We love what it does with flavor and texture.
Cooking in Cast Iron Makes Food Tastes Great. Cast iron distributes heat evenly over the cooking surface, and its unique properties affects the texture of food cooked in it. 
Copper is great, but we see a difference with cast iron.

Cooking in Cast Iron pans are a great way to get trace amounts of iron into your diet.
That element is missing from stainless steel, aluminum and chemically treated non-stick pans.

Cooking in cast iron is not only versatile, it's durable as well. What other kind of cookware can move so effortlessly between the stove top to the oven?
Cast iron can last for generations. There are cast iron pans from the 19th century still in regular use today! Older pots than that are being used too.

Cooking in cast iron makes us feel proud and creates a culinary legacy. In his book Dutch Ovens Chronicled, John Ragsdale points out that Mary Washington (the mother of George Washington) included her cast iron collection in her will.

Okay, those are our reasons the Voodoo Kitchen uses cast iron these days. Give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised.