Monday, October 09, 2006

Cast Iron Basics

Cast Iron Basics
(some of the most important things you need to know!)

Seasoning: Cast iron may be heavy, but with a proper seasoning, is the greatest type of metal to cook in. But, you need to keep your cast iron free from rust and well seasoned to make it “stick free”.
     When someone buys cast iron from the store, the foundry (manufacturer) coats the pot or pan with a coating of some sort to keep the item from rusting. This is done by spraying with a type of varnish or dipping it into hot paraffin wax. This protective coating must be cleaned off before seasoning your cast iron.
     If your Dutch oven is made by LODGE, the protective coating is a sprayed varnish coating, which must be scrubbed off. Heat the Dutch oven inside your home oven to 200oF., then with a hot pad, lower the oven into hot soapy water, and scrub the Dutch oven with a S.O.S. pad. Scrub the inside and outside of the Dutch oven very well, rinse well,  and towel dry. Then place the Dutch oven back into your oven at 225o to dry for about 10 to 15 minutes. The only way to dry cast iron is to dry it completely. I do mine in the oven because, the heat is not concentrated in one spot, as it is on the stove top, which can cause minute cracks.
     If your Dutch oven is made by any of the other companies that make outdoor Dutch ovens, the protective coating is dipped paraffin wax, which can be burned off. Do this outdoors in your gas B.B.Q. or, a kettle type charcoal B.B.Q. like a Webber. In a charcoal B.B.Q., use Mesquite charcoal for fuel because it burns much hotter than briquettes. Start the charcoal or light the gas B.B.Q., set on high and pre-heat the B.B.Q. When the charcoal is white, spread it out a little so that is not to close to the cooking grate. Place the oven onto the cooking grate, upside down, and close the lid on the B.B.Q.
Heat the oven to 450o to 500o for 15 minutes. Close the B.B.Q. and cook the Dutch oven for about 1 hour at 450o to 500o , or until the oven stops smoking. Cool the scrub the oven and dry as directed above.
     To season the Dutch oven, place the oven upside down on the cooking grate and warm the oven for 10 to 15 minutes at 450o to 500o . With hot pads, remove the D.O. and rub a light coat of lard, bacon grease, white Crisco, or vegetable oil, using a paper towel
Coat the inside and outside of the D.O. and lid. You only need a light coat of oil, you don’t want the grease to be dripping off the oven. Place the Dutch oven back onto the cooking grate and cook the Dutch oven for about 1 hour at 450o to 500o , or until the oven stops smoking. Remove the oven from the B.B.Q. with hot pads to cool. If the D.O. is a glossy brown color, not black, return to B.B.Q. to cook about thirty more minutes. By doing this outside in the B.B.Q., you don’t have to fill the house with smoke and set off the smoke detectors.

Cleaning; Cleaning cast iron is really quite easy and simple. As the same principal with seasoning, there are as many opinions as there are cooks. The methods I have found to work for me are written hereto share with you. However, as you cook more with cast iron and outdoor Dutch ovens, you will find a method that works best for you and your style of cooking.
     Right after I am finished cooking in my Dutch ovens, I like to a spray bottle filled with a solution of 4 parts of water to 1 part of apple cider vinegar to clean and sanitize with.  Scrape out all the extra bits of food with a spatula then spray the solution into the hot Dutch oven and wipe it out with paper towels. Sometimes, I need to spray and wipe out the oven several times to get it clean. But, it works well and the vinegar has other uses as well.
     Many people will tell you to never clean cast iron with soap and water. I have found this to be an excellent way to clean cast iron and use soap and water frequently myself. Be sure that cast iron is warm, to free the food from the pores easily, and to rinse the cast iron with hot water very well to remove all of the soap.
     The last and most important thing to do after cleaning your cast iron is not applying more oil to the iron. But, is to dry it completely over or in a heat source, to keep it from rusting. When drying cast iron, don’t get it to hot. It only needs to be about 225o for the moisture to evaporate and dry out. Once  the pot, pan, or Dutch oven is cleaned and dried, place a paper towel inside with a little of the paper towel going to the outside to “wick” out any  moisture from inside the pot and lid. Be sure to store your cast iron dry, without oil to keep it from turning rancid.


No comments: