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I’m in love with my new Cast Iron pan. I made the best fried chicken with it over the weekend. Actually, the best fried chicken that I have ever made and believe me I’ve made a lot. When my husband’s mother passed away, quite a few years ago, his aunt showed up at the funeral to get her sister’s coveted Cast Iron pan. She briefly said her hellos, retrieved the prized Cast Iron pan and abruptly left never to be heard from again. She got what she came for!
Cast Iron absorbs heat more slowly than other materials, but retains its heat well and uniformly. Cast Iron pots and pans can be used on the stove, in the oven, under a broiler and even on the grill. It is great for high temperature cooking. Uncoated Cast Iron will react with acidic ingredients such as tomatoes and wine which is why many cooks prefer cast iron coated with a hard porcelain enamel that makes it nonreactive. An enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven is a must have in a well-stocked kitchen.
Brand-new, uncoated Cast Iron is brittle and must be seasoned before using. Many manufacturers are now selling preseasoned Cast Iron cookware so make sure to check the label. If your cookware is uncoated then you will need to season well. To season your pans rub the inside of the pan with a flavorless vegetable oil. Put the pan on a baking sheet and put into a preheated 350° F oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let cool in the oven. Remove it from the oven and wipe off any residual oil with paper towels. With constant use, uncoated Cast Iron will develop a natural nonstick coating. Try to use your Cast Iron cookware as much as you can. If you don’t use often then make sure to season every 6 months or so. You do not need to season enameled Cast Iron.
Do not wash uncoated Cast Iron with soap and water or you will remove the seasoning. NEVER use scouring pads and, of course, NEVER put your Cast Iron (coated or uncoated) cookware into the dishwasher. Just rinse your pans with hot water and scrape out cooked-on food with a wooden spatula. Sprinkle with coarse salt and then rub clean with paper towels. You must keep Cast Iron pans well-seasoned. It is all right to wash a coated pan briefly with a little soapy water after it has been seasoned as long as the pan is then thoroughly dried. To make sure that your Cast Iron cookware doesn’t rust make sure to dry well and then place the pan over a medium heat to evaporate any lingering moisture. Do not store your Cast Iron cookware in a plastic bag to “protect” it. The plastic bag will trap moisture and cause rusting.
Cast Iron is an alloy of iron containing so much carbon that it cannot be wrought but must be melted and shaped by casting. Cast iron generally has 1.8% to 4.5% carbon, .5% to 3% Silicon and small amounts of sulfur, manganese and phosphorus. The word, Cast Iron, was first recorded in English in 1664. Cooking with Cast Iron pans greatly increase the iron content of food because the surface releases fine particles. Some foods cooked in Cast Iron contain up to double their original iron content.