Cast iron cookware has been the favorite cooking vessel of choice in America since 1896. Its virtues are being extremely durable and non-stick when it is purchased pre-seasoned. All cast iron holds heat very well and distributes an even heat throughout the pan or Dutch oven to make meals perfect for a king. Cast iron is the only type of metal that you can use with any heat source, such as your stove, a camp stove and directly over a campfire.
How is Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Made?
Bare cast iron vessels require that you season them before you use them so they are non-stick and produce a beautiful browning effect on meats and then slide right out of the pan. Bare cast iron has been in use for over two thousand years. Pre-seasoned cast iron is usually the prime choice for new users of this type of cookware, so they do not need to season it themselves. Bare cast iron cookware can be found in many vessels including Dutch ovens, frying pans, deep fryers, woks, grills, gribbles, waffle irons, crepe makers and panini presses.
Cast iron is made by melting pig iron and other metal elements as the undesirable contaminants are removed. Phosphorus and sulfur is removed from the molten iron but the process also removes carbon, which in turn has to be added back to the molten mass. The casting process is when the molten iron is poured into a mold. The mold is a hollow cavity with the desired shape of the cooking vessel. The metal is allowed to cool and become solid. The cast iron object is removed from the mold in one piece. In a cast iron skillet, the handle is molded in the same mold to produce a very strong and indestructible object that is easy to hold. Other pots and pans with handles are usually attached as separate pieces to the pot or pan with screws for an inferior product in which the handles may break or become loose.
Pre-seasoned cast iron cookware has a special coating that is added to the item after it is cast. This coating keeps it from rusting and makes it non-stick as it is stored before you purchase it. You can also find pre-seasoned cast iron items with an enamel layer on the inside and pretty bright colors of enamel on the exterior to match your other pots and pans in your kitchen. The enamel finish is comprised of several layers of enamel and baked at high temperatures to create a glossy and durable finish.
How to Re-Season Cast Iron Cookware
The directions for great foods cooked in cast iron always include heating the skillet before you add food to it. The truth is that if you get your pan screaming hot and wait more than a few minutes to add the food, it can ruin the surface or it may even crack your skillet. At this point, you cookware looses its ability to be non-stick and will need to be re-seasoned. If you don’t use it often enough it and maintain it well, you will also need to re-season it.
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and wash your cast iron with a stiff brush and hot soapy water. This is the only time you should use soap and a stiff brush on your items. Rinse out your cookware and dry it thoroughly. Apply a generous coating of vegetable shortening to the entire piece on the inside, outside and the handle. Place aluminum foil on the bottom of your stove and put the cookware upside down on the oven’s top rack. Bake your cookware for one hour. Turn the oven off and let the cookware cool inside the oven with the door closed. Store your cookware in a dry area.
The best idea is to use your cast iron cookware daily if possible. It is made to stay non-stick by absorbing the small amounts of oil you put into it and becomes slicker after each use.