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cast iron (foodie help!)

   Discussion: cast iron (foodie help!)
beth-pseudocanuck! · 17 years ago
my mom has an oooooold cast iron set in the basement. totally rusty, nasty looking. i'm willing to resurrect them, but i'm not entirely sure it's worth it. i have a brand new, decent nonstick cookware set, so the cast iron would be for fun or things that really do well in cast iron.

1) what dishes do/would you really love to have cast iron cookware for?

2) if i can only take a piece or two of the set, which should i take?

3) any hints on resurrecting them from rustyhell?

[edit: i don't eat pork or beef, so bacon isn't really a concern.]
Andrea Krause Back · 17 years ago
I know Paul likes to use his cast iron for deep frying type things and for making bacon. I'll tell him to add comments when he has a chance. He's a big fan.
beth-pseudocanuck! Back · 17 years ago
see above for bacon edit. hehe.

looking forward to paul's comments! :)
Andrea Krause Back · 17 years ago
I always forget the food considerations. Sorry! :)
beth-pseudocanuck! Back · 17 years ago
not a worry. :) i never assume on anyone either way, so i never assume people will know my own restrictions. hehe. :)

HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY THINK I COULD KILL THE CUTE LITTLE PIGGY?!?!?!?!?!?! PIGGY KILLER!!!!!!!!!!!!

*giggles*
Bruce Rose Back · 17 years ago
Besides, piggy killers like me are reading the forum too.  Now all we have to do is find a skillet. :-)
Andrea Krause Back · 17 years ago

They're great for fries....not meaty! :)

Josh Woodward Back · 17 years ago
Cast iron rocks. Anything that needs nice constant heat is perfect. Slabs of meat are the killer app, but anything that you'd stick on a BBQ grill is a good candidate. Be damn sure you have the right temperature before adding the food, though. Cast iron takes years to cool down. And learn to season and wash them or you might as well use regular pans.

As for resurrecting them, no idea. Just don't use anything too harsh, since old cast iron tends to be seasoned to an absurd degree that you just can't buy. Try sticking it in a really hot oven for awhile with some olive oil or shortening in it and then scouring it with a cleaning brush (no soap!).
Andrea Krause Back · 17 years ago
I would say at least from my POV that your first bet would be a nice sized skillet. Also, at least in our house, a deep kettle type thing is very helpful. Like....  \__/ shaped not a cauldron or something. :)
Misch Back · 16 years, 10 months ago
1. Pick up a book: "Gear For Your Kitchen" by Alton Brown.

And now to answer your questions.
1. Fried chicken. Eggs. Biscuits. Is there a dutch oven in the set? Dutch ovens are GREAT.

2. You want a skillet 10-12 inches in size, the largest you can possibly readily store. Dutch oven: Looks like a big pot with a lid. You want this. You can make anything in a dutch oven. For indoor cooking, take one with a flat bottom. If you're adventerous, or there isn't one of those, take the dutch oven anyway. You can use it inside or outside with charcoal.

3. A couple of people recommend:
a. Sandpaper.
b. Steel wool.
c. Stiff wire brush.

Steel wool would work best, me thinks.

After removing the rust, you MUST re-season the pan.

1. heat oven to 350.
2. Place a sheet pan with a lip or a large disposable foil roaster on the bottom r=ack of the oven.
3. Place the cast iron on the middle rack. Place a tablespoon of veggie shortening in the center of the piece.
4. When the cast iron is warm enough to melt the shortening but not too hot to handle, remove the oven and rub the shortening over the pan - including the outside, bottom, handles, and lid using a paper towel.
5. Put the cast iron back in the oven upside down.
6. Turn off the oven after one hour and allow the cast iron to cure in the oven until cool.
7. When the cast iron is cool enough to touch, wipe off any excess fat and store.

For your formerly rusted piece, repeat.

(Adapted from Alton Brown's "Gear For Your Kitchen")

Guess what I'm doing this weekend? Seasoning my shiny (not for long!) new 10.25" cast iron dutch oven.
Bruce Rose · 17 years ago
Cast iron skillets are a dream. The bigger the better.

As far as removing the rust, use steel wool. If you wash the pan in water, re-season it (seasoning involves peanut oil and heat...if I remember correctly.) Before storing the pan, put a thin skin of oil to help retard rust.

I haven't used a cast iron skillet since 1984, when I was nine. My information may be out of date, but you should be able to find a book at the library about care, seasoning, and recipes. We used that skillet for everything, but shepherd's pie was one of my favorites.
tygerlillie · 17 years ago
oh good ol' Southern cornbread. fried chicken...ummm i know my moms cast iron skillet was from my great grandma's barn and it was all rusted i will find out what she did....but seriously you can use them for anything ANYTHING.
Bruce Rose · 17 years ago
John Lescroart's character, Dismas Hardy, has a cast iron skillet that he uses for everything. In addition to being very entertaining novels (in the John Grisham style), the man goes overboard in telling you how to care for the pan. I think the character likes the pan more than his tropical fish, darts, and Guinness.
beth-pseudocanuck! Back · 17 years ago
whoa. perhaps something for my reading list? heh. i'll look him up. thanks. :)
Bruce Rose Back · 17 years ago
A Certain Justice, Nothing But The Truth, or The 13th Juror, would probably be good starting points.  Or any of his others (except for Son of Holmes or Rasputin's Revenge, which don't use the same character set).
ShrinkMan · 17 years ago
Cast Iron (CI) pans are one of my favorite to use for many reasons. Chief among these is it should be illegal to cook with an electric range (ER). They take way to long to heat up and cool down. But others have the said the same thing about CI pans, right? 2 things right off. ER's heating issues are more of a problem with regular pans because of many normal pans' own heat retention quality... no a problem wi CI! and second, because when larger and more sudden changes in temp. are called for, they almost alway work better if you go pan to pan, or as a seafood and veggi type person, form pan to icewater bath. When it comes down to being stuck with an ER I think a large CI pan, A CI Dutch oven, a hand hammered Heavy stainless steel or anodized aluminum Wok (for quick reheating with easy direct-to-bowl transfer) and (if using the oven for roasting - with the exception of poultry) a terra cotta planter with drain hole and with a matching water resevervoir, are all alternative essentials in addition to regular pans... more in a few... And remember all oils and shortnings come in veggi based options. so we can explore their us in CI care as well.
beth-pseudocanuck! Back · 17 years ago
i just saw the planter thing on good eats last night. that was so cool.

apartments almost always come with ERs. *sigh*

i think you've made your argument enough for me to put forth the effort to resurrect the old set, though. :) gracias! *scampers off to research resurrection* (are you serious about the dremel? geez! hardcore!)
ShrinkMan Back · 17 years ago
YUP, no home should be without one (we have 2). There pretty inexpensive and you can buy fer a couple of buck a soft wire brush that whip the rust right off of those pans. just be sure to get wire brushes of a similar consistancy as steel wool, and use saftey glasses. If not, your primarily in for steel wool and elbow grease. Contrary to some, do not try seasoning the pans first you will be only working the flavor of oxidized Iron deeper into the pan. It is so much better to clear the surface of the rust of first, even if it means remove the previous seasoning and start anew!
Bruce Rose Back · 17 years ago

I agree.  I don't remember if I mentioned a sequence, but absolutely remove the rust first.  It doesn't taste very good.

I also remember hearing something about the high acidity of tomato products causing pans to rust faster.  Has anyone else heard that?

nate... Back · 17 years ago
I don't know about rusting... but the acidity does eat away at the pans. Always better using non-reactive for tomato products.
elfy, teacher of many Back · 17 years ago

I have a recollection that the acidity in tomatoes can actually raise the iron content of the tomato sauces you make in a CI pan.  Good thing if you're concerned about that. 

Speaking of which, I guess it's time for a ferrous gluconate myself. 

ShrinkMan Back · 17 years ago
Damn Right!
ShrinkMan · 17 years ago
If so , rust removal is much easier!!!
Bruce Rose Back · 17 years ago

I wonder if that would help Mom's skillet.  It's scaled something fierce on the outside.

Come to think of it, I wonder if Mom still has that skillet.

Wintress · 17 years ago
Yes, steel wool. Get rid of the rust.

Yes, season it. ANY kind of cooking oil, but preferably the type that handles high heat. Get that baby hot and use a paper towel to wipe oil on the inside of the pan.

NEVER use soapy water to clean it (except for the initial 'get rid of the rust'). You should only have to wipe it out, reoil it and go after each use.

To dry it after the initial cleaning, set it on a burner and heat it til it's dry.

Don't cook acidic stuff in it, like TOMATOES. That will eat your skillet.

I'll second (or third or fourth) the recommendation of using non electic heat to use it for cooking.

Enjoy!!
stealthlori Back · 17 years ago

I <3 my cast iron.  I have 3 skillets, a mini-skillet good for sauteeing garnishes and such, and a big ol' dutch oven.  They cook pretty much everything, but are especially nice for caramelizing onions, sauteeing mushrooms, and browning meats.

I use the dutch oven for stews sometimes, so it occasionally comes in contact with TOMATOES, apparently without unduly resenting them.  After such stewy encounters it does tend to need a touch of dish soap during cleaning, but it can be reseasoned very easily.  A bit of salt during the reseasoning works nicely.

(The tomatoes actually suffer more from this contact I think, on a nutritional level, because the iron interacts negatively with their vitamin C content.)

I also have used the Dutch oven to make the most amazing bread everrr.  Find a recipe for Basque bread and give it a go.

nate... · 17 years ago
has pretty much covered it.

Scrub 'em out with steel wool.... oil and reseason... then never EVER use soap in them.
:)

Cast iron rocks.
I can see the bunny Back · 17 years ago
I cook everything in cast iron skillets. Always have - they are the best. :)
ShrinkMan · 17 years ago
I have never used anything other than cast iron when it comes to "Grill" pans. If you cannot cook outside, but want grilled veggies or chicken or fish, A cast iron grill pan is your best alternative. Especially a heavy one. I have one that is a little larger than one foot square that is nearly 1.5" square with heavy duty steal handles that screw out when actually cooking to keep them cool for later pan-handling (literaly!) it is a griddle on one sidw and a deeply grooved grill pan on the other.

One of the major short-comings of most other pan types is the inabillity to retain heat into the high tempurature especially once the food is placed in the pan. Similar to pasta, which is most often improperly cooked because none of us have stock pots largeenough to maintain the boil when the past enters the pan (specially dry pasta). Ideally the water should be hot and abundant enough that it never stops boiling even when the pasta is added. so we are used to waiting to "bring the water back up to a boil" (per packaged instructions).

The basic cooking sin of lowering the temperature of the cooking surface below the correct temp when adding food to a cooking surface is second only to leaving the food on that surface until it is perfectly done...which means failing to recognize that the food retains residual cooking temperature and will continue to cook (or even increase internall temperature after it is removed from the pan, thus ending up overcooked as a result.

That's where cast iron really excelsin comparision to other metal pans. if you want those veggies to retain their snap while being nicely warmed throughout and having the wonderful flavor of grill marks on the outside, CI is for you! The same with chicken and fish, CI allows for complete cooking on the outside while retaining tenderness and moisture within...

And don't get me started non-stick coatings on pans...that's for another tiraid! 8^)

Sufice it to say that with the right metals (Anodize aluminum, CI, Stainless steel, etc.), the right contruction (heavy pan design, Ideal conductivity design - like the bonding of copper to the bottom of a stainless steel pan, etc.), and the correct temperature management, all such pan are esentially "non-stick" and usuable with almost all utensils.

All that without the use of potentially dangerous 'artifical turf" like teflon (which will eventually end up transferring teflon into the actual food you cook on it...)

Hope this is a helpful addition to all the solid CI advice given on this page thus far!
ShrinkMan Back · 17 years ago
Note: you will not get the SAME "fire-grilled" taste with ANY grill pan as actual grilling or barbequing. so remember, additional flavor may be enhanced by dry rubs or marinating (I personally love citrus/fresh herb/olive oil marinades on chicken or fish); or by topping off finished foods with sauces, chutnies, etc.
Nicole the Wonder Nerd · 16 years, 10 months ago
Disclaimer: I've never actually tried this

I've read that grungy old cast iron comes out shiny clean after a round in the oven on its self-clean cycle.

If that doesn't appeal to you, I'll second the steel-wool idea. Cast iron rules!

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