June 02, 2020
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Things I didn’t anticipate when switching to cast iron

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A collection of cast iron skillets hang with a colorful skillet in this BDN file photo.

It was an easy decision to begin replacing my worn-out skillets with cast iron a few months ago. And, so far, I have loved cooking in them. From baking frittatas to sauteing onions to frying pork chops, the results are amazing.

But as much as I read about cooking in cast iron before making the switch, there are some things I just had to learn by doing.

Here are a few things I’ve learned since switching to cast iron.

Washing becomes a thing

Why, yes, it is easy to wash cast iron. As some readers have noted, you can practically just wipe out the pan with some foods. But after dinner, there are a lot of dishes to contend with already and to face a pan or two that has to be hand washed? Well, it’s not quite as simple a process and I thought it would be. On the positive, the days of thinking “I’ll just leave these dishes until the morning,” have expired. Mostly.

There are so many ways to clean it

I typically use a little mild detergent and the soft side of the sponge. For tough spots, I use a little baking soda. But in talking to friends, I learned that others use salt for tough spots. Some even have fancy metal coil scrubbers to do the work. It’s interesting that there are so many ways to tackle the cleaning conundrum.

Pre-seasoned doesn’t really mean seasoned well

Readers warned me about this. But it wasn’t until I was prying my perfectly cooked egg from my new, small Lodge skillet that I realized how true it is. The nonstickness of nonstick requires build up that my pre-seasoned skillet didn’t have. Fortunately, after one application of oil to the clean pan and about 45 minutes in a hot oven, the surface became much more nonstick. I won’t be fooled again by claims of pre-seasoning.

People are passionate about cast iron

Actually, I should say that people are passionate about cookware in general. But cast iron comes with a big, exuberant fan club — and folks belonging to that fan club are a tremendous resource. How else would I have learned that modern cast iron can be too rough on the bottom for glass top stoves? Or that the finishes on modern and antique cast iron are different? A colleague, knowing my new-found passion for cast iron, even brought me a slightly rusty pan for making corn-shaped loaves of cornbread. I can’t wait to clean it up and try it. Of course, a friend has already warned me: that type of pan can be a challenge to season (any tips?). I’m up for it though.

I’m inspired to cook

I’ve loved cooking for a long, long time. It’s why I write about food, write cookbooks and focus my travel on the foods I can eat. But cooking in cast iron has given me a fresh outlook on cooking. There’s a certain excitement to how perfectly a steak cooks in cast iron or how lovely caramelized onions come out. It’s got me making dishes I don’t normally and imagining new foods to cook in it. And, perhaps, that’s been the best realization of all.

What’s your favorite dish to cook in cast iron and why? I would love to hear from you.

Sarah Walker Caron is a senior editor for the Bangor Daily News. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and The Easy Appetizer Cookbook. She can be reached at scaron@bangordailynews.com.

 


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