Thursday, September 14, 2006

kitchen superheroes

Leslie asked me about how to take care of a cast-iron frying pan, and that got me to thinking about my kitchen superheroes in general . . . namely, my cast-iron frying pan, my chef's knife, stainless measuring cups and spoons and mixing bowls, cutting boards, and my immersion blender. It's amazing how much you can do with a minimum amount of supplies! Anyhow, I'll ramble about all of that other stuff later.

On to superhero #1:
Cast iron. It's a good thing. It's cheap, lasts forever, adds a trace amount of iron to your food each time you use it, heats up quick and stays evenly hot, and is nonstick. (There's something "up" with my pan, however, which is driving me crazy. It has a hot spot, and food routinely sticks in the hot spot. Grrrrrr. That's what I get for buying my pan at an overstock store. I bet it's not really all cast-iron. Anyhow, my complaints aside.)

Even though my cast-iron pan is giving me grief lately, it's still the #1 used pan in my kitchen:

~ I keep my pan out on the stovetop at all times, covered with my splatter screen to keep dust out of the pan. Why? Because it's heavy as hell and bulky as sin, and it's just easier to leave it out on the stovetop. Plus, it gets used that much.

~ If I'm going to be using the pan, I turn the burner under it on (at about medium heat) before I even start taking ingredients out of the fridge. Why? Because the cure takes about 5 minutes of preheating to become truly nonstick.

~ After I'm done using the pan each time, I just dump out the crumbs (if the food in it was dry,) or give it a quick rinse under hot water and wipe with the dishrag, and stick it back on the stove for about a minute over low heat to dry it fully. Then, shut off the heat, leave it sit to cool, and you're ready for next time. No scrubbing, soaking, or otherwise yukky clean-up tasks.

~ To cure: rub the pan all over (inside, outside, handle, bottom, etc.) with either high-heat vegetable oil (such as canola) or nonhydrogenated shortening (such as Spectrum or Earth Balance.) Stick the pan in a 250 degree oven, upside-down on top of a cookie sheet (to catch oily drips) for about an hour. Shut off the oven, take your pan out, wipe off any excess oil with a rag or paper towel (if there is some,) and stick it back on your stovetop to cool. Folks say you should cure your pan about once a year, but I do it more often than that, especially because my pan is a pain in the neck. If your pan is new and you are developing a cure, you'll probably have to cure it more often, too. Anyhow, any time you are displeased with your pan's performance, just cure it again -- that's my motto, anyway.

Good things come from cast iron frying pans:
(I made tofu scramble for lunch today.)


kleo2 said...

Wow, this was such a great learning session for me. Thank you, Catherine. Fascinating, for me anyway.

I need to get me one of these (too bulky 'n' too heavy 'n' hot spot and all...)

Anonymous said...

I am convinced I need to get on of these. I only recently learned that teflon is bad for me.

Question...what kind of utensils do you use with it? Ie - do you have to stay away from metal spatulas to avoid scraping away the "cure"?

Megan the Vegan

Catherine said...

Megan, I mostly use nylon or wooden utensils, because that's what I have for my nonstick pans, but I have used a metal spatula a few times and haven't noticed any damage to the cure. Cast iron goes WAY back . . . like in pioneer days, they didn't have nylon utensils, right? I think metal utensils will be fine.

Kleo, I would hope your pan wouldn't have a hot spot! As much as I want to keep loving my pan, I might get a new one. (Also, a slightly smaller size. My skillet is 12 inches across, and a bit too heavy for me to hold with one hand and scoop/scrape with the other. I think 10 inches might be more my speed. Plus, just cooking for myself or one other person right now doesn't really require the ginormous pan. Crate & Barrel has a really nice 10-inch square one that I might pick up . . . !!)

eatpeaceplease said...

Thank you so much for this whole post. I was so excited and then thought "what about the cure". Then I read on and I am so disappointed that you have to cure it in the oven. How can I ever get one now?! And is it ok to use on a crappy electric stove?

Thanks for this thoughtful post, I appreciate it and love the bullet-points.

Not So Vivacious Vegan said...

I am really loving my new cast iron pan. I've been trying to use it for everything I possible can. My pan isn't all dark and pretty like yours yet and is definitely not non-stick yet, but hopefully we'll get there. I'm glad I now know that I can cure it again if it's acting up and giving me trouble.

Harmonia said...

OMG! That Tofu Scramble looks terrific!

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

That tofu scramble looks awesome and super fresh. I need to try one someday.

Good info on your pan. I need to get one.

PS - yes, we should do coffee sometime soon

Anonymous said...

I love my cast iron pan too! It's the best. Have you ever made cornbread in yours? It's so good, it gets really crispy on the outside...YUM!

BTW, that tofu scramble looks fantastic! Hope your recipe will be in the cookbook.

Jennifer C.

Catherine said...

Les, I don't see why you couldn't use it on an electric stove . . . just pull it off the heat when you are done with it, like you have to do with all pans on electric stoves. Perhaps this will inspire you to start using your oven again, if for nothing else than to cure your pan????

Crystal, I'm glad to hear someone besides me is having trouble with a newish cast-iron pan! Perhaps I just need to give my pan more time . . . !! How's the anti-Diet Coke challenge going for you?

Harmonia, it was pretty damn tasty . . . !!

Crystal, you name the day -- my schedule's less than intense lately! Ha. Joys of being unemployed. We'll have to meet in the city (or someplace bussable) if you don't mind -- currently, my truck does not start. Gah.

Jennifer, I have made cornbread in my skillet before, but only for potluck-type events -- since it's a 12-inch skillet, it produces a bit too much cornbread for lil' ol' me! Tofu scramble "recipe," eh . . . um . . . I never measure . . . perhaps I should one of these days!

eatpeaceplease said...

Thanks for the tip. I think I need my Phoenix Firefighter neighbor to come by and stand guard while I use the oven. Probably every time for a while! I have been itchin' for some oven-foods, but still scared.

Anonymous said...

I adore my cast iron too.. mine has a hot spot as well.. even though it's very sell seasoned.. I think they might just be like that?

You can buy pre-seasoned pans.. Lodge is the brand. I bought a grill pan that didn't need to be seasoned at all! (or course, it gets even better the more you use it)


Catherine said...

Melody, thank you for your comment! Thank God they all have a hot spot! Now I don't have to get rid of my pan. :)

Vicki said...

i have a cast iron skillet we picked up at a garage sale and i'm renewed to use it -- especially now that i know how! thanks for the great information, catherine.

funwithyourfood said...

Okay, how did i not comment on this? I swear I did.
my birthday is around the bend and i've started to make a list of things i want and a cast iron skillet is on there. If i get one i'll be revisiting this post :)


Anonymous said...

now i want a cast iron skillet too!
thanks for the info.


Anonymous said...

Miss you...posting.

Carrie™ said...

My dad is a huge fan of cast iron. Growing up at home we had an assortment of different sizes and they got used almost everyday. Why don't I have one now? Thanks for the post Catherine. I think I'm going to buy myself one! A well deserved treat I say.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time visiting your blog, and I love it. My husband is a bigger gourmet cook than I am, and he introduced me to cast iron pans. Now we have 2 of them, and I can't live without them. Let's see, what have we made in ours lately... tofu, chocolate cake, roasted sweet potatoes, pancakes, meatballs, roasted nuts, I could go on and on!

One note of caution for everyone: the one thing you should not cook in cast iron is tomatoes (esp. canned) because they are reactive with the iron and could corrode the pan.

Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

P.S. Just in case anyone wonders, all the stuff I mentioned cooking was vegan, including the meatballs and the cake- I'm not a weird meatball eating troll commenting on your blog! ;-)

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

I'm assuming your absence is due to you interviewing and getting a job...right?!? Anyway, that's what I'm hoping for.

I'm free next week Wed - Fri during the day since I'll be in between jobs. I'm not sure exactly where you live or what's bussable, so you name the place and I'll drive there.


Catherine said...

Bazu, good point -- I forgot to mention that. Welcome, vegan meatball eating "troll!" (Any foodies are welcome here, btw -- I'm a vegetarian, but not crazy about it.)

Crystal, awesome! I actually don't have a job yet, but because I've been spending so much time sitting at the computer LOOKING for a job, the last thing I want to do is sit at the computer some more. Gah! Anyhow, I have interviews Monday and Tuesday next week, but am free Wed-Fri. Should we meet somewhere at the megamall? I can take the light rail down there and you don't have to drive quite as far. I'll drop you an email. Congrats on the new job, too!!!

Erica said...

I have been cooking with cast iron for the past 20+ years and was told by my old southern inlaws that the best way to clean the skillets etc was to wipe it out with a paper towel and then to put a small amount of oil in it and some kosher salt and using the same papertowel, scrub it around and toss the salt in the garbage. Tah dah!! All clean! I have never had a problem with them since and the hot spots that were in the pans seemed to disappear.

Lindsey said...

I know you made this post forever ago, but I just bought a new cast iron skillet today, and remembered this post. It helped me out so much, so I wanted to thank you! This is why your blog is my favorite :)