Thursday, November 8, 2012

cast iron love... & hate.

Originally, I'm from New Orleans. New Orleans is a wonderful city with so much culture, but ever since leaving, I've become painfully aware that though it's geographically pretty damn southern, in a lot of respects, it's not so southern at all.

Living in Atlanta for so many years, I've been trying to catch on to some of the wonderful southern traditions (I'm a big fan of tradition!). Jack's family has been in Georgia forever, and he tells me of grandmothers on both sides frying chicken, baking biscuits, cooking bacon.... and ALL of it involves cast iron.....and gravy. (groan)

Cast iron has always intimidated me. It's big. It's heavy. It's NOT DISHWASHER SAFE!

But we are lucky enough to have a friend that was looking for a home for her abundance of cast iron, so she gave us a variety of sizes and shapes all in different conditions. Some were beautifully seasoned and black and smooth, some were more like.... well.... this.

nightmare cast iron
So as most of you know, I have recently discovered that I'm not as bread impaired as I assumed. I found a recipe for wonderful fresh baked bread that even I can pull off. But I went digging through our collection to try to find a pot that would fit a half-recipe for this bread, and came across this guy. The wooden handle screwed right off (I was worried about it burning in the oven on such a high temperature), and left me with this rusty nightmare to deal with.

It's not difficult to season cast iron, it's just time consuming and takes a little work. I started with a brillo pad and scrubbed the hell out of it with some seriously hot water. I tried to smooth down any rough spots, and get as much rust off of it as possible.

Yep, that's a salsa jar of bacon grease. Not exactly what Paul Newman had in mind when I bought his salsa, I'm  sure.
Make sure it's throughly dry by putting it on the stove on low for a few minutes, then coat the whole thing with bacon grease. It's pretty nasty, I know. I've tried vegetable oil too, which can work fine, I just think the bacon grease works a tiny bit better (and doesn't run as much). 

Be sure to bake it upside down so that the grease/oil doesn't pool in the bottom (but put an old pan, or aluminum foil under it to catch any drips).

Fair warning.... this looks pretty, but smells AWFUL! WHEW!
Put the cast iron into a cold oven. Turn it to 350, and let it bake for at least an hour. Then turn the oven off and leave the cast iron in there while it cools. Overnight is a perfect time to do this.

Oooooooh..... purty!
It'll probably be a little sticky at this point, but you can't scrub it anymore. Those days are gone. 

There are a few schools of thought about daily cleaning of cast iron:
  • Some use a sponge with a little dishwashing soap. This is not the traditional way, and it's hard to build up the layer of seasoning when you're washing it away every time, but it's hard to clean cooking utensils without soap and still call it clean.
  • Some say that just wiping it out with a paper towel is enough. Well, my personal opinion is good for you if your cast iron is sooooo well-seasoned that this is an option! However, I'm still learning, and trust me, I've made some messes that were NOT wipe-out-able!
  • I prefer to use a sponge with super hot water and coarse salt (we keep 1 sponge for soap and 1 sponge for salt at our sink). Wet the pan good with the hot water, then pour in some salt and use that in conjunction with the sponge as a scrub and rinse well. 

When you're done, always ALWAYS put the pan on the stove on low heat for a few minutes to make sure it's dry, and then re-coat with grease/oil. 

This is the pot after 1 more round in the oven. It looks a tiny bit darker, but you really can't tell with the Instagram filter. :) hee hee hee. But you might have to do it a few times to really get a good coat.

I, however, am lacking in patience and I wanted bread. So after 2 rounds in the oven, I caved and used it. Patience is not my strong suit.


1 comment:

  1. We have no cast iron--other than our wok, and it's pretty new so it's not in need of a touch up yet! Looks like it worked though