There’s been a lot of news lately about the possible dangers of some popular non-stick pan coatings. If you own these pans already, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks of having the coatings leach into your food, and there are a couple of new safer non-stick coatings on the market.
However, I have to say that I think it’s been pretty hard to beat my Gramma’s non-stick method, that old stand-by, the cast iron pan. You can heat them to the high temperatures not allowed by newer non-sticks, the cooking is perfectly even across the surface of the pan, you can brown meats in them, you can put them in the oven, on the bbq grill, take them camping. I’m not sure there’s anything you CAN’T do with them. The bonus for vegetarians is that they give you a little boost with your iron levels if you cook your veggies in them.
I know a lot of newer cooks can find cast-iron intimidating. If your mom never cooked with them, the thought of a pan you have to season and maintain can seem like a hassle. I mean, you can’t put these pans in the dishwasher, which can be a deal-breaker for some. However, the reputation for high maintenance is really undeserved, and the nature of these pans really means they don’t need the dishwasher.
When you first get your cast iron cookware, you do need to season it. Occasionally, during it’s lifespan (especially if it’s a size pan you use infrequently) you might need to re-season it. You’ll know because your eggs will stick. Since my smallest pan showed signs of needing a re-do, I thought I’d do a little tutorial for people who might have never seen the process. It’s super simple, absolutely nothing to be intimidated by.
Ok, so see this pan? My scrambled eggs stuck. This doesn’t happen in a properly seasoned pan, and since this one had sat unused for over a year (I rarely cook eggs for just me, so I rarely use this tiny pan) the seasoning kind of died. Next to it you see a properly seasoned pan, in which nothing stuck.
To re-season (or initially season) the pan, you’ll need two things. Paper towels, and oil. I use olive because everything I cook in the pans works just fine with olive oil. Some people prefer corn oil, or another lightly flavored oil like safflower. This is basically your preference.
Make sure your pan is clean. You may have to use a scouring pad to remove super-sticky bits, and if it’s new, be sure to use soap to remove any residue from the store/manufacture/shipping. Then, heat your pan over a medium burner and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Once the pan gets hot enough to make the oil flow, spread it around the pan, including the sides. Then, put your pan into a preheated 250 degree oven and let it sit there for a couple hours.
when a couple hours have gone by, turn the oven off and let the pan cool in the oven. Once it’s cool, remove the pan and simply wipe out the excess oil. The pan will take on a dark sheen that will only improve with use.
To care for your pan, simply wipe it out with a paper towel after each use. If needed (say you cooked something really spicy and you don’t want the flavors to transfer), you can use a mild soap and a non-abrasive sponge to clean it up, but don’t use steel wool or harsh cleaners. They’ll strip your seasoning and you’ll have to repeat this process.
One additional tip is to let your pan heat up before you add any food. This helps prolong the non-stick surface, and is also a better cooking technique for most things. Enjoy!