There are a lot of kitchen myths out there, but one of the biggest is the widely held misconception that seasoning, cleaning and cooking with cast iron is high maintenance. When people think cast iron, they often envision a nightmarish mess on a sticky surface, but that’s just not the truth. Properly seasoned and maintained cast iron is non-stick. In fact, cooking with cast iron is beneficial in so many ways that it’s amazing that anyone ever switched over to non-stick pans. The New Cast-Iron Cookbook: More Than 200 Recipes for Today’s Kitchen (Adams Media, 2015) contains 200 cast-iron recipes with a modern twist and breaks down the basics of cast-iron care to make them easy.
Cast-iron cookware lasts a lifetime and gains nutritional and monetary value over time. Each time that you cook with cast iron, a small amount of iron is released into the food. And the more you use the pan, the better it gets. Cleaning is easy. In order to avoid stripping away the seasoning—never use soap! A hot pan is much easier to clean than a cold pan since the molecules have expanded and it leaves more space to remove the food particles. All you need is a half tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of kosher salt. Wad up a paper towel and hold it with tongs for extra grip, then rub over the surface to loosen anything stuck. The salt will help grind away the debris and when the salt appears dirty, dump it out, wipe down the surface and you’re done!
If you treat your cast iron with respect, you’ll get your money’s worth. Think about all those times that you bought a non-stick pan and ended up throwing it out because it became too scratched or a flimsy handle broke off or it didn’t heat evenly. There’s also a real concern about toxicity. When you’re cooking with cast-iron, you can move it from stovetop to oven and it provides even heating. Also, there is a crispiness factor that you will get from cooking in cast-iron that just doesn’t happen with other types of cookware. Ask anyone—the best cornbread is baked in cast iron.
If you’re ready to make the move from non-stick to cast iron there are a few options. You can buy preseasoned cookware, but it’s easy to preseason a new cast iron pan. Here’s how:
- Your unseasoned cast iron will have a protective coating. This needs to be removed. Wash and scrub the pan in hot, soapy water.
- Fill the skillet with water and place it on your stovetop on medium high heat.
- Let the water evaporate – if you notice a chemical smell, wash and dry the skillet again.
- To add the first seasoning layer, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add a layer of aluminum foil or a baking sheet on the bottom rack—there will be spillage!
- Take a tablespoon of vegetable of shortening and rub all over the entire inside and outside of the skillet.
- Place the pan upside down and let it bake for one hour. (If you smell burning or see smoke, this is normal. You are not about to burn your house down, but you might want to turn off the smoke detector for the duration.)
- Once done, turn off the heat and leave the pan in the oven to cool overnight.
- That’s all there is to it. You’re ready to cook!
Pork Scallopine with Red Wine and Mushrooms
Yields 4 servings
1½ pounds pork tenderloin, cut into
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
16 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
½ cup green beans, chopped
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 cups dry red wine
- Use a meat mallet to pound the pork till it is ¼-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the pieces in flour and shake off the excess.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s heated, add 2 tablespoons butter. Once it is melted and frothy, slide the pork into the skillet and cook for 1–2 minutes on each side. Remove them from the pan and set aside to stay warm.
- Add the rest of the butter and the shallots to the skillet. Cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle the mushrooms, green beans, red bell pepper, thyme, and salt over the pan’s surface. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the mushrooms are tender.
- Add the wine to the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by half. Taste and season as needed. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.
Excerpted from The New Cast-Iron Cookbook: More Than 200 Recipes for Today’s Kitchen by Adams Media. Copyright © 2015 F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.