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How to Season and Care for Your Cast Iron Cookware

В· Author: John Francis

You have a skillet that came from your mom, and before that your grandma, and has now fallen into your hands. So how do you take care of it, use it, clean it, and get the best taste possible from it? I hope to answer some of those questions in this article.

I love my cast iron skillets, passed down from my Mom; I remember her using them to make delicious fried chicken dinners, cornbread to go with our Great Northern beans and the best popcorn. The only thing I didn?t remember is just what she did to keep those skillets nice. I do remember her drying them slowly on the stove and then coating them with some sort of grease. Now we would use a thin coat of cooking oil or a pan spray.

That is called seasoning and is important in the care and use of cast iron to prevent rust and create a natural non-stick cooking surface. Even if your inherited skillet or Dutch oven has been neglected and rusty, you can restore it by seasoning it again.

The more you use your cast iron the better seasoned it becomes. A black shiny skillet is a well-seasoned utensil and the one that will give the best flavor. Seasoning is done both for the inside and the outside of your cast iron, and even the lid must be seasoned. Here?s a hint to make your cast iron shiny again is to fry bacon and similar fatty meats. It will help it become seasoned faster and give you that shiny black non-stick interior you are working for.

Here are the steps to seasoning your cast iron utensils.

1. First, wash with hot, soapy water and stiff brush.
2. Rinse and dry
3. Apply a thin coat of shortening both inside and out
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line oven rack with foil to catch drips
5. Put cookware upside down on the upper rack of your oven and bake for one hour.
6. Let the cookware cool before taking it out of the oven.
7. Store it in a cool, dry place and allow air to circulate around it
8. Never wash in a dishwasher.

After using your cast iron, rinse with hot water and no soap. Dry it thoroughly and coat it with a think coat of cooking oil, shortening or pan spray.



Types of Cookware: Pots and Pans

Pots and pans make the most essential part of your cookware. There are lots of various types available for each particular cooking method or a few different methods.

Skillet/frying pan has a flat bottom with short sides that are flared or sloped, which makes it easier to toss and turn food with a spatula. The pan is usually made of a responsive to heat material such as lined copper, stainless steel with a copper or aluminum core, anodized aluminum or cast iron. Non-stick surface is also popular in such pans. They are available in different sizes and generally come with a cover.

Roasting pan is usually of a rectangular shape with low sides allowing the heat from the oven to expose the entire surface of the meat. Roasting pan is generally used with a rack to prevent the meat from sitting in its own juices and stewing instead of browning. The pans are available made of different materials including stainless steel, aluminum with non-stick surface, clay and granite.

Saucepan is a round pot with high straight sides and a flat bottom, can be used for several purposes, such as cooking soup, stewing vegetables, making sauces. There are a few styles to suit special purposes. A saucepan known as a Windsor has sides that flare out and another known as a saucier has sides that are rounded. There are also different sizes and materials of saucepans. Most of them have a snug fitting cover.

Stir-fry pan is a round, deep pan that may have straight sides with a slightly rounded base or more commonly a round base that slopes out and upward. Sizes and handle length can vary to match the cooking process. Heat is evenly distributed across the base while the sloping sides make it easier to stir and turn the ingredients.

Wok is a bowl shaped version of stir-fry pan, best for quick cooking food over high heat. It is available with rounded or flat bottom. Some varieties of woks have one long handle, some have two short handles and others have a long handle on one side and a short one on the opposite side. The materials used are carbon steel, cast iron, and metals with non-stick coating.

Stockpot is a deep, tall, straight-sided pot with two big, loop handles. It is used for simmering large amount of liquid, such as stock, soup and stews, but also works well for thick soups, chili and for boiling pasta. Sometimes comes along with pasta insert ? made of stainless steel perforated insert that fits inside a stockpot and acts as a colander for draining pasta.

Grill pan is a heavy metal pan that consists of ridges spaced evenly across the bottom, that closely simulate the grilling process when cooking various meats and foods. Can be with shallow sides or with deeper sides similar to a frying pan. Many grill pans are made of cast iron and are available in different shapes and sizes.

Double boiler consists of two pans - one inside of the other. The bottom pan contains hot water and the top pan holds the ingredients that are being cooked. Generally used for making delicate sauces that have a tendency to separate if cooked on direct heat. Double boilers can be made of stainless steel, enameled steel, glass and aluminum.

Fondue pot is a type of cookware that consists of a pot with a heat source such as a portable cooking fuel or an electrical heating element placed directly below the pot that is used for a food preparation process known as fondues (?fondue? is a French term meaning ?to melt?). The heat source melts or fully warms the contents (usually cheese, chocolate, wine or other ingredients) so that food can be dipped into the pot and either cooked or coated with its contents and eaten as an appetizer or part of a meal.




Metallic Cookware

Author: James Brown

The two essential features of a cookware are that it should have good thermal conductivity and that it should be chemically unreactive with the ingredients that are cooked in it. Metallic cookware are found to possess these essential features and hence are the most widely used forms of cookware across the globe. They are generally made from a narrow range of metals. Most metals that exhibit good thermal conductivity are too reactive to be used in food preparation. Hence selection of the right type of metal for cookware is crucial. The most popular metals that find usage in cookware are:


Aluminium is a lightweight metal which exhibits very good thermal conductivity. The main characteristics of aluminium are that it does not rust, and is resistant to many forms of corrosion. Being a soft metal, it is commonly alloyed with magnesium, copper, or bronze to increase its strength. It is generally available in sheet, cast or anodized forms. Sheet aluminum which is spun or stamped into form is commonly used for making baking sheets, pie plate, cake pans, steamers, pasta pots, skillets etc. Cast aluminium produces a thicker product than sheet aluminium and is suitable for saucepots, dutch ovens, heavyweight baking pans etc. However, due to the microscopic pores caused by the casting process, cast aluminium possesses low thermal conductivity than sheet aluminium. Anodized aluminium, on the other hand, has the naturally occurring layer of aluminium oxide thickened by an electrolytic process to create a surface that is hard and non-reactive.


Copper is a metal which has the unique characteristic of providing good thermal conductivity, besides ensuring even heating. Due to these advantages, copper cookware has found a prominant place in Western cooking. The best copper cookware were made out of a thick layer of copper to ensure good thermal conductivity and a thin layer of tin to prevent the metal from reacting with acidic foods. However they tend to be heavy, expensive and requires occasional retinning. Copper cookware are now available with stainless steel rather than tin linings which last much longer. They are best suited for high-heat, fast-cooking techniques.

Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware is slow to heat, but once heated, provides even heating. It is cost effective and can withstand very high temperatures. Being a reactive material, cast iron is known to react with high acid foods. Cast iron, being a porous material, requires seasoning before use. Though cast iron cookware can be washed with soap, it should not be soaked in water or left wet for long.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an alloy of iron containing a minimum of 11.5 % chromium. It is resistant to corrosion and does not react with either alkaline or acidic foods. Stainless steel cookware though are light, cannot be easily scratched or dented. Though stainless steel finds general acceptance in cookware industry, its main drawback is its relatively poor heat conductivity. To overcome this, stainless steel cookware is generally made with a metal insert of copper or aluminium at the base.

James Brown writes about Types of Cookware and Steel Cookware


The Well Stocked Kitchen

Author: James Brown

Every cook dreams of having a kitchen like those you see on TV complete with a pot rack full of gleaming cookware in every shape and size. While this daydream probably isn?t entirely realistic, it is possible to have a well stocked kitchen that will fit your every cooking desire. Before you run out and purchase a set of pots and pans, get a working knowledge of what types of cookware are best suited to your needs. Use this handy checklist to see what your kitchen is missing.

Skillets: A skillet is simply a low sided, long handled pan often called a frying pan, Generally skillets come in four sizes, extra large (12 Inches), large (10 Inches), medium (8 inches), and small(6 inches). Cookbooks often refer you to certain size skillets, so it is important to know the measurement of each one. Occasionally you will have a recipe that requires you to place a skillet in the oven, so it is important to purchase skillets with handles that can withstand the heat of baking. You can also purchase skillets with removable handles.

Saucepans: Saucepans come in three sizes (1-, 2-, and 3-quart) and it is a good idea to have a few in each style for warming soups and making sauces. Saucepans have long handles and tight fitting lids.

Dutch oven or Kettle: A Dutch oven or kettle is a large heavy stock pot with a tight fitting lid. Unlike a sauce pan, these pots don?t have a long handle; rather they have two tight fitting handles along the rim on opposite sides. Dutch ovens are perfect for soups, stews, and braising meats. Kettles are good when you have a large stew or pot of soup to make or if you enjoy home canning.

Vegetable steamer: A vegetable steamer is a perforated basket that holds food over boiling water in a pan in order to steam it rather than boil it. They are available as collapsible units or solid baskets.

Double boiler: A double broiler is two pans doing the job of one. When using a double broiler, simply place one on top of the other. Water in the bottom pan simmers gently to cook or melt the contents in the top pan. This is a great piece of cookware for preparing delicate sauces or melting candy to make chocolate.

Griddles: A griddle is a flat, rimless pan that converts your stove burner into a smooth surface for preparing things like pancakes and crepes. The rimless design also makes flipping pancakes an easy task.

Omelet pans: An omelet pan has specially sloped sides that help to form your egg into the right shape. This pan also comes with a nonstick surface make it easy to fold and slide your omelet right from the pan onto your plate.

Grill pans: A grill pan is a special skillet that has deep groves that allow fat to drain away from your food. The grooves also add lines to the items you cook, making them look like they have been seared on the barbeque grill. A grill pan also comes in the flat rimless shape of a skillet.

Woks: A wok is a pan with deep, sloping sides that help keep food pieces in the pan when you are stir-frying. They are available with rounded or flat bottoms, and sometimes come in electric versions.





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This page was last updated on: Monday, December 11, 2006