Cast Iron Cookware
The origins of cast iron cookware trace back to China, near 220 A.D. Known for its ability to withstand and retain heat from a direct flame, this cookware spread abroad, appearing in England by approximately 680 A.D. Soon after, in 1707, Abraham Darby invented and patented the sand casting method for casting metals, leading to this cookware option becoming less expensive and time-consuming to make. As a result, cast iron experienced a sharp increase in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. China remains a preeminent manufacturer of cast iron cooking products, though select companies in America have become known for their place within the industry.
The mid-to-late 1800s saw the establishment of several important and influential cast iron companies in the American Midwest. Griswold Manufacturing, founded in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1865, served as the leading cast iron cookware company in the country for nearly a century, selling skillets, pots and waffle irons. Wagner Manufacturing, founded in Sidney, Ohio in 1981, rose to prominence for its production of quality cast iron utensils during the same era. In 1896, Lodge Manufacturing was founded in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and remains in operation today, serving as one of the oldest running cookware manufacturers in the country. Despite both companies ceasing production after being acquired in the 1950s, Griswold and Wagner products remain highly sought after by cast iron collectors and enthusiasts.
The advent of the stove in the mid-19th century led to the creation of the cast iron skillet to further bolster its functionality and availability. Despite a brief dip in prominence due to the rise of other cooking materials in the mid-1900s, cast iron has had a resurgence in popularity thanks to its robust construction and durability, thermal density, natural non-stick coating, and even cooking. These benefits ensure cast iron will remain an efficient, natural, and reliable cookware option throughout the future.
With unmatched heating properties, cast iron is a versatile and durable addition to any kitchen. This cookware reaches and retains extremely high temperatures, making it a fantastic option for preparing meats, roasted vegetables, and stir-fries. Its robust heat properties are ideal for creating a sear or crispy exterior for the foods you prepare, and the longer you cook with a cast iron skillet, the more the pan's seasoning lends itself to enhanced flavor.
Use this durable, heavy pan for a variety of cooking needs, including roasting, frying, and searing. In addition to meat and vegetables, this versatile material can be used equally well on the stovetop, in your oven, or even over open flames as you prepare eggs, bread, and even baked goods to flavorful perfection.
Seasoning and Cleaning
Your cast iron pan may have some amount of pre-seasoning, but it is a good idea to season it yourself to get the most out of your usage. By heating oil on the cast iron and allowing it to bond to the metal, it will create a hard layer of skin to protect the pan from rust and also increase its non-stick properties.
Start by washing the pan with warm, soapy water and thoroughly drying it. To eliminate any lingering moisture, heat the pan on your stovetop for a minute or two. Next, evenly rub the inside, outside, and handle with vegetable, corn, or canola oil to season the pan.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place the pan inside for 30 minutes to let the oil polymerize and begin to form a protective coating. To prevent any excess oil dripping, you may place the cast iron upside down on a sheet of foil. Repeat this application of oil followed by oven heating three or four times to ensure a substantial layer of seasoning before using your pan. After this, simply let your pan cool and enjoy your cast iron pan's flavorful, robust qualities.
For further maintenance, use a dry paper towel or cotton dish cloth after using your pan. If any bits of food remain on the cast iron, use a plastic spatula or gentle brush along with a small amount of warm water to scrape any remaining residue. For deeper cleaning, pour a cup of coarse salt into the still-warm skillet. Use a folded kitchen towel to scour, then discard the salt and rinse the pan with hot water. Dry with a towel or heat the skillet over a low to medium flame to help evaporate any leftover moisture.
To prevent damage to your pan, do not let it soak in water, and be sure to thoroughly dry it after use. If using soap during the cleaning process, use only a small amount to ensure it does not strip off your pan's seasoning. Do not use steel wool or a wire brush to clean the cast iron, as it can damage the surface.