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Cast-Iron Skillet

Everyday Food, Volume 1 January/February 2003

An old-fashioned cast-iron skillet is close to a perfect pan. It's versatile and very affordable.

Why It's So Great
Iron is heavy. That means an iron pan holds the heat and distributes it evenly, so it browns well rather than scorching the food in some spots and leaving it pale in others. It's nonstick, and there's no surface layer to scratch off. It lasts a lifetime (or longer, as anyone lucky enough to have inherited Grandma's pan knows), and it just gets better with age. You can use it on the stove top or in the oven. It works especially well for searing, sauteing, and baking.

How to Choose
You can buy a cast-iron skillet at your local hardware store. The best ones are made in the United States. Look for a heavy pan that's at least 1/8 inch thick. New pans look gray and raw, but they turn black once seasoned. A good all-purpose size is 10 or 12 inches.

How to Care for Cast Iron
Before using the pan, season it: Rub the pan inside and out with oil, and put the skillet in an oven at 300 degrees for an hour. Never put cast iron in the dishwasher. To clean it, sprinkle with coarse salt, rub with paper towels, then wipe. Always wipe well before storing. Don't use the pan to cook alcohol or anything acidic, such as tomato sauce. Alcohol and acid eat away the seasoned patina. If you forget, however, or if the pan rusts a little, you can reseason it.

Comments (3)

  • viviansea 6 Nov, 2012

    Our family used to make all of its sauces including tomato based ones in cast iron fry pans and or dutch ovens. I still have my Mom's cast iron pan that was a gift to her on her wedding day in September 1950, it works. Get rid of all that teflon or other coated stuff, that stuff gets into your body. At least the iron in a cast iron pan is a good source of iron in your diet. Just remember, wash cast iron just as soon as you are finished with it in hot water, rinse and dry.

  • viviansea 6 Nov, 2012

    Cast Iron Cookware May Actually Improve Health( from a review of types of cook wear).
    Another good choice is that old standby, cast iron, which is known for its durability and even heat distribution. Cast iron cookware can also help ensure that eaters in your house get enough iron—which the body needs to produce red blood cells—as it seeps off the cookware into food in small amounts.
    Ditch the teflon and use stainless steel and/or cast iron - just like in the big restaurants.

  • viviansea 6 Nov, 2012

    DON'T be silly about cast iron. It is tougher than you think. I always wash my cast iron fry pans with hot soapy water and rinse them with hot water and dry them either in a warm oven, or with a paper towel, or on a burner - don't walk away from this one - or else it will get red hot and crack. reSeason your pan with veg oil or spray and a paper towel.

    If you cook fish in your cast iron fry pan and only wipe it out with a paper towel then you will have fish flavoured pancakes the next day.