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Cutting the Fat with Cast Iron Cookware

Jan 17, 2008
One illusion many people have about cooking with cast iron is that it takes a lot of oil to keep foods from sticking to it. But if you use it right, this is absolutely not true.

Properly seasoned, it is fairly nonstick. Perhaps not quite so much as a Teflon-coated pan is, but cast iron is healthier and can last a lifetime when properly cared for. It's also really not that hard to clean when food does stick, if you know the tricks.

Step 1: Make sure the cookware is well seasoned.

A lot of new cast iron cookware comes preseasoned. You shouldn't have to do anything special to it, aside from giving a light coating of cooking oil after each use. But if you've had to do some extra scrubbing and the seasoning is no longer adequate, it is not hard at all to season.

Start with your clean, rust-free cast iron pan. Heat your oven up to 350 degrees F. As the oven warms, heat the pan on the stovetop. When it's warm, apply a light coating of oil. Place the pan in the heated oven and leave it in there for at least a half hour.

Step 2: Think about what you're putting in the pan.

A big part of why people think they need a lot of oil or grease when cooking in cast iron is because they've always done it that way or always seen it done that way. But you don't need that much at all when you use your pans correctly. I love to cook stir fry in mine, and that takes very little oil, and sometimes none at all.

Step 3: When cooking, preheat your pan.

Cast iron tends to be more nonstick if you heat it up before adding the food. Pour in your cooking oil or use a quick spray of oil if that is your preference. Place the pan on the burner and let it heat up. You can see if it's hot enough by sprinkling it with just a little water. If the water sizzles and dances, the pan is hot enough for use.

Step 4: Watch the heat.

Cast iron really holds the heat and takes a long time to cool down. This means you can turn your burner down a bit when you're actually cooking. Too high a heat means your food will cook too quickly, and you are more likely to deal with a burned on mess.

You can cook pretty much anything on cast iron that you would normally cook in other pans and griddles, so don't limit yourself to fatty foods. If you're caring for your cast iron carefully there really aren't a lot of limits. And at worst you may have to reseason your pan if you find a recipe took the seasoning off.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster runs http://www.buycastironcookware.com/ because she loves using her own cast iron cookware. You can find cast iron dutch ovens and other cookware at her site.
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