We’ve covered a bunch of cool topics in our Dizzy Tips articles, and it’s been fun sharing what we have learned over the dozen or so years we’ve been cooking with Dizzy Pig seasonings. And even though we are about to head into full-on grilling season, it may not seem like a good time to talk about cooking in pans…but there’s some rhyme and reason to the seeming madness. Recently we released Bayou-ish, and dozens of not-too-shabby cooks (and chefs) have put it through the paces. It’s with this excitement that I bring up the subject of the cast iron pan!Cast iron cooking has been in use for a long time. For this conversation, we’ll call it eons. Although that’s really not technically correct since “eon” refers to geological time…but it’s been couple thousand years! Here in the States, during the early 1900s, most households had a cast iron pan in the kitchen. You still see many of the well cared for Griswold and Wagner pans in action today even though Lodge is the only company still producing cast iron cookware in the USA today.
When I was a kid, they came out with teflon pans, and the world swooned at the convenience of non-stick pans. It wasn’t until 30 years later that I would be introduced to the cast iron pan that my mother never used. After cleaning well and seasoning, this cast iron pan changed my whole view on pan cooking! Once I sautéd, fried, seared and even baked in this magic pan, I wondered why they disappeared from peoples’ kitchens for so long. Did people not know that non-stick convenience would hinder their ability to cook the most delicious foods? Is cast iron why Grandma’s cooking was often so much better than Mom’s?
Well dang. It turns out that with a little knowledge we CAN have the best of both worlds after all. Once cleaned and seasoned, your cast iron cookware is surprisingly non-stick, retains heat extremely well, holds even temps across the pan, and gives your body some much needed iron. It is a little heavy…but that’s part of why it gets so hot and holds the heat. It will rust….but only if you don’t take care of it. Cast iron is inexpensive, easy to find, and are now a common sight in the indoor and outdoor kitchens of people who love to cook great food.
Seasoning is a process of building up the finish that makes your pan fully non-stick and helps prevent rust.A few years ago Lodge introduced pre-seasoned cast iron, and they are readily available. They’ve done the initial work for you, though you will still need to maintain that finish. But what if your pan is not already seasoned? Follow these easy steps:
- Preheat oven or grill to 350-375.
- Scrub pan thoroughly with hot water, soap and a scouring pad. Pans are often shipped with a protective coating that needs to be fully removed before seasoning.
- Dry well, then apply a thin coat of vegetable oil, shortening, or lard to all surfaces. Not too thick, or your finish may be tacky.
- Place in oven upside down and “cook” for an hour.
- Turn off oven and let pan and oven cool.
- You now have completed your initial seasoning.
- Cooking with your pan, and properly maintaining will provide a lifetime of enjoyment.
- If possible, cook bacon, sausage or other fatty foods as much as possible with your new pan, and avoid acidic foods like tomato sauce.
- When cleaning, wash gently with warm water and a non-abrasive scouring pad. A warm pan is easier to clean. I often first wipe the bits out of the pan with a paper towel.
- After cleaning and drying, apply thin coat of vegetable oil, and store.
- Over time, with proper care, your pan have a lasting sheen and will be forever non stick.
What about enameled cast iron?
Consumers have another option when it comes to cast iron cooking. Enameled cast iron pots and pans are also popular, especially with Dutch ovens. They offer similar advantages with heat retention, and they do not need to be seasoned. However, they tend to be costly, and are not nearly as non-stick as well seasoned plain cast iron. I have a favorite enameled Dutch oven that I use for tomato-heavy dishes, but otherwise my regular cast iron pans receive the bulk of the use.
Now that you are ready to cook, you will love the flexibility of these awesome cooking devices! Whether you need a low steady simmer, gentle sauté, slow browning, a high heat pan sear, or a screaming hot smoking blackening, cast iron offers up about the most even heat you can get. You can build up brown bits (fond) in the pan (which add amazing flavors to your pan sauces) without annoying sticking. You can cook on your stove, on your grill, and even finish thick cuts in your oven.
Maybe you already have a well seasoned pan in your kitchen. Perhaps you’ve been inspired and will be making a purchase soon. Either way, it’s time to get cooking! All of Dizzy Pig’s sugar-free seasonings are great for pan searing. The new Bayou-ish is a natural for a cast iron pan, but Fajita-ish, Bombay Curry-ish, Mediterranean-ish are all created especially for a hot pan. From our original line, Cow Lick and Raising the Steaks are quite well suited for a good healthy pan searing!
If you’re in the Washington D.C. metro area, we carry Lodge cast iron and cast enamel cookware at our shop in Manassas, VA in addition to countless outdoor cooking equipment. And of course, we carry the freshest Dizzy Pig seasonings, right out of the bottling room!