Everything You Need To Know About Cast Iron Skillets
by Amy Ingram
Cast iron skillets have been used in the southern United States for cooking for centuries. They were popular among settlers and pioneers due to their durability, versatility, and affordability. The skillets were often passed down from generation to generation and played an important role in southern cuisine, particularly in dishes such as cornbread, fried chicken, and jambalaya.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, many southern households relied on cast iron cookware for daily meals, as it was able to withstand the high heat required for open flame cooking and could also be used for baking. Additionally, cast iron skillets evenly distribute heat, which was important for cooking on wood stoves and open fireplaces.
During the mid-20th century, however, the popularity of cast iron cookware declined as people embraced modern, lightweight cookware. This trend was reversed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as interest in traditional Southern cuisine and a resurgence of traditional cooking methods led to a renewed appreciation for cast iron skillets.
Today, cast iron skillets are considered a staple of Southern cuisine and are still widely used in the region. They are valued for their durability, versatility, and ability to produce evenly cooked food with a delicious crispy crust. But what exactly is a cast iron skillet, and why should you consider using one for your Southern cooking and baking needs? In this blog, we’ll dive into the history of cast iron skillets, the benefits of using them, and what to look for when purchasing one.
What are Cast Iron Skillets And Why Are They Used?
A cast iron skillet is a type of cookware made by pouring molten iron into a mold. This mold is then shaped and smoothed into the desired skillet shape. These pans have been used for cooking for centuries and have stood the test of time because of their durability and ability to conduct heat evenly. Cast iron skillets are used for a variety of cooking tasks, including frying, searing, and baking. They are especially popular for southern-style cooking because they can be used to make a variety of dishes, including biscuits, cornbread, fried chicken and cake and pies.
Not only are these pans versatile, but they also offer several health benefits. Cast iron skillets can add iron to your diet, which is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Additionally, cast iron skillets can help reduce the risk of heart disease and anemia.
When it comes to longevity, cast iron skillets can last for generations if properly cared for. With regular use and proper maintenance, a cast iron skillet can last for decades.
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Taking Care Of Your Cast Iron Skillet
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to care for a cast iron skillet:
- Cleaning: After each use, wash the skillet with hot water and a scrub brush or sponge. Avoid using soap as it can strip away the seasoning. If food is stuck to the skillet, use a stiff brush and a little bit of salt to scrub it off.
- Drying: Thoroughly dry the skillet with a clean cloth or paper towel. Avoid air drying as it can lead to rust.
- Re-seasoning: If the skillet starts to look dull or feel sticky, it may need to be re-seasoned. To do this, coat the skillet lightly with oil (vegetable or canola oil work well), and place it in a 350-degree oven for an hour. Let it cool in the oven and repeat the process 2-3 times.
- Storing: Store the skillet in a dry place, preferably in a location where there is no moisture or humidity. If stacking skillets, place a paper towel in between them to avoid scratching.
- Maintenance: Cast iron skillets are durable and long-lasting, but it’s still important to keep them well-maintained. Avoid using metal utensils on the skillet as they can scratch the surface. And don’t put the skillet in the dishwasher or soak it for long periods of time.
By following these steps, you can keep your cast iron skillet in great condition for years to come.
Our Five Favorite Cast Iron Skillets
Still have questions? No worries. We’ve found that readers have lots of questions about cast iron skillets, so we’ve compiled a handy dandy list of frequently asked questions to help you make the best decisions when it comes to cooking and baking with cast irons.
- What do you look for in a cast iron skillet? First and foremost, you should look for a skillet that is heavy and well-made. A heavy skillet will retain heat better and provide a more even cooking surface. Additionally, you should look for a skillet with a smooth surface and a comfortable handle.
- What are the benefits of cast iron skillets vs stainless steel pans? When compared to stainless steel pans, cast iron skillets offer several benefits. For one, cast iron skillets are more durable and have a longer lifespan. Additionally, cast iron skillets retain heat better and provide a more even cooking surface.
- What is a pre-seasoned cast iron pan? Pre-seasoned cast iron pans are cast iron pans that have already been seasoned with oil, making them ready to use right out of the box. The benefits of pre-seasoned cast iron pans include ease of use and lower maintenance, as well as a consistent, non-stick surface for cooking.
- What are the benefits of pre-seasoned cast iron pans? Pre-seasoned cast iron pans offer several benefits as well. They are ready to use right out of the box, so you can start cooking with them immediately. Additionally, pre-seasoned cast iron pans have a natural, non-stick surface that improves with each use.
- What are the different types of cast iron pans? There are two types of cast iron pans: enameled and regular. Enameled cast iron pans have a smooth, glass-like surface that is less prone to sticking and is easier to clean. Regular cast iron pans have a rough, porous surface that requires more seasoning and maintenance but can provide a better flavor to your food.
- Can cast iron skillets be used on all stovetops? Yes, cast iron skillets can be used on all stovetops, including induction and glass top stoves. They are also safe to use in the oven and under the broiler.
- Can cast iron skillets be used to cook acidic foods? Yes, cast iron skillets can be used to cook acidic foods like tomatoes without affecting the flavor. However, it’s important to note that cooking acidic foods in a cast iron skillet can strip the pan of its seasoning, so it’s important to properly season your skillet after each use.
- How to tell if a cast iron skillet is of good quality? One way to determine the quality of a cast iron skillet is by its weight. A heavy, well-made cast iron skillet will retain heat better and provide a more even cooking surface. Additionally, you should look for a skillet with a smooth surface and comfortable handle.
Cast iron skillets are a staple in Southern kitchens for a reason. They offer versatility, durability, and health benefits, making them ideal for cooking and baking a variety of Southern dishes. So, if you’re in the market for a new skillet, consider purchasing a cast iron skillet for all of your Southern cooking and baking needs.
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