There are so many benefits to cooking with cast iron – especially if you’re a prepper or homesteader. No matter how many different types of cookware litter your kitchen, there’s a good chance that cast iron is the most precious piece of equipment you own!
Unfortunately, there’s also a good chance that you’re committing one of many egregious mistakes that can be made when you are cooking with cast iron.
Here are some of the most common cast iron cooking mistakes you might be making – and why you should stop making them as soon as you can.
Not Seasoning Correctly – Or At All
The most common mistake that people make when using their cast iron pans is failing to season their pans correctly (or at all).
Just dabbing the surface of the pan with oil won’t do.
You need to apply a thin coat of oil to the pan, both the inside, outside, and even the handle, and then flip it upside down before putting it in the oven.
Bake it at 350 degrees for one hour. Turn off the oven, then let it cool.
Avoiding Acidic Foods
There’s a myth out there that acidic foods need to be avoided when it comes to cast iron cooking. That’s not the case.
Feel free to use your cast iron pans for chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, or whatever else you might be craving. The key here is to keep the cooking time short, and if there’s any discoloration after cooking, just give the pan a quick scrub with baking soda.
Don’t worry about the conception that acidic foods will cause iron to leach into your food. It’s true that this happens – but it’s a good thing. Your body will benefit from the added iron in your diet!
Not Cleaning It Properly
A cast iron pan is a finicky beast when it comes to clean-up time, but you don’t have to be so afraid of cleaning it that you never do!
Cast iron, contrary to popular belief, can handle a little bit of soap.
While it’s better to clean the pan by rinsing with warm water and baking soda (and a quick scrub with a nylon brush) after each use, there are some messy situations in which only sudsy water will do.
Just remember that water causes cast iron to rust, so you should never soak it, or worse, put it in the dishwasher. Allow it to dry completely before you store it, too.
You should also avoid using harsh chemicals, like scouring powder or oven cleaner, to clean your pan. A bit of baking soda, salt, or mild dish soap are all you need.
Related: Baking Soda – 112 Uses (WWII Series)
Using It For Seafood
Okay, so you can use your cast iron pan for fish – but we don’t recommend it.
Fish and seafood produce lingering odors that can linger inside your cast iron pan long after Fish Fry Friday. You’ll notice the flavors in any dish you cook thereafter.
Now, if you have a pan that you want to dedicate exclusively to salmon or sole, that’s fine – just keep in mind that the fishy flavors will hang on for quite some time, no matter how well you clean or season your pan.
Overheating The Pan
Cast iron is great when it comes to conducting heat. In fact, it’s one of the most efficient materials you can use.
While it takes a while to heat up – again, preheating is essential – it can get too hot for certain types of food.
How will you know that your pan is too hot?
Don’t worry – you’ll notice the smoke!
Use a lower heat setting than you usually do for your favorite recipes to prevent overheating, and if you notice smoke, turn off the heat and let the pan cool a bit before you continue.
Seasoning Only Once
Seasoning is important – but it’s even more important that you don’t do it just once.
Try to make a habit of seasoning your pan on a regular basis. Remember that every time you use your pan, you’re wearing some of the seasoning down. Do this too many times, and the pan won’t cook as well as it used to.
Whenever you see dull spots, it’s time to reseason – but it doesn’t hurt to season each and every time you use your pan, either!
Saving Leftovers In It
We get it – you want to ditch the plastic storage containers when it comes to stashing leftovers.
However, keeping your leftovers in the cast iron pan is not a good idea, even if you stash it in the refrigerator.
Not only will it fail to keep your leftovers fresh, but any lingering moisture and acidity in your pan will cause the pan to rust prematurely.
Related: How to Can Your Leftover Turkey
Skipping the Pre-Heat Process
Preheating is an essential step when it comes to cast iron cooking, especially if you want the pan to heat up relatively evenly. Give it at least five minutes to warm up before you put food in the pan.
Using the Wrong Tools
There’s another myth when it comes to cast iron cooking – and that has to do with using metal tools in your pan. Go ahead and use the metal spatula.
It will actually work better when you’re trying to cook delicate foods that require a sturdy utensil, like eggs.
Throwing Out A Rusty Pan
…and if it does rust? Don’t panic.
While you should take great pains to prevent your cast iron pan from getting rusty, if it does happen to build up a bit of rust, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just going to require more elbow grease to get rid of it!
If your cast iron pan is looking a little rusty, just put it on a burner over low heat. Pour some vegetable oil into the pan, just enough to cover the bottom by about a quarter of an inch, then add a handful of salt. Scrub with a large bundle of paper towels. Rinse the pan under warm water and repeat until you’ve removed all lingering traces of rust.
The Biggest Cast Iron Cooking Mistake? Not Using It Enough
Out of all of the mistakes you can make with cast iron, there is one mistake that reigns supreme – not using it enough.
That’s not just because cast iron is the best possible material to cook with (although that’s a big reason, for sure!). It’s also because the more often you use your cast iron cookware, the better it will perform. Every use will wear down your seasoning, but it will also add a new molecule of polymerized oil, which will help the pan develop a darker, shinier finish.
The result? A more attractive appearance, a hardier performance – and even better-tasting food.
So don’t leave that cast iron locked away in the cupboard just because you’re worried about making a mistake here or there. Instead, consider these tips and start cooking with cast iron tonight.
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