Everything I Know About Cast Iron

Everything I Know About Cast Iron

In my kitchen I currently have three different sized, and shaped cast iron pans, along with a cast iron bread pan. (not to mention my enamelled cast iron).These get used more than any other pans I own.

Why am I telling you this? Am I just bragging about my sweet cast iron collection…yeah, kind of. But more importantly, it’s because I want you to understand before we get to deep into this, the value of a well maintained cast iron pan.

Some families have cast iron pans that have been passed on for generations. Each new custodian of the family pan is responsible for maintaining it for their children and their children’s children.

This seems kind of crazy right? It’s just a pan. You can go buy one for under $50. Why does it matter so much? I think the question is…

What’s so great about cast iron any way?

When treated well, and properly maintained, a good cast iron pan will last you the rest of your life and pretty much until the end of time. Once properly seasoned, they are non stick without the addition of harmful chemicals. This makes them safe and very easy to clean.

Cast iron also holds heat very well. Once it gets hot, you can turn your burner down a bit, conserving energy. Not only that, but the pans can withstand tremendous heat. They can be used on the stove top, in the oven, or even over an open fire.

You can bake in them. Use them for deep frying. Sauteing. Cooking eggs. Really, whatever you want. They even make great pizza. And, you can get a really terrific sear on a steak and then just put the whole pan in the oven to finish it.

What are the draw backs to cast iron?

One of the biggest complaints about cast iron is that it’s heavy. It is. There is no getting around that. Another major complaint is that it takes too much effort to maintain. And one final complaint is that food sticks.

So yeah, cast iron is heavy. That’s true. But the other two complaints aren’t entirely accurate.

Difficult to maintain.

The thing about cast iron is that you have to think of it as a living thing. What I mean by that is it’s not going to do well if you never use it. Or, if you don’t pay attention to it. The more you use the pan, the better it will be.

Every time you cook in your pan you are using oil, and fats are coming out of the food. Those oils and fats, work their way into the iron, which is porous, and work to season it. So, every time you use the pan it is getting seasoned.

The truth is this, cast iron can be kind of a pain when you first get it. Even “pre-seasoned” pans need to be seasoned multiple times before they really hit their stride. However, once they are fully seasoned, and they are getting regular use, they take no time or effort to maintain at all.

Think about a puppy. When you first get a puppy, it’s kind of crazy. It poops and pees on the floor, it’s chewing everything. It has way more energy than you can contend with. It kind of sucks. But after a little while the puppy calms down. It learns to do it’s business outside, and it’s energy levels level out. Then, it’s awesome. You have a fully grown dog that loves you and that you love.

Think of new cast iron the same way as you think of a new puppy. It’s going to suck for a bit, but after a while you can’t imagine your life without it.


Another issue people tend to have with cast iron, is the question of how to clean it? Depending on who you ask you may end up with a thousand different, contradictory rules. It will make your head spin.

The main thing to remember is that oil in the iron from seasoning and cooking are what make the pan non-stick. Dish soap is specifically designed to cut through grease or fat and oil. So, you definitely don’t want to use dish soap in your cast iron. However, brand new cast iron should be washed in hot soapy water prior to seasoning.

How I clean my pans.

Generally, a little hot water rinse and wipe out with a towel is all I need to clean my pans. Because they get so much use, very little sticks to them. So a quick wipe is all they need.

On the rare occasion that something does stick to my pans, I use salt to clean it. I take coarse salt, and pour it in my pan, like 2-3 tbsp. Then a few drops of oil. Using a cloth, and the salt as an abrasive I scrub the pan. It doesn’t take long. Alternatively, those yellow and green scrubbies, generally work well as long as they don’t come pre-soaped.

There are specialized cast iron cleaning items you can get like chain mail, which is said to be great for cleaning cast iron. However, I’ve never used it and can’t recommend it. I will put an Amazon link below so you can check it out yourself.

Soaking pans.

Sometimes, especially if you are baking a casserole in your pan something may stick to the sides. In this case I recommend soaking the pan. I know some people’s eyes bulged out of their head reading that but calm down, I’ll explain.

I never submerge my pans in water. I just don’t. The bottoms of the pans don’t get as much seasoning as the cooking surface, and so are susceptible to rust. You want to keep them as dry as possible. However, the cooking surface of a well maintained cast iron pan will be able to maintain a soak. The water isn’t going to ruin the seasoning. It will however, soften any stuck on food bits.

To soak a cast iron pan just fill it with water and set it aside until the food has softened. Then clean as you normally would.


Iron is very prone to rust. If any moisture is left on the pan for an extended period of time, it will rust. So, after washing it is very important to dry the pan thoroughly.

Generally, I will dry the pan with a towel and then heat the pan on the stove just until I am sure there is no moisture left in it.

It doesn’t take long or much effort, but drying cast iron is a very, very important step.


Once the pan is clean and dry it needs to be oiled. This is as easy as pouring a teaspoon or two of oil into the pan and then wiping around inside and out with a paper towel.

Now, your pan is ready for your next use.

Seasoning Cast Iron.

Seasoning cast iron can seem like this hassle that you have to do regularly. And it’s almost like this mythical thing. But really, do it a few times when you first get your pan and you should rarely if ever have to do it again.

How do you season a cast iron pan?

I just want to say right off the bat, that this is not a complicated process. It does take time, but it’s passive. You don’t have to do anything.

To season cast iron simply rub it inside you out, top and bottom, with lard or shortening. Place it upside down in your oven, with a baking sheet underneath it to collect oil, and bake on 350°f for about an hour. Shut the oven off, and leave the pan in the oven to cool completely. It’s best just to leave it in the oven over night.

When the pan comes out of the oven, it likely be a bit sticky. This is normal. Give it a rinse under hot water, dry it and oil it, and it should be good to go.

Generally, when I get a new cast iron pan, I repeat this process three or four times over the course of a few months. After that it is usually perfect.

When do you need to re-season?

If for some reason you need to use soap on your pan, if a pesky relative was trying to be “helpful”, or if for some reason things are sticking to the pan a lot, you will need to re-season it. It’s the exact same process as with a new pan.

Cooking with cast iron.

The most important thing to remember about cast iron is that it really needs to be pre-heated. You need to get the pan nice and hot before you use it. Because cast iron is so heavy, it’s going to take longer to heat than a stainless steel pan.

Heating the pan allows the oils in the iron to heat and expand, coating the surface of the pan thus making it non-stick.

Here is one point of confusion. People hear “non-stick” and they assume they don’t need to use oil in the pan when cooking. You absolutely do, just like with a regular non-stick pan. You’ll need less than in a steel pan, but you will need some.

That’s it. Those are really the only two things you need to be aware of when cooking with cast iron. Heat it, and use a bit of oil.

Things to look out for.

Because cast iron pans are porous, I generally avoid cooking things like curry in them. I suggest you do the same unless you like yellow, curry flavoured eggs in the morning.

Some people say to stay away from highly acidic foods in cast iron as well, but a few tomatoes aren’t going to hurt it.


My cast iron pans are truly my favourite things in my kitchen. They work perfectly. It took time and effort to get them to where they are now, but it was time and effort well spent.

If you are thinking about getting a cast iron pan, or if you have one and have never really been sure of it, I hope that this has helped. I hope that you start using it, because I’m sure that you will fall in love with it when you do. And, if you really take care of it, you will have a family heirloom for generations to come.

Why It’s Important to Preheat Your Pan

Why It’s Important to Preheat Your Pan

We have likely heard before about the importance of preheating our pans before cooking. But why is it important? What are the benefits of it?  What happens if we don’t do it? And are there any scenarios when we don’t have to preheat our pans? All of this and more as we look at why it’s important to preheat your pan.

Why is it important to preheat your pan?

There are a few different reasons why it’s important to preheat our pan before cooking. The first one is that when we cook something we generally want to transfer heat from the cooking surface to the item being cooked as quickly as possible. Starting with a room temperature pan prolongs this heat transfer and can lead to food like a steak being overcooked. It also, causes things to take much longer to cook.

Forced Evaporation

Another reason why this is important is for forced evaporation. Let’s say we are making a stir-fry and we don’t preheat our pan. What’s going to happen? As the pan slowly heats up, and in turn slowly heats up the vegetables, they are going to lose some of their liquid. Because the pan isn’t hot enough this liquid isn’t going to evaporate on contact. It will instead pool in the bottom of the wok and steam our vegetables.

This is also part of the reason why we add vegetables in stages when cooking a stir-fry. We don’t want to cool the pan down for risk of the same thing happening.


One final reason why it’s important to preheat our pan is for searing. When we cook meat, for example, we want a nice even sear on the surface. This develops flavour, colour, and texture. On top of that, it helps to prevent our meat from sticking to the pan. If we start a steak in a cold pan there is a good chance it is going to stick. Same with the bbq. It is much less likely to happen if our pan was hot when the steak went in.

When is it not necessary to preheat our pan?

There are a couple of instances when it isn’t important to preheat our pan.

When we cook bacon, and we want it crispy, starting in a cold pan and gradually heating it up is the way to go. This renders the fat out of the bacon, which the bacon then cooks in and gets very crispy. This is also one technique for cooking duck breast. Although, duck breast can be started in a hot pan as well.

A cold pan can also be used when sweating vegetables. To sweat vegetable, we actually want to draw the liquid out of them. This would be done when making a rice pilaf for example. You sweat the vegetables prior to adding the rice in order to draw as much flavour out of them as possible. Usually, when sweating vegetables we want to avoid colouring them.

Finally, when caramelizing onions, starting in a cold pan is the way to go. Again, this draws moisture out of the onions, which then aids in the caramelization process.

How Hot Do We Want It?

How hot do we want our pan? It really depends on what we’re cooking. Steak, for example, we want the pan really hot. Especially if we want it cooked rare to medium. For fried eggs, the pan should hot enough that our butter is foaming but not burning. For vegetables, like in a stir-fry we want the pan to be as hot as we can get it. And for sauteing onions or something like that, generally heated over medium heat is what we are looking for.

Next time you are cooking, take a minute and preheat your pan. You will absolutely notice a difference.



Choosing The Right Knife For You

Choosing The Right Knife For You

Knives are undoubtedly one of the, if not the most important tool in any kitchen. They get used more than just about anything else and so a decent knife is important. But do some people put too much emphasis on them? I absolutely think so. This has become obvious to me based on how much I get asked about knives. So, let’s cut through all the noise and all the bullshit and look at what you actually need in a knife. It may surprise you.

First of all, I would say that there is a bit of a knife craze going on based on the popularization of Chef Culture. Shows like “Chef’s Table” and “Mind of a Chef” have brought a new generation of Chef’s to the conscious mind of society. With them has come a focus on the tools and techniques they use which isn’t inherently bad. But what’s important to remember is that these are professional Chefs at the top of their game. For them, their knives are about more than just cutting. They are a symbol of their dedication to their craft. It’s something that most home cooks don’t need to prove.

It is definitely easy to get caught up in the knife craze.  There is so much information about knives and so many different kinds of knives out there now. A lot of them are beautiful, more pieces of art than tools. There Japanese knives which a lot of people swear by. There are German knives and French Knives. Then there are small suppliers that make limited quantities of boutique knives. There stainless steel and high carbon steel, or blends of the two. There are even knives made of goddamn astroids. You don’t need any of it.

Here is what is needed in a knife.

A good solid handle that feels comfortable in your hand. Preferably, a blade with a full tang. This means that one continuous piece of metal runs from the tip of the knife to the butt of the knife. The handle, probably wooden, is then riveted to the blade itself. This makes the knife really strong. There should be a bit of weight to the knife, the blade should be strong.

Things you don’t need in a knife.

Sand in the handle. Metal from a goddamn asteroid even though it looks amazing. You don’t need a handcrafted knife made by a Japanese master whose family lived and died by the sword for a thousand generations. There is no need for a knife that has a blade as thin as paper but with the strength of an elephant. And you absolutely don’t need a knife that costs more than your monthly car payment.

Things To Look Out For When Buying Knives.

When buying knives avoid the three pack that contains a chef knife, a utility knife, and a paring knife, that costs $50 at your local hardware store. Those are not good knives. They won’t stay sharp. They will probably rust, and they may break. Also, I generally recommend not buying knives off of the internet. You want to hold a knife before you buy it. Get a feel for it. Make sure it’s comfortable.

It’s often true as well that you don’t want want to buy a knife block full of knives unless you are spending a lot of money. It’s much better to buy the knives individually over time and create your own collection of knives you like.

Just because a knife is made by a company you recognize, doesn’t mean it’s a good knife. The big knife brands make some good quality knives, but they also make some pretty shitty ones as well. If you are spending $20 on a brand name knife, know that you are not getting the top of the line.

How much should you spend on a knife?

This really comes down to the individual. But what I would say is that for most home cooks, spending over $150 on a knife is excessive. Spending $200 on a knife is kind of crazy. If you spend more than $200 on a knife you probably really love cooking but still, it seems a bit ridiculous to me.

I would say that if you want a decent knife that will last you a long time, spend between $60 – $150. But again, make sure it is well built, and make sure it’s comfortable in your hand.

How many knives should you have?

I honestly believe that you really only need two knives, maybe three. You need a Chef Knife which will get you through just about everything. You need a paring knife for any small detailed stuff you want to do. And you may need a serrated knife for slicing bread or something like that. You really don’t need more than that.

Keeping Your Knives Sharp.

It used to be that if you wanted to keep your knives sharp you had to learn how to use a sharpening stone. You had to learn the proper angles and make sure you maintained them. Today, there are all kinds of little gadgets out there that are cheap and take no skill to use. They will keep your knives sharp and ready to use. You have likely seen the little gadgets I’m talking about. Little plastic things with a few different grades of wheels. They work well, not perfectly but well enough for home use. Look for a knife sharpener that has either diamond or ceramic wheels.


A good, comfortable, sharp knife makes cooking easier, safer, and fun. Try not to get caught up in all the hype of what looks cool and what professionals use. Get a knife that you want to use, not an art piece. Don’t spend loads of money, but don’t cheap out either. When buying a knife keep practicality in mind. It is a tool. You wouldn’t buy a $600 hammer because the person who made it has family that has been making hammers for 400 years. Don’t do that with knives either.


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