Cast Iron Basics

Why should I choose cast iron?

Cast iron cookware is best known for its heat retention and even cooking properties.  It is a home staple and with proper care can become a family heirloom, lasting generations.

When purchasing your Dutch oven, make sure the lid has a raised ridge.  This is to hold your heat source, which will be briquettes.  This will help you to reach the proper temperature needed for the cooking desired, with the exception of boiling or frying.  In which case you would want all the heat on the bottom.

How is the diameter measurement of Cookware determined?

Generally, measure from outside rim to outside rim across the top of the cookware, not the bottom.  Company standards vary, however, so consult with the manufacture for specifics.

What is seasoning?

Seasoning (or curing as some people call it) is a necessary step in using cast iron cookware.  Oil is baked into the pores of the iron to prevent rusting and to eventually provide a natural, non-stick cooking surface.  Unlike synthetically coated cookware, it is possible to restore the cooking surface of cast iron.

REMEMBER: It is very important to replenish the seasoning of your cast iron cookware by applying a thin layer of oil after each cleaning.  Seasoning is an on-going process.  The more you use cast iron, the seasoning is improved.

What type oil is used to season Cast Iron?

Any cooking oil will work.  The seasoning is functional application and slight inconsistencies may appear in the seasoning finish.  The inconsistencies will not affect cooking performance.

There is an area of the cookware that does not seem to be seasoned and is beginning to flake.  What is this and is it normal?  The area of concern is most likely caused by a seasoning bubble.  A seasoning bubble may appear during the seasoning process and is not a cause for concern.  Additionally, flaking and slight discoloration or a rusty color may appear.  The flaking is carbonized oil and the rusty color is the first layer of seasoning.  Rubbing oil into this area will improve appearance and seasoning.

Heating Fundamentals

If you are planning on baking, you need more heat on the top than on the bottom.  Put one briquette on the bottom for every 3 on the top of the lid.  For preparing stews, use one on the top for every 4 on the bottom.  When roasting, put briquettes on the top and bottom evenly.

Wind, humidity, and ambient air temperature can all effect temperature, but the general rule of thumb is that each briquette adds about 25 degrees of heat.  A good starting temperature is 350°F.  To figure out how many briquettes to use to get your oven to 350°F, take the size of the oven in inches, and subract three to get the number of briquettes for under it, and add three to get the number of briquettes for the top.

Can cast iorn be used with a variety of heat sources?

Cast iron products may be used on various heat sources including gas, electric, induction and ceramic/glass top stoves and ovens.  Seasoned cast iron can also be used on the grill or for camp cooking.  Do not to drop cookware on the stovetop or slide across the surface.  Begin heating cookware on low and slowly bring heat up to medium or medium/high.  Always remove cookware from the stovetop after cooking.

Are there any types of food that are not recommended to be cooked in cast iron cookware?

Foods which are very acidic (i.e., beans, tomatoes, citrus juices, etc.) should not be cooked in cast iron until the cookware is highly seasoned.  The high acidity of these foods will strip the seasoning and result in discoloration and metallic tasting food.  Wait until cast iron is better seasoned to cook these types of foods.

How do I remove rust from my cookware?

Rust on cast iron cookware indicates the seasoning needs to be replenished, or in some instances completely replaced.  Three types of rusting can occur:

My new cast iron pan feels rough in some areas, is this normal?

Yes.  With use and replenishment of the seasoning, the pan will become smoother.  Unlike other types of cookware, cast iron only gets better with use.  For concerns about roughness, it is OK to use a fine grade of sandpaper to smooth out the rough areas.  Make sure to re-season the item before using.

Using Cast Iron

The following is use and care for seasoned cast iron cookware.  By following these instructions, your cast iron can last you more than a lifetime.

Cleaning Cast Iron
Seasoning / Re-Seasoning Cast Iron