Cast Iron Cooking

by Chef Jeff Harris
Admissions Classroom
Johnson & Wales University

With warm weather in the air,it is the perfect time of year to bring out and dust off your cast iron cookware!

While cooking with cast iron can be intimidating for beginners,
it can produce some of the most rewarding treats.

Here are a few helpful hints to get you started.

1. Seasoning your cookware: If it has been a while since the last time you used your skillet, it may need a little TLC to bring it back to life. To season your pan, you will need oil, paper towels, and an oven. Before you start, scrub the cast iron well and dry it thoroughly. Spread a thin layer of oil over the entire skillet- inside and out. Wipe down with a paper towel until nearly dry, and bake in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes. Allow your pan to cool and repeat the process of oiling and baking for 4 more times.

2. Types of oil for seasoning: There is a large debate over which oil is the best for seasoning a cast iron pan. Some people recommend corn oil, some only use vegetable oil, some prefer lard, and others swear by Crisco. In my opinion, you cannot beat good flaxseed oil for seasoning your pan. When choosing your oil, be sure to select one that is high in ALA (Alpha-linoleic acid). This will assist in the breakdown of the oil while cooking to get a nice and firm coat for your pan.

3. Nonstick Cooking: You may have heard of the many health hazards behind using Teflon coated nonstick cook ware. Using cast Iron is a great way to avoid this issue as the seasoning process will prevent food from sticking to the pan without the use of chemicals such as Teflon. Just make sure to keep your pan well-seasoned, and you can always enjoy the benefits of nonstick cooking without the health hazards!

4. Caring for Cast Iron: After cooking, you will want to clean your cast iron while it is still warm. Avoid the soap, and instead, reach for the salt. Use Kosher Salt as it is coarser and will work well to scour off any stuck on food particles. Scrub with a towel and then rinse it under hot water. Ensure that you immediately dry your cast iron completely, and coat with a thin layer of oil to prevent rusting.

5. Avoid Acidic Foods: One food item that you are going to want to avoid when using your cast iron cookware will be acidic ingredients such as tomatoes or citrus. The acidity of these ingredients can react with the metal of the pan and cause it to leech into the food. This can cause an off flavor to your food. While a short searing of acidic ingredients may not cause any issues, avoid simmering these ingredients in cast iron for long periods of time.

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Mary Bohlen’s Grandmother’s Cornbread Recipe like most grandmothers’ recipes were memorized and not from a cookbook. Improv was often a necessity depending on what was available in the kitchen at meal time. I recall Grandmother’s cornbread had a special flavor. I’m confident it had to be the freshly ground cornmeal and a spoonful of bacon drippings added to the batter!

2 cups plain cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda*
1 egg
1 Tablespoon bacon drippings
(or butter)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or sweet milk
* If using self-rising cornmeal,omit salt and soda.
Mix ingredients. Pour into well greased iron skillet. Bake at 350°F in oven until golden brown; baking times will vary. To cook on top of stove, use a low to medium setting. When cornbread becomes firm on top, flip over like a pancake and finish cooking.