Somewhat unusual for a style that has been around for more than 100 years, cast iron cookware has seen a resurgence of epic proportions in the last 10 years.
The Cookware Manufacturer’s Association reports more than a 225 per cent increase in sales over the decade. More than 10 per cent of cookware sales are now cast iron items– a significant increase from just 10 years before.
So what is bringing international chefs and home cooking enthusiasts back to cookware that is nearly the same today as it was when it was originally invented?
In short: staying power.
Pots, pans, waffle irons, muffin tins, loaf pans and more are just as good now as the day they were made 100 years ago. There is scarcely a product of any kind that has been manufactured by humans and can boast that kind of reputation.
History of Metal Casting
The earliest indications of casting metal may go all the way back to China in the fourth century B.C. Ancient engineers quickly realized that the metal could be used to make weapons, and for centuries that was its primary usage.
As the efficiency of manufacturing improved, so did the creation of cast items of all kinds, and by the 1800s the ability to forge with iron was widely available.
Iron products first made their way to America in 1619, but we were not yet using the process to make cookware.
Once it becomes a liquid, it is poured into a “cast” or mold of a pot or pan and allowed to cool. Products made using this process are solid and heavy.
They are most often made of a single block of metal rather than putting pieces together with bolts, rivets, or adhesive. This kind of metal cookware has no seams.
The most common piece of iron cookware is the Dutch oven. Despite the name, these items do not hail from the land of pigtail braids and clog shoes (a popular design for kitchen footwear, speaking of which…). The reference to Dutch in this instance means “not real” or “fake.”
Your trusty cast-iron skillet will eventually lose its sheen and, as a result, its super non-stick powers. Bringing back its luster and protecting it from rusting is as easy as a scrub, oil, and bake. Here’s how to season your cast-iron skillet.
How To Season Your Cast-Iron Skillet:
- Scrub skillet well in hot soapy water.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Spread a thin layer of melted shortening or vegetable oil over the skillet.
- Place it upside down on a middle oven rack at 375°. (Place foil on a lower rack to catch drips.)
- Bake 1 hour; let cool in the oven.
How to Care for Cast Iron
- To rid of rust stains, rub this handy rust eraser on the stain, and then reseason pan. Find it at hardware stores, bike shops, or wood-working shops.
- To clean, use a stiff brush or plastic scrubber under running water while the cast iron is still warm but cool enough to handle with ease. Kosher salt is also a good scrubbing agent for baked-on stains. The most important tip is to never use soap!
- Before cooking, apply vegetable oil to the cooking surface, and preheat the pan on low heat, increasing the temperature slowly.
- Never marinate in cast iron. Acidic mixtures will damage the seasoning. Reseason if food particles start to stick, rust appears, or you experience a metallic taste.