August 28, 2023
Cast iron is our favorite pan in the kitchen to use in the Premium Dakota Beef test kitchen. A well-seasoned cast iron pan will have amazing flavor, which adds to your cooking.
Other than flavor, we like cast iron because it is very versatile. We have used our cast iron on the stovetop, in the oven, on the grill, in the smoker, and over open fire. The pans do absorb a lot of heat. Please be careful about how you handle them while cooking. An extra thick potholder glove with a silicone outer lining is what we like to use.
Cast Iron History
The history of cast iron started in China around the 6th century BCE, where smelted iron dates back to 800 BCE during the Zhou Dynasty. Cast iron was first used in making tools and weapons. Around 200 BC, the wok was invented to dry grains during the Han dynasty. It wasn't until the mid 14th century, during the Ming dynasty, the Chinese started to use woks for stir-frying. This is still a popular use for woks today. Other uses for woks are braising, roasting, steaming, and deep-frying.
"Casting techniques became widespread in Europe by the 16th century, and since then, this versatile equipment has been a staple in households all over the world. In 1707, Abraham Darby patented the sand-casting method, which is similar to the way we make cast iron today. Because of Darby’s contribution, the 18th and 19th centuries saw a boom in cast iron cookware. Cast iron pots and pans were so important to daily life that in his book, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith says they were worth more than gold. Cast iron cookware saw a decline in the 20th century as other cooking materials like aluminum grew in popularity." (2)
Since then, cultures worldwide have manufactured their own pans for everyday use, including cookware from Denmark to South Africa. Most modern cast iron pans were invented and became popular in the last century. Cast iron is making a solid presence in the kitchen once again.
Cast iron is making a comeback because other cookware has concerns of emitting toxic fumes when heated past a specific temperature. Cast iron can be heated to extremely high temperatures without adverse effects.
Cast iron is cookware that can be passed down from generation to generation if appropriately used. The durability of cast iron makes it easy to restore, season, and continue to use for cooking.
How to Resurface Cast Iron Cookware
- Scrape the pan with steel wool until there are no more rust spots.
- Wash the cookware with warm, mild soapy water. (Some people will oppose soap use.)
- Dry the piece completely. This is an important step that will keep new rust spots from appearing. First, dry with a cloth, then place it on a range burner and let the heat dry your pot or pan the rest of the way.
- Soak paper towels with cooking oil and use them to coat the inside of your cookware with a thin layer of oil.
- Place the cookware on the top rack of the oven, face down at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch dripping oil. Leave the piece like this for an hour.
- Remove your pan from the oven and let it cool. It’s now ready to use!
Cast iron gives your dish visual appeal. Along with that sizzling sound, your mouth starts to water.
Where can you get good Cast Iron pans from?
Our cast iron pans have been handed down from our family members. Some of our cast iron was being thrown away, which sent us into rescue mode. With a little restoration of the Dutch oven and pan, they are good as new.
Cookware we watch for are antique brands that include Griswold, Wagner, and Wapak. These companies no longer make cast iron cookware, but their popularity does. Brands that are also popular are Lodge, American Metalcraft,
How Do I Care for My Cast Iron Cookware?
Although cast iron is very durable, you still have to take certain precautions to keep it clean and rust-free.
- Keep it Dry: Cast iron cookware will require attention immediately after you’re done using it. You can wash it with a little bit of soap and water, but you’ll have to leave it sitting on a hot burner for a few minutes after you towel dry it. Any amount of water left in the pan can cause a rust spot. We only use mild soapy water for really stubborn cleaning. Otherwise, our pans will be rised and wiped dry after they have cooled down.
- Reseason Frequently: Seasoning is the process that creates a non-stick layer on your cookware. Be sure to reseason your cast iron often, especially when buying or restoring it. The more times you use your cookware, the better the layer of seasoning will work. We use ours alot for cooking on the grill and smoker in the summer.
- Coat with Oil After Every Wash: Before putting your cast iron skillet or pot away, wipe it down with a light coating of oil to protect the seasoning. When stacking the pans we use a paper towel in between the pans to help prevent scratching.
Cast Iron Cleaning Tips
- Clean your cookware immediately after use. After letting it cool down.
- Never leave cast iron soaking in the sink. This can create rust.
- Should stubborn soil remain, use a bit of kosher salt instead of a harsh abrasive.
When you are ready, pass your cast-iron down to the family or friend to enjoy. They are definitely the pans that keep on giving and people love to receive.
Seasoned by John Whalen III for
Franklin Steak by Aaron Franklin & Jordan Mackay
The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook by Dominique DeVito