Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Cast Iron

There is a very good interview focused on cast iron in last Saturday's Good Food podcast, 'Table Manners; Four Star Hospitality; Jitlada' with Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen. The interview begins 31 minutes and 35 seconds into the episode, if you want to skip the beginning.

I have spent a lot of time researching and testing different cookware. I have some All-Clad, Mauviel, Staub, Le Creuset and good ole cast iron. The expensive cookware can cost about $100 for a pan and $150 for a Dutch oven. I've paid up to $250 for a good, copper roasting pan, but now do most of my roasting in cast iron skillets - see our Video 2.

The bottom line is that I have found cast iron to be superior to most cookware. I specifically like the Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron and I especially like the price. They are available at under cast iron products at our canning store.

I'm putting in a new kitchen for entertaining and canning, keeping my family kitchen on a different floor. The new kitchen will require new pots and pans, the majority of which will be cast iron. I've purchased several cast iron skillets, two grill pans, a couple of cast iron Dutch ovens, a cast iron wok (by Staub) and three heavy (5mm) copper saucepans with stainless lining and a non-stick omelet pan.

My cast iron tips are:
  1. Have a designated cast iron skillet(s) and/or grill pan for fish. The fish flavor will absorb into the seasoning of a cast iron pan and can leach into other meats and food - yuck.
  2. Never use any products that may stick, such as milk products. Gravies should be made in a stainless lined pan.
  3. Never use soap for cleaning. Lightly scour with a metal pad and warm water. If you see something has stuck to the skillet, run water in it immediately after removing the food, being careful not to scald yourself.
  4. Season cast iron every time you use it. After cleaning, put cast iron onto the stove and heat until all water is evaporated. If there is a lid, place the lid on, slightly askew to allow steam to escape.
  5. Rub a tablespoon of olive oil into the hot skillet (again being careful not to burn yourself,) using a paper towel.

For a perfect steak, hamburger, pork, lamb or veal chop; sprinkle coarse kosher salt into a cast iron skillet and heat until it begins to smoke. Place the meat in the skillet. If the meat sticks to the skillet, it isn't yet seared and ready to turn. Cook until desired. For cheesburgers, add the cheese after turning and cover - I turn the heat off 1 minute after adding the cheese and let it continue cooking until the cheese is completely melted.

For roasted red potatoes; heat oven to 400 degrees. Add unpeeled potatoes cut into 1-1/2" pieces to skillet, mixing with a little olive oil directly in the skillet. I mix with my clean hands. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt (I use coarse kosher) and pepper. May add dried rosemary and/or thyme. Roast about 45 minutes, or until golden brown, shaking the skillet every 15 minutes to turn the potatoes.

For chicken or turkey breasts; place a well seasoned skillet over high heat until it slightly smokes. Add the breast(s) and cook for 4 minutes (3 minutes for small breasts). Turn the breasts and cook for 3 more minutes, cover and turn off the heat. Leave the breasts to steam for 15 minutes.

For braising vegetables such as endives or fennel, preheat the oven to 180 degrees, bring a cast iron Dutch oven to a medium high heat on the stove top with a little olive oil. Add trimmed vegetable with a little salt and pepper and brown on one side for about 5 - 6 minutes. Turn the vegetable, place the cover onto the Dutch oven and put it into the oven. Do not open the oven or the lid and let braise for one hour. After braising, you may serve them as is, or chop the vegetables and add them to a Bechamel sauce for a delicious side dish. Do not add salt and pepper to the Bechamel, as the braised vegetables are already contain them.

Remember you may remove meat from the pan and make a brown gravy direct in the skillet. For a white gravy, I make a Bechamel in a stainless lined saucepan and then add the meat drippings.

No comments: