Cast Iron Skillet

I love my cast iron skillet. But I must say, it was not love at first sight- I had to learn to live with it, and adapt to its whims and needs.
When the skillet first came to my home, I had to idea how to treat it, and ended up burning the hell out of it. I had to scrub all the burnt skin off, and start over. I seasoned it with good old olive oil, since I didn't have any other oil at hand. Coated it with oil, inside and out, and baked it for about half hour in medium heat (350ºF). After the skillet was properly seasoned, it was ready for use. One can also follow the directions that come with the skillet, since each cook seems to have their own way of seasoning their cast iron pots and pans. Now that I have had my skillet for many many years, and we have gotten used to each other, when I am done cooking with it, I usually either rinse it in cold water (if the skillet has cooled down), or pour boiling water inside it (when it is still very hot)... and either just swish the water around or/and scrape it with a spatula (metal or wood- never plastic!!!) to rinse it. I never use soap on it, because it will break down the oil coating. Then I throw the (dirty) water out, put the skillet back on the stovetop, and put the fire on low for a few minutes to dry it up - learned that with my mother. When it is almost dry, I turn the fire off, let it cool down a bit, and put a bit of olive oil on the inside of the skillet again, to keep it nicely seasoned. The whole cleaning/drying/oiling takes just a few minutes; I do it while I wash the rest of the dishes, so it is a no-brainer. In that respect, the cast iron skillet is far superior than the Teflon ones. You can scrape it and heat it as much as you want, you will never have to worry about toxic fumes and/or lethal scratches.
I use my skillet for sauteing bacon that goes into the black beans. I saute all kinds of greens in it, with olive oil... I also use it to brown any meat that I may need to brown for a stew... to fry eggs... corn bread... warm up tortillas... make pancakes... and always, always use it to make "Tortillas", also known as Spanish Omelettes. Those omelettes are thick, with potatoes and onions inside them; so they must not only cook on the stove top at first (in order to saute and brown the potatoes and onions), they need to go into the oven in order to actually cook the egg/milk mixture. The cast iron skillet is the only pan that is capable of doing that job without any injuries to itself- or the cook.
The only thing to remember, when cooking with it, is: always warm up the pan first (in medium, or medium-high heat), and then put your oil of choice in it (to cook your food) when the pan is nice and hot. Otherwise, chances are you will burn the oil! Warm the skillet up, throw the oil in, then immediately throw in the food to cook. If it is bacon, of course, chances are you won't need to put in any oil- the bacon will take care of itself. I am talking about real bacon, though, not some turkey imitation nonsense. Warm the skillet in medium heat for everything other than sauteed greens, in which case you will want high heat because that is the nature of the cooking. But keep an eye on it so you don't burn that hell out of your greens. Do not cook tomatoes in your cast iron skillet; tomatoes react and pick up the flavor of the iron; having said that, do not leave the cooked food in the skillet for very long either, because it will pick up that flavor as well- not so much a bread item, but definitely greens. Happy cooking!

Note from a reader: "I'm going to be a heretic and say that once you've got it good and broken in, no special care is needed. I've got a 12" pan that's over 30 years old and I abuse it as badly as I can and it's still doesn't stick. I've also got my Granny's 16" pan that she used for frying chicken that goes all the way back to the 1920's and it's still in great shape. When I got her pan, it had a couple of nasty rust spots on it, so I thought it was done. I ground out the rust, started using it and after several uses it came back. I wash them with soap and then usually dry them on the stove. It's probably faster to season it in the oven with oil, but once the pores get clogged up and worn down smooth, it'll be good to go."

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