Cast Iron Cooking Tips to Get the Most of Your Cast Iron

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Cut chicken breasts in half width-wise and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.

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  • Heat 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic salt; cook and stir until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl.

  • Combine chicken and flour in a resealable plastic bag; seal and toss until coated.

  • Coat the bottom of the skillet with remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in the hot skillet until browned, covering with a lid after 1 minute, about 5 minutes per side.

  • Stir cooked onions and stewed tomatoes in with the chicken until steamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook until chicken is moist on the inside but still crispy on the outside, no more than 1 minute.

Video

Seasoning Gets Better Over Time

The more you cook with cast iron, the better that coating gets. Cast iron is best suited for people who want an evolving relationship with their cookware. The process is the point.

For best results, get in the habit of seasoning your skillet after most uses. Routine seasoning isn’t hard, and it doesn’t take a lot of time.

Most new skillets these days come pre-seasoned and ready to use. We’ll get more into seasoning in a bit.

Alison Conklin

How Should I Dry My Skillet?

Don’t store your cast iron while it’s still wet because Iron + Water = Rust.

How do you dry a skillet? Sounds obvious, but with a towel (cloth or paper). You can let it air-dry, but that could lead to small spots of rust developing if the air circulation is poor.

Some people like to dry their skillets on the stove over low heat for half a minute or so. This works, but if you wander away and forget the skillet is on the stove, you can return to a smoking, red-hot skillet. Not like I’ve ever, ever done anything like that. (Note to self and others: set a timer.)

Can tomato be cooked in iron Kadai?

You should never cook any acidic foods in cast iron. Food preparations that involve using acidic ingredients like lemon, tomatoes, or vinegar should never be cooked in iron vessels. They can end up giving your dish a metallic taste.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1.5 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1.5 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

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I like cast iron non-toxic cookware because it contains no lead

To start with, cast iron is made of an alloy comprised of over 90% iron.  As you may know, cast iron cookware has a long history of use in Asia, Europe, and the US.  It was especially popular during the first half of the 20th century because it was cheap and durable.  Therefore, most American households had at least one cast-iron cooking pan at the time.  Even though it fell into disfavor, it is now seeing a strong comeback as non-toxic cookware. 

For example, according to Tamara Rubin, a leading lead-poisoning prevention advocate, cast iron has a much higher melting point than lead.  As a consequence, simple cast iron pots and pans almost never have any lead as it is unlikely for the metal itself to contain lead.  The two exceptions, though, are cast iron cookware with a decorative high-temperature enamel finish and some antique cast iron cooking items (source). 

With the right use, your cast iron can serve as safe non-stick cookware

Although cast iron cookware does not carry “non-stick” marketing labels, it has non-stick properties.  All you need to do is learn how to use it correctly.  When you do, your non-stick cast iron will serve you long and well.

First, make sure you heat the pan well before you add any food.  A few drops of water dancing across the surface as they boil off are a good indicator.

Second, season your cast iron after every use.  For example, after washing my cast iron, I put it back on the stove in a wet state.  Once the water has boiled away, I take it off the stove and apply a thin layer of avocado oil (the best oil to use at high heat).  When it cools down, I wipe any excess with a paper towel before putting it away. 

How does seasoning cast iron pots and pans work?

Apparently, heating the cast iron opens small holes, or pores, in its surface.  These pores collect and trap the oil as it cools and contracts, making it act as a non-stick surface the next time you use it.  And if you do not do this, the cast iron may rust. But you can restore even a rusty pan with some elbow grease and a new seasoning.

Don’t let the need to season your cast iron cookware after each use intimidate you. It is easy to do once you get in the habit.  Besides, a cast iron skillet usually comes with instructions on how to season it before the first use.  And there are lots of videos online as to how to do it.

Thus, with the right treatment, your cast iron has a potential to become your favorite safe non-stick cookware.  Based on experience, I can say that non-stick cast iron is perfect for pancakes and other potentially sticky food.  After a couple of months, our cast iron skillet became non-stick.

Is cast iron safe?  It depends

Cast iron safety is a moot point.  First of all, cast iron leaches iron into food during the cooking process.  Thus, studies show that the amount of iron varies from 1.7 mg per 100 g to 26 mg per 100 g.  In addition, acidic foods, high moisture content, and the long duration of cooking increase the release of iron significantly. Therefore, not to overdose on iron, it is best not to use it frequently or at all for acidic food that requires long cooking time, such as tomato sauce.

Can iron cause harm to our health?

On the one hand, iron is a necessary substance for our health.  Therefore, cast iron cookware may help with iron deficiency when the diet is poor in iron or when the iron does not absorb well.  Clearly, we should not consider this safe non-stick cookware the only source of iron, though. 

On the other hand, too much iron is toxic.  Accumulating too much iron can be due to a genetic disease called hemochromatosis.  But many people do not know they have this disease.  In fact, symptoms of iron overload can be very few, or can include joint pain, fatigue, general weakness, weight loss, and stomach pain.

So, how much iron do we need?

Basically, the amount of iron we need daily depends on age, gender, and whether a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding.  That is to say, the range is between 7 mg to 27 mg daily. And pregnant women need the highest amount.  For more details, please visit here.

Therefore, I recommend that you determine your iron needs before making cast iron pots and pans your primary cookware and use it accordingly.

You can do that by asking your doctor for some blood tests.  For example, Myrto Ashe, MD, MPH, IFMCP, who reviewed this post, recommends getting both a ferritin level and a serum iron and TIBC (total iron binding capacity).  The ferritin is a measure of iron storage, but it is also a measure of inflammation and insulin resistance.  Thus, the ratio of iron divided by TIBC gives you the information you really need.  When the ratio is too low, there is likely iron deficiency.  When the ratio is too high, there is iron overload.  How high is too high?  There is a debate: 35% is safe, 40% less so, 45% probably too high.  When the ratio is too high, the protein that carries iron is a bit overwhelmed.  It drops iron in various places in the body, which is harmful as it causes oxidative stress.

Sonja Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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Nutritional Information

Cast Iron-Braised Chicken and Tomatoes Servings Per Recipe: 4 Calories: 425 % Daily Value * protein : 27.9g 56 % carbohydrates : 31.9g 10 % dietary fiber : 2.2g 9 % sugars : 4.5g fat : 20.1g 31 % saturated fat : 3.2g 16 % cholesterol : 64.6mg 22 % vitamin a iu : 190.9IU 4 % niacin equivalents : 18.4mg 142 % vitamin b6 : 0.5mg 32 % vitamin c : 9.4mg 16 % folate : 68.9mcg 17 % calcium : 55.1mg 6 % iron : 3.6mg 20 % magnesium : 43.1mg 15 % potassium : 465.9mg 13 % sodium : 461.2mg 18 % thiamin : 0.4mg 35 % calories from fat : 181 * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. ** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data. (-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption. Powered by the ESHA Research Database © 2018, ESHA Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved

To sum up

Cast iron is a fantastic tool for cooking. It heats and cooks food evenly, and is perfect for stewing, braising, and searing food. It’s versatile and easy to maintain.

Remember that to get the most out of your cast iron cookware, you should always heat it up before use. You should avoid cooking with acidic foods, vinegar, strong seasoning, eggs, pancakes, desserts, and delicate fish in your cast iron cookware.

Hopefully, this guide will have helped you understand how to care for cast iron properly, but if you are still feeling a little less than confident, don’t panic.

Cast iron is a fairly sturdy tool, so don’t be afraid to use it! Most of all, be patient with your skillet. It takes time to get it perfectly seasoned and to learn how to properly use it, but once you do you’ll be wishing you’d had one sooner.

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