At one time or another home chefs hear the family lore about cast iron skillets.How sturdy they were, how they could could everything from eggs to cornbread. It leaves the modern cook, used to Teflon coated ones, with some envy. Luckily this American classic is coming back big time.
Julia Moskin wrote about them in today's New York York Times Food section. Many home chefs as well as professional ones are falling in love with this leftover from the 18th Century and with good reason. They are versatile and can be used to cook up everything from breakfast to dessert.Another reason is that cast iron is a better conductor of heat than the more modern stainless steel and aluminum.It keep the food cooked in it hotter long after the heat below has been turned off. Home chefs looking to buy one should be warned. Don't be lured by price. Yes, Wal-Mart offers one for only sixteen dollars - which is a true bargain but it's not that great. Opt for the more costly Finex ten inch skillet which sells for $165 or the pricier Borough Furnace skillet at $250. For fifty dollars more home chefs can get the Field one.Home chefs should remember that the more expensive ones are made the same with old fashioned craftsmanship. From the 1700's on skillets were hand poured and polished . The end result was a thinner , lighter skillet with a smooth cooking surface, attributes that the modern ones such as the Wal-Mart Lodge one doesn't have.The new pans do come preseasoned, something that had to be done at home with earlier ones
Many home chefs have a problem with preseasoning and tempering, according to Ms. Moskin Each of the skillet makers have their own preferred system of cleaning and reseasoning.The advice is simple: treat the pan as a 19th Century cook would.Just simple cooking and cleaning will season it.Skillets had natural coatings formed by cooking with fat and bonding the fat molecules to the pan's surface.She recommends using the pan often for projects like shallow frying, cooking bacon or frying chicken.Afterwards, scrape the surface clean with a stiff brush, a bench scraper, a kind of chopper, or just salt. Rinse with very hot water and if needed a drop of soap. Put it back on the stove over a low heat until completely dry, This is what makes the patina.Keep in mind though that if the pan is unused for a long time , the coating will become sticky, rusty or even both, Store skillets in the cupboard or better yet the oven to protect them from dust. If there are a stack of them, then place paper towels between them.Cast iron will last decades if treated properly, and makes a great legacy gift for anyone
An old fashioned cast iron skillet is a modern kitchen must have. It can fry ,bake and saute along with lasting for decades. Forget all these Teflon coated pans. Get the real deal!