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Caring for your Cast Iron Cookware

For hundreds of years, people have been cooking with iron cookware whether over an open fire or inside a fireplace. Every Southern home cook has at least one well-seasoned skillet they couldn't imagine cooking without, and many have corn stick and muffin pans, grill pans, and larger kettles or Dutch ovens, all made of heavy cast iron.

One of the reasons cast iron is so highly prized is its cooking properties. Heat is evenly distributed and held, making it ideal for deep frying, searing and even baking. The versatility of the iron pot or skillet is unrivaled; use it on the stove top, grill, or in the oven. It is perfect for today's outdoor kitchens with grills or outdoor fireplaces to cook like our ancestors - nothing makes a better tasting chili or baked beans! And when camping, nestle a cast iron potjie pot into your hot coals and enjoy a true feast!

Of course cast iron cookware does have its drawbacks. The pots are quite heavy, often requiring two hands to lift (and multiple people for the large pots!), and might not be an option for cooks with physical limitations. They can become rusty if not properly cared for and seasoned regularly, a big challenge for many people. But cast iron cookware properly cared for can be passed down several generations!

To season a new iron pot, wash with mild soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly, then coat the entire surface with oil or melted shortening, including outside and handles, and a lid if the pot has one. Once the entire surface is well-greased, place the pot in a 300° oven for about 30 minutes, with a baking sheet under it to catch any drips, then let it cool slightly; remove and wipe with paper towels to remove excess oil. After each use, wash with mild soapy water and dry thoroughly, then add a little oil or melted fat to the pan and coat the inner surfaces completely. All our cast iron pots are pre-seasoned at the factory so a quick wash with warm water and wipe with oil will make it cooking ready.

If the pan ever begins to show signs of rusting or imparts a "metallic" taste, it will need to be reseasoned. First scour the pan well with steel wool and wash with soapy water. Rinse, dry thoroughly, then coat with shortening or oil and place in a 250° oven for about 2 hours. Wipe with paper towels to absorb any excess oil, and it's ready to use. Never put iron pots in the dishwasher.

When storing your cast iron cookware, put a clean papertowel or dishrag in it to absorb any oils it releases in storage.