Great Article on Cooking

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cooking in Cast Iron
Learn how some heavy metal cookery can help you get healthy
Article By: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

Spring may officially be here, meaning it’s near time for that beloved grill to assume its rightful place on the patio. But what happens when it’s raining? Or worse yet, what if digging the grill out of the garage is a project you regularly procrastinate on? Cast-iron to the rescue!

This time of year, the grill can be a forlorn piece of machinery on the deck. Rain, sleet, or maybe even those last lingering flurries can a real downer when you want to cook out.

So are we guys sidelined until Memorial Day? Hold on there, Chuckwagon Pete. Don’t put out all the man fires. That’s right, there’s an old-fashioned kitchen tool that’s been part of a real man’s cooking kit ever since Wyatt Earp set foot on the frontier. It’s the cast-iron skillet: a guy’s salvation come winter.

What Is It?
It’s like the old camping cookware skillets, but revamped for more modern times. The ones your Dad used? Strictly analog. Go digital with the new ones that come in various sizes. We like the 10- or 12-inch models. If you’re feeding the crew, consider the 15-incher.

They’re all excellent conductors of heat—and marvels of nonstick efficiency. The surface of one of these babies is full of tiny holes and gashes, rough almost like sandpaper. That’s the good news. Those holes and gashes will eventually get filled in with rendered fat and meat bits. Call it nature’s nonstick.
How Does That Happen?
By cooking repeatedly in the thing, the way the old chuckwagon cooks did.
Cast Iron Grill Pans
You can even find cast-iron grill pans. They’ve got ridges for the perfect marks over the heat. Some of them are long, flat rectangles. One side’s the grill pan for burgers and chops; the other’s a griddle for flapjacks and bacon. Season and care for them in the same way you would a cast-iron skillet.
But first, a cast-iron skillet has to be seasoned. This isn’t a weeknight task. Put it on your list of Saturday chores.

Take the skillet out of its package, then preheat the oven to 300°F. Dab a little vegetable oil on a paper towel, then rub it all over the inside bottom and sides of the skillet. Place the thing in the oven for 1 hour. Cool it to room temperature, then repeat twice.

Now those holes and gashes are starting to get filled in with fat. You’re on your way to making a nonstick coating with nary a chemical coating in sight.

Which Means…
You never wash a seasoned cast iron with detergent (which will get lodged in the pores, making soapy steaks next time around) or steel wool (which rubs off that coating you worked so hard to create).

Instead, when you’re done cooking, pour coarse-grained or kosher salt into the skillet; use its graininess and a paper towel to rub off any baked-on bits under warm running water.

Afterwards, sterilize the skillet by setting it over high heat until it’s smoking hot, at least 5 minutes. This will also inhibit rust. Cool it on the stove until you can put it away.

Store cast-iron cookware uncovered so moisture doesn’t build up inside during humid weather.

Now You’re Ready to Cook
Get ready for the best steaks ever. First, preheat the oven to 400°F. Then heat that cast-iron skillet to smoking over medium-high heat. Rub a little oil on some strip steaks, then drop them in the skillet. Don’t touch them for 4 minutes. They’ll smoke and splatter. Turn, then shove that skillet into the oven. Keep roasting them until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of one steak registers about 140°F, maybe about 3 minutes per inch of thickness. Done: a good crust, a nice chew, and perfectly cooked. What more do you want?

Or forget steaks—and shoving things in the oven. Try hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, brats, tuna steaks, salmon burgers, or even marinated skirt steak for fajitas. The technique’s the same: Heat the skillet to smoking, then add the food. You may turn down the heat once you get a good sizzle, but you want to cook things quickly over fairly high heat. What’s the point in having a man tool in the kitchen if you can’t play with fire?

Or do dessert. Sear off pineapple slices, pitted peach quarters, or pitted plum halves. Put them in the skillet cut-side down for a minute or two, then serve them with dollops of lowfat yogurt or even frozen yogurt.

So get out that cast-iron pan. Your spring evenings will never be the same.


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