American Partisan: Cast Iron

NC Scout has a nice article on Cast Iron over at American Partisan. Besides the utility and aesthetic of a lovely cast iron piece of cookware, cast iron skillets excel at providing constant, high heat for things like browning large cuts of meat, making cornbread, and shallow frying. Too high of heat, though, can damage the seasoning on a cast iron skillet, but you can keep an unseasoned pan around for extra-high heat frying.

The cornerstone of any survivalist, prepper or primitive living-type kitchen is a healthy rack of cast iron. Once nearly extinct in the late 20th Century, cast iron is experiencing a rapid and very welcome resurgence amid people slowly but surely rejecting modernism in lieu of a simpler and more sustainable life. But re-learning the ways of yore comes with challenges. Cast Iron is not plug and play; it takes a bit of care and preparations in order to gain the best results and in the case of grinders, not damage the tools themselves.

As stated, these are things that used to be common knowledge. In my relatively brief life, luckily I learned the value of great living that I would later come to know as Survivalism early on. Sadly those Depression-era vessels of knowledge are dying off, and only a fraction of our current population seem to retain what’s being lost. Regardless, let’s do our part to spread the knowledge- it’s coming back and its certainly a welcome sight among modern ‘wonder kitchen wear’ which feature unnatural and potentially dangerous chemicals when compared to simple iron with a lard cure.

Cast Iron requires a decent amount of attention before being used, but once done properly, will last your lifetime and most likely that of your kids, probably longer. I’m not a fan of “non-stick” junk or tools that otherwise are meant to be used for a while then thrown away. Aside from being potentially dangerous, they typically don’t hold up long when used anywhere other than a home kitchen. To me, it’s a waste of resources and promotes materialism. Cast Iron in many places is considered a family heirloom- often times at least one generation old. Today’s households are having to often buy new as they’re rediscovering the value of Cast Iron cookware. Every family should have at a minimum one Large Pan, one Small Pan and a Dutch Oven. The Large Pan for general purpose frying, the Small for smaller meals or making cornbread, and the Dutch Oven for deep frying, cooking chicken, pot roasts, etc, or making huge pots of chili or stew in the winter.

If buying new- buy American! Lodge still makes products in the US, and is the only one that I know of that does. One annoying thing that they do is ship their pieces with a non-stick coating, which in my experience turns into a mess after a while. Remove this by soaking the pan in hot soapy water and scrubbing, then allowing to air dry. Once done you’re left with bare metal and a generally rough casting. I use an orbital sander to smooth this out. Once done get a can of Crisco or even better, Lard, and liberally coat the iron. Set the oven to the self clean mode if you have it, or 450 deg, and bake the pan upside down for an hour. Put a drip rack underneath the pan to stop any drippings from falling on the heating element. This process will stink. Make sure you open a window.

rusty.jpegIf finding one used, sometimes a great bargain can be found if not in a good condition, such as a rusty one seen here. The easiest way to clean them, as I did two very old belted kettles I inherited, is to first  rough the rust up with course sand paper, then soak them in a cola and lime juice mix. The acidity of the liquid will remove the rust after a few days. Allow it to dry, then go through the seasoning process I detailed above. You’ll have a perfectly serviceable piece of cast iron made new once again to last a lifetime.

While using, keep in mind that cast iron is different from modern pans; they heat up slow, and hold that heat for a long time. You also don’t need as much heat in order to fry. Most of the time medium heat works just fine. Regular maintenance is pretty simple; rub it down with vegetable oil every once in a while, and the seasoning will stay fresh. Do not wash the pans. Wipe them down to clean them…

Finish reading this article at American Partisan by clicking here.