Written by Le Creuset Canada
Have you recently upgraded to enamelled cast iron cookware and don’t know how to get started? Cooking with this material can be tricky with a number of potential pitfalls, but we are here to help. Enamelled cast iron cookware has earned a reputation as a kitchen workhorse and is capable of tackling many of your favorite recipes, offering superior heat retention and exposing ingredients to a consistent heat source. From cast iron skillets to saucepans, these pieces of cookware are crafted with premium materials and are built to last daily usage.
Cast iron cookware is extremely durable, but needs to be properly taken care of. Le Creuset’s enamelled cast iron cookware has served as the benchmark for quality cookware for over a century, offering home cooks and chefs alike cookware they can rely on. This guide will help debunk some cast iron cooking myths and arm you with all the tips and tricks you need to know before you get cooking.
Here are eight cast iron cooking tips before you get started.
1. Preheat your pan before cooking
The first step to cooking with cast iron is to preheat the pan on low heat for about five minutes before starting to cook. This may seem relatively straightforward, however, misconceptions exist that cast iron cookware is an excellent heat conductor and can be used straight away. Rather, cast iron cookware is an excellent retainer of heat.
Consequently, it is important to let your cast iron skillet gradually heat up on low to moderate heat before beginning to cook. This will ensure that all ingredients are cooked evenly. This is an essential step before tackling many cooking techniques, including searing, frying, roasting, and baking. Once the cast iron skillet is preheated accordingly, add in cooking fats such as oil, butter, or sprays. This will also avoid sensitive ingredients from sticking to the pan while cooking.
2. Make sure food reaches a appropriate temperature before flipping food
Another common mistake home chefs make with cast iron cookware is flipping food before the ingredients are ready; this mistake can cost you a meal and will typically result in your food sticking to the surface of the pan or simply fall apart during the flip. Although it may seem like food is stuck to the surface, trust the process as the ingredient will release when it is ready to be flipped. Certain ingredients are more likely to stick to cast iron cookware than others, such as eggs, pancakes, or even a tender cut of fish where more caution needs to be exhibited.
To avoid this, simply make sure the food reaches the right temperature before attempting to flip ingredients. As we saw earlier, if cast iron cookware is not preheated appropriately, the final dish will be inconsistent. Flipping ingredients over a burner may look cool, but its purpose is to ensure food is cooked evenly. A little patience initially can go a long way with cast iron cookware and make flipping food a breeze.
3. You CAN cook acidic foods in your cast iron pan
Many myths exist about cooking with cast iron cookware, but arguably none bigger than the one surrounding acidic foods. Contrary to popular belief, you can cook acidic foods in your cast iron pan. The idea is that, over time, acidic ingredients, such as wine and tomatoes, will eventually loosen trace amounts of metal from the cast iron and release it into the food.
When cooking with these ingredients, it is important to ensure the cast iron pan is properly seasoned. In addition, avoid over-simmering when cooking with these acidic ingredients in cast iron.
Luckily, Le Creuset’s cast iron cookware does not need to be seasoned and already comes equipped with a protective layer of premium materials. In fact, le Creuset cookware is not raw, exposed cast iron, ensuring there is no need to worry about any types of ingredients having unfavourable directions to the metal. The enamel coating creates a thin barrier that not only helps with cooking, but also with cleaning. This allows you to simmer acidic sauces over lengthy periods of time with the minimum of fuss.
4. Use appropriate utensils for cooking
The next consideration to make when cooking with cast iron is which cooking utensils to use. Cast iron cookware is extremely durable, and with a bit of caution, almost any cooking utensil can be used. Typically, Le Creuset recommends silicone tools for the most convenient stirring and long-lasting surface protection. Wooden and heat-resistant tools can also be used without any fear of damaging the enamelled cast iron surface.
Metal utensils such as spoons, and balloon whisks can also be used on the cast iron surface, but require special care. These types of utensils should not scrape the surface of the pan and should not knock the rim of the pan. Handheld electric and battery-operated beaters, as well as knives and utensils with sharp edges should all be avoided when cooking with cast iron cookware. Lastly, never cut food directly inside the pan.
5. Avoid thermal shock
Cast iron cookware is extremely durable, but thermal shock is nonetheless a serious risk. Simply put, thermal shock is when cracking or warping occurs in cookware due to a rapid temperature change, typically going from extremely hot to cold. Consequently, it is important to cool your cast iron cookware for about five minutes before washing. If your dish has been subjected to freezing temperatures, on the other hand, allow it to slowly reach room temperature. Adding it to a hot oven could cause it to ultimately crack.
Cast iron cookware is an excellent retainer of heat, meaning it stays hot well after dinner is served. Putting a hot pan directly in cold water after being used could spell a recipe for disaster, with thermal shock occurring and causing the cracking or loss of the enamel. As a result, make a habit of washing cast iron cookware with hot water initially until it is completely cool.
6. Avoid abrasive cleaning agents
Cleaning cast iron cookware with the appropriate products will ensure your pan lasts for years to come. Avoid using abrasive cleaning agents when looking to remove residues or tough stains from the pan. If stubborn food residues remain, simply fill up the cast iron pan with warm water and let it soak between 15 and 20 minutes before washing. This will loosen it and make cleanup a sinch.
Typically, nylon and soft abrasive pads are recommended to clean cast iron cookware and keep the surface intact. Metallic pads and abrasive cleaning agents, on the other hand, could eventually damage the enamel and reduce the development of the natural patina. Dry-wiping the pan with a paper towel or cotton dish cloth may also do the trick depending on the ingredients used and could be done before using any cleaning agents. Finally, Le Creuset’s cookware cleaning kit is ideal for properly caring for enamelled cast iron.
7. Store it properly
Storing cast iron cookware properly may not seem like an important step, but it could make a world of difference in the long run. Before putting your cast iron cookware away, ensure it is completely dry. Storing this piece of cookware when it is still damp can result in rust forming on it over time. Even one drop of water can lead to rusting! Consequently, ensure your cast iron cookware is completely clean and dry before putting it away. Le Creuset’s enamelled cast iron, however, is rust-resistant due to its coating.
Finding the right place in your kitchen to store cast iron cookware is equally important. Typically, a dry cupboard or airy space is recommended. Some cast iron owners go one step further and wrap their cookware in paper towels to protect them, but this is not necessary if they are kept in a cool and dry place.
8. Le Creuset cast iron cookware does NOT need to be seasoned
The eighth and final cast iron cooking tip does not apply to all cast iron pans. Typically, most cast iron cookware needs to be properly seasoned before being used. Seasoning involves baking oil onto cast iron and is a simple yet effective process that prevents rust from forming. Le Creuset cast iron cookware, however, does not actually have to be seasoned as the raw cast iron is completely encased in an enamel coating already.
One of the advantages of cooking with cast iron is that, over time, a natural patina forms on the surface of the pan, creating an easy-release surface. This serves as a protective layer to cast iron cookware avoiding chipping and peeling. The patina only gets stronger over many uses and with careful washing.
Get cooking with your cast iron
Cast iron cookware is among the most durable cookware materials out there, but it still needs proper care. From storing in the right place, to ensuring it is completely dry, caring for cast iron cookware will ensure its durability and functionality for years to come. Cooking with cast iron poses challenges and pitfalls of its own, however, when mastered, this piece of material can help you tackle your favourite recipes in no time.
These were just eight of our cast iron cooking tips to help you get started in the kitchen, avoid common mistakes, and most importantly, debunk age-old cast iron cooking myths. For more information, visit our care and use section on cooking with enamelled cast iron cookware.