Friday, February 23, 2007

Cast iron!?!

As you all well know, I know jack about cooking.

Even less about cooking implements.

The other day, while meeting with the lovely sweet Umami, who took me to the most famous cookware shop in Paris, Dehillerin.

I went in with no intention of buying anything, having been put on a strict budget due to my sabbatical here. However, I couldn't resist the cast iron pan selling for an extremely reasonable 13 Euros.

The extremely camp and overly enthusiastic man who served us, warned us to coat the pan in a layer of oil and heat for about 10 minutes before using to "seal" the iron.

Which I did.

Then I fried up some bacon in order to use something with oil in it. I also obediently followed his instructions to put a tablespoon of salt and swirl around with a paper towel before wiping it off as opposed to washing it.

It looked awful. All blotchy and scratched but I ignored it, thinking it was right. Unfortunately, I cooked a stir fry in it which made it all sticky so I couldn't help but rinse it out, right?


It rusted straight away!

I immediately went online to find this: Cast Iron Jack McGrew's Ultimate Method For Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware.

Well, I thought, the man has Cast Iron in his name so surely he should be an expert, right?

So, I applied a bit of elbow grease and scrubbed and scrubbed until the rust was more or less gone. After which, I seasoned it lovingly with my fingers in olive oil and turned it upside down to air dried it for 5 days before putting it into the oven at gas mark 9 for 1 hour.

This is what it looks like now. All mottled in some bits. I remembered from the warning that it should turn black. Mine was black alright but only in certain spots. I decided to heed Cast Iron Jack's advice to do it again.

This time, I oiled and left for another 2 days and then once again, put it into the oven at gas mark 9 for 1 hour.

It still came out mottled but darker than previous attempts. As it was quite dark, almost black, I thought it worked.

However, the real test came when it was time to fry an egg. I heated the pan, put in a tablespoon of oil, swirling it around the pan, then cracked my egg in to fry. Well I still must have done something wrong because it still stuck. However, no matter, a scraping and a bit of paper tower with oil got most of the bits off. Now I just have to use it more often and fingers crossed, it has seasoned.
If anyone has any advice on this, would love to hear it!


umami said...

Hi sui mai, this is what we did with mine:
1. Heat it with oil for 20 minutes. Rinse. Leave to dry.
2. Next day, repeat step 1 but this time only 10 minutes. Did not bother with getting the pan to turn brown/black.It got a little greyer.
3. Start cooking- need to put a fine coat of oil but the foods we fried did not stick. Included guotie (postickers), fried eggs, grilled scallops and grilled salmon.
The pan has some mottled bits and some black patches, but the overall colour is just a few shades darker than the original grey. But it doesn't stick, maybe we are using more oil than you....We hope it will get darker with repeated use. After use we rinse with warm water +/- salt, no detergent at all.

So it sounds like yours is on the way to getting more and more seasoned. Good luck!

susan said...

Dear Jess,

Oh dear. I find eggs the hardest thing to cook in cast iron unless it's seasoned extremely well. I've never heard of the technique of air-drying cast iron pans, although I'm not saying it's wrong. I think you need to start fresh - scrub your pan really well, the re-season it. Heat it first, before oiling it. And don't use olive oil; try animal fat (lard, if you have it). When the pan is really hot, add the fat and rub it in with paper towels. Then heat until it's starting to smoke and turn off the fat and let it cool. Repeat a couple times - just work the fat into the hot pan over and over again.

Hope this works for you.


Sui Mai said...

Thank you both!!

I'm going to try cooking as much as I can in it and if it does not work after this week, I'm going to take your advice and try, try again!

Hing said...

Hi Sui Mai, I find that oiling it after use helps when its new. Its sorta like seasoning a wok - you have to keep oiling it until it gets that blackened coating and is fully seasoned.

I was too impatient, kept seasoning and reseasoning my cast iron frypan in the hopes of getting a perfect non-stick surface. The key is to chill and not obsess about food sticking. Eventually it'll get there.

ATB. Hing

Sui Mai said...

Thanks Hing.

Hmmm, its black now but I still don't think its perfectly non-stick. And it's been more than 6 months! It's getting there though...

*tries to chill gracefully*