Saturday, May 2, 2015

cast iron skillet: first try

Last year I bought an old cast iron skillet from a friend of mine.  She was having an estate sale and I got first dibs on stuff.  The basement was a treasure trove; her dad was a collector.  Hiding in the back corner I found a rusty old cast iron skillet.  I'd always heard from my parents how great cast iron is to cook with, so I decided to snag it.

It's been sitting under my outside grill all year long (I don't always get to things right away) and I finally decided to bring it in and try to use it.  To be honest, the idea of using and caring for cast iron was a little scary to me.  I'm not known for keeping up with maintenance.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a before picture showing all the rust and debris, but it was pretty run-down. Anyone who owns a really old cast iron pan likely knows how bad they can look when they rust.  I Googled how to clean and season a cat iron pan and found some good instructions.  So, I scoured it, scrubbed it, rinsed, dried, and seasoned it - twice.  This is the result.  The bottom still feels like it has crud on it, but it's baked in and I can't really see it so that's fine for now.

This is the skillet, with lid, after seasoning.

Skillet after seasoning.  Probably could have used more scrubbing before the seasoning, but figured I'd try it out like this.

The pan was sitting, cleaned and seasoned, on my stove for the last week so today I decided to try it out by making fried eggs.  I was pretty nervous about it.  By all accounts cast iron can be finicky if you don't clean it, season it, heat it and use it properly.  But I'm usually good at experimenting so I went for it.

I heated the pan on medium heat (I have propane, very hot!) for about 3 minutes without the butter.  I tested the heat by flicking some water on the surface.  When it danced, it was ready for butter.  I used about a tablespoon.

Egg #1. So far, so good.  Looks pretty!  Added salt and pepper.  Next time I will add it to the pan before the egg.  That's what the Great Internets say, anyway.

Flipped the baby over.  Still looks good.  Have to say, the grease popping scared the shit out of me.  I was trying to stand far back while still being able to reach the skillet to flip the egg.


Egg #2.  Looks prettier than the first one.

Flipped it over...oops.  Broken yolk.  And it stuck to the pan a bit.  Next time I will add more butter to the pan for the second egg, or cook them together.  I cooked them separately so I could get comfy with the concept of cast iron.

Not a work of art, but the eggs look decent and the pan isn't a hot mess like I thought it would be.  The taste?  Better than eggs fried in a regular skillet and I loved the crispy edges.

The dirty pan.  Not too bad, huh?!  Just a bit of browned egg in the bottom and that's it.  

I cleaned the pan by scouring with kosher salt.  I rinsed the pan, dried it, heated it on the stove to completely dry it, wiped it with a bit of oil, then heated it again to start developing the seasoning layers. I have to say, it seems really strange to "clean" a pan with salt and oil.  But I will trust everyone that says this is the way to do it.

And it's clean again. Looks good!  Actually, I noticed it looks better than when I started.

Lessons learned:

  • Either add more grease to the pan in between eggs, or just fry them together. Normally that's what I would do, but I wanted to try one at a time so I don't ruin TWO.
  • Make sure the pan is good and hot before putting the food in; it takes longer to heat cast iron.  I did this correctly, but thought I'd throw this in here.
  • Wear an apron when cooking butter in a screaming hot pan!

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