After my grandmother passed away my mom and I went up to her vacant house to clear it out. There were not a lot of keepsakes left in the house by the time we got there, I did however; manage to find my grandmother’s well used cast iron pot. Having never owned or used a cast iron pot I quickly immersed myself in all the articles and tips on how to maintain a cast iron pot I could find. Some were rather complicated and some just downright weird.
It’s my belief that a cast iron pot or Dutch oven can be one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in your kitchen. You can use it to bake, cook, simmer, grill, just about anything. Proper care of a cast iron pot, skillet, or what-have-you is not tricky but it does seem to scare people away from using them. I must admit I was excited to have one in my possession but had not the slightest idea on how to use, or maintain one.
First things first, using soap on a seasoned cast iron pot will break down the seasoning. Number one rule, don’t use soap! That being said, please don’t put it in the dishwasher either. I’ve found that using hot water and a scotch brite pad on the stuck-on tough stuff works just fine. Second rule, cooking acidic foods like tomatoes can also break down the seasoning on the pot. So don’t do it unless it is well seasoned. If you do, make sure to re-season after.
Alright, so now that you have the first 2 rules down let’s tackle seasoning a brand spankin’ new cast iron pot. Let’s assume that you went down to your local hardware store and bought a cast iron pot. Give the pot a quick rinse and a light scrub. Make sure the pot and lid are completely dry. I usually towel dry then put the pot on the stove top and turn it on to low until it is completely dry. If you leave your pot wet it can rust.
You’ll need to decide what you are going to use to season, bacon grease, lard, Crisco, vegetable oil, peanut oil. Etc. I like to use bacon grease or Crisco to season my cast iron. Preheat your oven to 250 degress. Using an oil, like vegetable seems to leave a sticky feel to the pot. Take a paper towel, or if you don’t mind getting dirty your fingers. Get a fair amount of Crisco on your hand and start smearing it all over the pot, bottom, top, outside, inside, lid…. All of it. Try to get a consistent thin layer around the whole thing. Put the pot and lid in the oven, keep the lid separate from the pot. I’d let them bake for about 30-45 minutes. Some websites say 20 minutes, some say an hour, but I’ve never had a problem with somewhere between 30-45 minutes.
Every time you use your pan you will need to do a little maintenance. Just take your ‘season’ of choice and spread along the cooking surface, bottom and any other worn surface. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes at 250 degrees. Store your pot in a cool dry place. If you have a lid make sure that there is a gap to allow air to flow into the pot, if the lid is on the pot without a way for air to circulate moisture can collect and cause the pot to rust.
If your pan does get rust on it, use steel wool and scrub, scrub, scrub and then scrub some more. Make sure all the rust is gone and then re-season. As with the cast iron pot, this process works on cast iron skillets as well. Now that your cast iron pot is seasoned, trying cooking on it! Here is a recipe for pinto beans that I enjoy eating with some corn bread. Enjoy!
1 pound of pinto beans (2 cups)
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 C diced onion
1/4 C chopped canned jalapenos plus juice
1 ham hock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and sort your beans disgarding the bad beans. Soak the beans. Either with enough water to cover the beans and soak overnight or bring water to a boil, remove from heat and cover for one hour. Drain the beans and cover with 8 cups of fresh water, you can reserve a cup of the soaking water for taste if you like. Add garlic, onion, jalapenos, juice, cumin, chili powder, and ham hock. Bring pot to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer, stir occasionally. I usually cook for about an hour and a half. If the beans are not tender enough then keep cooking them until they are tender. Serve with your favorite corn bread and enjoy!