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Cast-Iron Cookware: The More You Use It, the Better It Gets

Cookware made of cast iron is beloved around the world for several reasons. When a cast-iron pan or Dutch oven is heated to the desired temperature, the cookware retains and distributes heat evenly. Cast-iron pieces are extremely durable and last for many generations, which make them excellent gifts and heirloom pieces.
Another benefit of cast-iron is the low technology required to create cast-iron cookware. The earliest cast-iron implements date back 2,000 years. Manufacturers have refined the basic processes to create smooth-surfaced cast-iron cookware in a variety of designs.
Cast iron is a great material for hunters, campers, and preppers. Select and care for your new cast-iron cookware by following the tips below.

Choose From Pre-Seasoned and Raw Cast-Iron Cookware 

Select pre-seasoned cast-iron cookware pieces if you intend to use them right away. You should still rinse the pre-seasoned pieces before using them for meals.
If you buy raw cast-iron cookware, you'll need to season the pots, pans, and lids yourself. First, clean each piece completely with mild detergent and water. Rinse cookware well and allow it to completely air dry. Once the cookware is dry, it's ready for seasoning.

Choose Your Method of Seasoning

"Seasoning" is simply applying a light coating of oil to the surface of the cast iron. There are various schools of thought on the proper way to season a cast-iron piece. One thing is certain: without seasoning, your cast iron will rust and degrade.
When your cast-iron cookware is thoroughly dry, coat the entire piece with a non-savory oil like canola or corn oil. Some people prefer to wipe away the excess oil and let the piece sit for a bit. They allow the finish to develop as the piece cooks their meals. 
Other people bake the lightly oiled cast-iron pieces for an hour or longer at a low oven temperature. Repeated cooking after this step helps the coating polymerize, since the fats and oils in various dishes "season" the surface of the cast iron with every use.

Keep the Seasoning in Good Shape

Some people claim you should never use water or soap on dirty cast iron cookware. They believe water ruins the seasoning. It's true that you should never pour cold water into a hot cast-iron pan, because it may crack (the same way glass cracks under temperature extremes.) 
You can use hot water in a hot cast-iron pan to swish out food particles. You can even use a small bit of soap for stubborn, stuck-on globs if you worry about germs.
The important thing is to rinse any soap completely away. Thoroughly air-dry or dry the piece with a towel before putting cast iron away. Some people place freshly washed cast-iron cookware into a low-heated oven to quick-dry the finish after washing.

Understand the Limits of Cast-Iron Cookware

Cast iron is heavy. If you're constantly on the move, lugging all of your gear in a backpack, it's not the best material to choose.
The thickness of cast iron also means that heat is unevenly distributed when the pan is first exposed to flame, coals, or the stove element. Heat your cast-iron pan thoroughly to achieve an even temperature across the pan cooking surface. 
It's possible to sear, bake, and boil foods in a cast-iron pot or pan, but you must plan ahead. Practice heating up your cast-iron on the stove element if you can't have a campfire in the backyard. Make sure your pan is properly seasoned, then experiment with browning meat, making chili, and cooking up pancakes. Use what you learn in the kitchen out in the great outdoors.
As you practice, you learn how to tell when the surface of the cast-iron is at the optimum temperature for your needs. Your first pancakes and meat dishes may stick or char easily until the seasoning finish is a bit thicker. Keep cooking with your cast iron to develop the shiny, non-stick patina you desire.
Bargain Center is your source for cast-iron cookware and other camp-kitchen essentials. Stop in or give us a call today to discover the long-lasting, quality equipment we offer for campers and preppers.