Sunday, May 24, 2009

ECO ACTION: Cast-Iron Skillet

Yesterday, I scored a sturdy 10-inch cast-iron skillet at a yard sale for only $2.

I'm planning to replace all my current non-stick pans (the coating is a kind of plastic) with well seasoned, previously own cast-iron ones.  Non-stick coatings have been shown end up in the food we cook, then stored in the body where they potentially can have undesirable health effects.  You can read more here and also here.

When I got the new-to-me skillet home yesterday, B commented that it still had a crusty layer of 20-year-old eggs cooked onto the bottom.  I think he's right.  Someone probably got frustrated with the necessity of hand washing the pan, gave up and put it away unwashed.

For a savings of $16 over the cost of a new cast-iron skillet, I could put the time into reclaiming this one.  So this morning I set about cleaning and re-seasoning it.

First, I used a forbidden Brillo pad and some scouring powder to remove the offending eggs and who knows what else.  Followed this with a paste of baking soda and dish soap allowed to sit for a while, then much rinsing, wiping, scraping, and rewashing.  Maybe 30 minutes total, hands on.  By the time I was done no trace of the original funky smells or sticky, greasy scum layer remained.

Once the pan is seasoned again I'll wash it much more gently, using only hot water to rinse and a towel to wipe, scraping if necessary, but no abrasives and no soap.

Next, I used the skillet to cooked some bacon.  Bacon grease is supposed to be the best for seasoning a cast-iron pan.  I rarely cook bacon, but when I do used a teflon coated, non-stick pan.  And I always burn the bacon.  This was the first time I'd cooked with cast-iron.  What a difference!  It heated very evenly.  The bacon turned out just like in the picture books.

I used the bacon drippings, as instructed, to rub over the surface of the skillet before placing it in a 300F oven (for 2 hours).  The goal is to form a naturally baked on non-stick black coating.

The skillet is in the oven now.

I think it's time to assemble some BLTs.

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