I’m in the process of purging all my non-stick cookware (I also use stainless steel) and donating it to Goodwill because I just didn’t like the idea of using cookware that can be harmful to my health. I was aware that nonstick cookware had nasty chemicals in them and how it’s even worse if it’s scratched or heated too high but I just never cared enough to stop using them. It was only a few weeks ago when I decided to pull out my neglected Lodge cast iron skillet and start using it again. For months, maybe a year, it has been unused and left to rust slightly.
Why rust? Because I had NO idea how to use cast iron. I’ve owned a CI skillet years ago and when I moved to Oregon, I got another. Both instances I had no knowledge of CI other than seasoning it before using.
Now if any CI lovers happen to read this, you may cringe at what I’m about to write. I am shuddering at the thought of how clueless I was! Ok, so since I was completely clueless about CI, I used it the way I’d use any other pan and clean it like any other pan and when I say clean it, I mean use lots of soap and water and soak (even overnight on the really stubborn food bits) for long periods of time. It would rust continually. I didn’t know why so I just kept scrubbing off the rust with steel scrubby and re-season it. I had NO idea that you had to lightly oil the pan in between uses and that using excessive water is a big DON’T.
To be honest, I ONLY just learned about how to use/care/clean CI cookware when I cooked with it the aforementioned few weeks ago. I was cooking bacon and it stuck all over so I had to scrub and scrub to get the burned bits off. I was using too much heat because I didn’t know you can cook at a much lower temp with CI (Funny enough, I have a Le Creuset French over that suggests not to go past medium heat and I’ve always followed that rule with no problems and that’s enamel coated CI. Why didn’t I make the connection?!) After all the cleaning, I had to re -season it and that’s when I did research on how to care for CI. Boy, did I feel like a fool after all these years! (It’s not a coincidence I let the CI go unused; it was a pain in the ass to use –only because I was using it WRONG)
Anyway, fast forward to now, I’ve done much research and have acquired a few more CI pans from ebay and craigslist and have seasoned them (Reading about seasoning tips online is a major headache. Everyone has their own advice). I ultimately chose to follow Sheryl Canter’s method using flaxseed oil since I had some oil that had just gone past it’s freshness date. So far I’ve been using the Lodge skillet since I wanted to build up the seasoning on it after having treated it so badly. I like the idea of not using soap to clean it. There were a few times where I had to use hot water and a scrubby when I had stuck on egg bits (The eggs are a hit or miss for me). Usually I’ve been just wiping it down or using kosher salt/oil for things like stuck bits of bacon. To sum it all up, I liked reading about the love affair between a CI skillet and its owner. I want to start an affair of my own. They cherish the seasoning their CI has accumulated over the years and I want that too, besides I like to challenge myself. I did give up makeup shopping for Lent after all! (that was challenging!)
Today I finally wanted to give my newer CI a try and make cornbread in it to help season it further. The pan arrived unseasoned with little to no rust. It was on the gray side so I had seasoned it with about 4 layers using the flaxseed oil method mentioned earlier. I was getting tired of the process since it’s quite lengthy and costly (I wonder what the electricity bill is going to be this month? I was going at 500 F an hour each time) so I figured I’d start cooking in it as another way to season the pan. I used this recipe here which supposed to be a traditional Texan cornbread that has no sugar. I’ve always had sweet cornbread (or is it corncake at that point?) so I was curious to try a “savory” version.
The recipe was simple enough: grease (oil or bacon fat), salt, flour (though I’ve read in the comments that true Southern cornbread uses NO flour) baking powder, egg, buttermilk and cornmeal. I wanted to try this recipe by Pioneer Woman but I had no milk and wasn’t going to resort to almond milk.
The best part, it came out perfectly in the skillet. It even slid right off when I transferred it to plate. I don’t know if it was the grease that was in the mixture or the seasoning of the pan or both but I was beyond excited. I’m hoping I’ll get just as exciting results when I cook other things in it. I actually want to cook up some eggs and bacon but I’m here all alone and I already have a batch of cornbread to myself.
As far as taste goes, it has a really pronounced buttermilk flavor. It’s tangy and a little salty with a creamy corn flavor. Texture-wise it’s crumbly but it holds it shape. I didn’t achieve the signature crispy outer crust because when I poured the batter into the skillet, it didn’t sizzle because I forgot to heat the oil long enough after I’d poured it in. I cheated an added a bit of honey to one side of it and it was even better (maybe I’m just used to sweet cornbread!)
Next time, I’ll try the Pioneer Woman’s version (with milk, less buttermilk and less cornmeal) and bake it in this CI corn muffin pan that is shaped like ears of corn that I bought from a nice older lady on craigslist today. She was purging all her hand-me-down items from her parents/grandparents because she’s moving to Hawaii and out of the Portland rain for good.
pictures are clickable!
I inverted it onto a plate and it fell right out!