No matter how many high-tech cooking gadgets manage to take up our countertops (and take-home pay), nothing will ever replace the OG of the kitchen: an old-fashioned cast-iron pan. And, hey, even if you don't know how to cook with it quite yet, simply owning one somehow manages to give your stovetop a little bit of extra credibility.
But for as long as we've been cooking with these sturdy pots and pans, there have always been the fearmongers — we're looking at you, Grandma — who spread those alarming dos and don'ts of proper usage. Well, it's high time we debunk six of their most common myths about using the most trusty kitchen tool of all.
Myth #1: You have to go through multiple rounds of seasoning
Many guides will have you repeat the lengthy process of oiling your pan and seasoning it in an oven three to four times. It's not a bad idea if you're being extra cautious, but simply using your pan on a day-to-day basis will naturally continue to build up a layer of seasoning over time.
Myth #2: You can't use soap to wash your pan
No, using soap won't wash away the precious seasoning you've worked so hard to build up. That magical layer isn't just any old oil that will dissolve in a bath of citrus-scented suds, but polymerized fat that's chemically bonded to the surface. So go ahead: Break out the double-sided sponge and clean to your heart's content. (Just make sure you dry your cookware thoroughly after it's been washed. It also doesn't hurt to rub on a thin film of oil afterward to keep it from rusting.)
Myth #3: You shouldn't cook acidic foods in cast iron
You shouldn't dump vinegar into an unseasoned skillet that's straight out of the box, but everyday acidic foods, like citrus, tomato sauces, and wine, will rarely cause a strong enough reaction to leave you worried about off-metallic flavors. This thing's a boss, remember?
Myth #4: You have to stick with wooden utensils
Again, the polymerized oil that makes up your cookware's seasoning is highly resilient stuff. This doesn't mean you should use a knife to scrape off any burnt bits, but when it comes to using metal tongs and wire whisks, don't hold back.
Myth #5: Delicate foods will stick to cast iron
As long as it's well oiled and properly preheated, cast iron has no problem letting go of stickier foods. Go ahead: Fry up those yolky sunny-side ups and flaky fish fillets.
Myth #6: Cast iron heats very evenly
One of the (very) few things these pans aren't good at is heating evenly. You might notice cooler areas mixed in with hot spots while you're cooking. What these dense, heavy tools are excellent at, however, is radiating and holding onto heat, which is why they're our go-to choice for a crispy, golden sear. Leave the delicate custard making for an aluminum saucepan.
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