Even though heavy iron cookware was first brought to North America by the early settlers of New England, none appreciate the pots and pans like the cooks of the South. Every home cook has at least one well-seasoned skillet they couldn't imagine cooking without, and many have corn stick and muffin pans, grill pans, and larger kettles or Dutch ovens, all made of heavy cast iron.
One of the reasons heavy iron is so highly valued is its cooking properties. Heat is evenly distributed and held, making it ideal for deep frying, searing and even baking. The versatility of the iron pot or skillet is unrivaled; use it on the stove top, grill, or in the oven. If you're still not convinced, check the price. An iron skillet will cost under $10, a fraction of the price of a comparable heavy aluminum or stainless steel pan, and it should last a lifetime.
Heavy iron cookware does have its drawbacks. The pots are quite heavy, often requiring two hands to lift, and might not be an option for cooks with physical limitations. They can become rusty if not properly cared for and seasoned regularly, a big challenge for many people.
To season a new iron pot, wash with mild soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly, then coat the entire surface with oil or melted shortening, including outside and handles, and a lid if the pot has one. Once the entire surface is well-greased, place the pot in a 300° oven for about 30 minutes, with a baking sheet under it to catch any drips, then let it cool slightly; remove and wipe with paper towels. After each use, wash with mild soapy water and dry thoroughly, then add a little oil or melted fat to the pan and coat the inner surfaces completely.
If the pan ever begins to show signs of rusting or imparts a "metallic" taste, it will need to be reseasoned. Scour the pan well with steel wool and wash with soapy water. Rinse, dry thoroughly, then coat with shortening or oil and place in a 250° oven for about 2 hours. Wipe with paper towels to absorb any excess oil, and it's ready to use. Never put iron pots in the dishwasher.
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