Cookware has been on my mind lately. I did a purge of the kitchen last week and tossed a number of items, beat up pots and extra lids, a plethora of burnt aluminum baking sheets, and some plastic mixing bowls. For years I have been replacing the plastic dishes in my kitchen in favor of glass and ceramic. Glass can be covered with sinful plastic cling wrap (which I stock and use at will), but in the fridge I most often cover glass storage bowls with a saucer, easily stacked and completely reusable. You won’t find plastic dishes or cups in my cupboards, except for a few tiny cups for toddler use. Yes, I am okay with poisoning my grandchildren in lieu of cleaning up shards of glass from broken wayward drinking glasses. I also kept a cast iron pizza pan and a baking stone with my cooking gear, both nontoxic.
A while back I found a stainless steel colander in a thrift store. It has a tall footed base and sturdy handles. Yet I hang on to a plastic colander for yogurt making purely because the angle of the sloped sides holds the straining cloth better, and it has no base so it fits nicely into a catch pan in the fridge.
My mother didn’t use nonstick pans but had aluminum and stainless steel, and a cast iron frying pan for eggs. I disliked scrubbing burnt pans and so after leaving home I used cheap nonstick aluminum, which needed replacement after one consumed all the Teflon flakes scraped off the interior of the pot. And although I have long known that Teflon is not the healthiest of cooking vessels (remember the stink of 1980s overheated polymers?) they have been the only type of pan I have cooked in my entire adult life until JB and I married.
JB’s kitchen was equipped with his preference for cast iron skillets. But for the first year of our marriage I wasn’t sold on cast iron for daily cooking and found it a nuisance to clean and store. His method of storage was leaving the pans on the stove top but later he built me a fantastic hanging rack, which is one of the best features of our current kitchen. I designated cast iron only steel mesh scrubbers at the kitchen sink, which eliminated greasy and odorous plastic scrubbers. Lately I have been using cast iron more of the time but some of my objections have remained.
For instance, I don’t like cooking eggs in cast iron because they turn gray from the seasoning grease. And although easy to scrub, our pans don’t have that Teflon equivalent patina despite my using them almost daily. JB swears by immediate scrubbing after use, but I dislike the mist of grease that coats the sink and back splash from water hitting a still hot pan. Nor do I espouse the “wipe out with a paper towel and salt” line of thinking, which seems to be a great way to consume particles of past meals. Some call that flavor, I call it residue.
I’ve been researching why the cast iron pans are not performing up to snuff, and I believe it is user error. And I’m the user who is in error, needing better post cooking procedures.
I didn’t know that if a cast iron pan rusts after washing (which ours are doing) that indicates inadequate seasoning, which in turn promotes food sticking, which requires heavy scrubbing, which removes more of the seasoning. I also thought that seasoning equated to wiping the pan with oil after it has been washed and dried and warming it up a bit – incorrect according to my research. So I plan to properly season all of the cast iron in the oven with flaxseed oil, and I’m also going to do better with maintaining the seasoning with higher/longer heating after washing. I will also designate the smallest pan for eggs which means that this pan only can be wiped out and not scrubbed after use, which will hopefully keep eggs from turning gray.
I have cooked refried beans and chili in cast iron with varying degrees of success. The question of cooking tomato based foods in cast iron means that I probably need to invest in a pan that can handle long simmering of high acid foods without pitting. Like this.
So the gist of my writing today is to reconfirm my desire for reducing toxic cookware in the kitchen and attempt to properly season the cast iron. I will let you know how that goes.