Good morning! While we sit and see what Storm Eunice brings to the country, my thoughts turned to this most everyday object in my kitchen.
When I named my blog Quotidian it was with a certain sense of irony. That a term as grandiloquent as Quotidian could mean “pertaining to the everyday” tickled me. I love the word itself. I love how it feels to say it:
It rolls around in the mouth like a favourite food. Ummm…delicious.
So, here we are using the word to describe this cast iron skillet. I would guestimate that I use this pan in my kitchen very probably 365 time a year. Not necessarily every day but sometime more than once in a day, so it adds up. These pans are fairly cheap if you consider that, if well looked after, it might be the only one you need in a lifetime. You will hand it on to your children and they to theirs. It will become Grandma’s revered pan and stories will be told of the food cooked with love that it served up through the years.
Let’s go back to that little phrase “if well looked after”…..
As with any worthwhile relationship, a bit of care and attention needs to come from the owner to achieve the potential of this skillet.
I remember back when I was growing up our family had two of this type of frying pan. Mom had a deep one like mine but she also had one that was more like a griddle with less of a lip. I remember my parents washing them and drying them over a fire on the gas stove but they never explained to me about how to actually look after it. Or the whys involved with the routine. I washed it with soap one day and all hell broke out but STILL no one explained why that was a cast iron sin. I get ahead of myself…
When I went to college. I bought myself one of the first of the new generation of frying pan to use in my little bedsit. Church Street Market-Paddington. TEFLON. I was so pleased with my purchase. Nothing stuck to it and no oil was required. It did not take much use before it started to go the way of most Teflon and pretty soon I was picking bits of it out of my scrambled egg.
We started to learn that, just perhaps, Teflon wasn’t as clever as we first thought and improvements were made but each new generation still seemed to have the built in obsolescence that was the name of the retail game at the time.
The years rolled by. I had so many different frying pans- they peeled, warped, the plastic handle broke, melted or otherwise demolished itself…now all still somewhere in landfill, to remain much as they were when they broke, for hundreds of years to come. What a waste and all with my name on them.
Serendipity is my friend. It seems that just when I need information, along comes an article, a blog or a YouTube video that answers my need. I came across a strange little blog and video from a chap in America who was living as sustainable a lifestyle as he could make happen and he made a special video one day about how to look after a cast iron skillet. The usual instructions were there:
- Learn how to “season” it. (LOADS of info on the internet now)
- Try not to wash with soap as it can remove the “seasoning”
- Dry immediately over a heat source
- Never leave it with water in or stacked with other pans (mine hangs on a hook on the wall)
- Lightly oil it while warm to keep the seasoning going
The last but most important part of his instructions, to my mind, was his use of this missing companion tool-
a flat bottomed stainless steel spatula.
This tool needs to be utterly flat along its bottom edge but with gently curved corners. The flat part can safely scrape the skillet during cooking and before washing to move food around or off but not damage the seasoning on the surface. The rounded corners don’t cut into the surface in the way that a sharp cornered spatula might. I actually sent to America to get hold of the sort he recommended and used it FOR YEARS. The day it snapped from metal fatigue (15 years old?) was a sad day in my kitchen. I was so upset when I found they were no longer made that my dear husband spent about 2 hours online trying to find a replacement for it, which was a lot harder than you might imagine. He finally found this one:
The Sabatier Professional Large Metal Spatula
Good man! A happy wife in the kitchen means a full tummy for him at the end of the day in this household.
You can see in the first skillet picture what I mean by “well seasoned” – it looks pretty slick. I use no extra oil when I fry meat in it unless it is wanted for flavour. I get it hot first to sear the surfaces of what I am cooking and, if left long enough before attempting to turn, it rarely sticks. I fry eggs in it, no problems. It gets washed while warm , even if you need to either warm it for a few seconds on the stove or fill it with very hot water to soak for three minutes only. If it needs a scrape to loosen any stuck on bits, use the spatula. I use an old-fashioned stiff wooden brush on it to wash, then back on a low heat to dry completely before a polish with a bit of oil on a silicone brush or wee bit of paper towel.
That’s it. Ready to go again.
Yes, it’s heavy but heavy is good for cooking and helps it retain its heat for low, slow cooking. When I use it I remind myself that all the “experts” say we should be doing weightlifting exercises as we age and then have a few goes at picking it up with the other arm as well.
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