Cooking with cast iron pans can be tricky. They're heavy and rust easily. But they last forever (if properly treated) and also retain heat longer, making them an ideal pan to keep food warm. That's why people love them. But a quick Internet search on how to correctly cook and clean these pans turns up loads of contradictory information.
Some say to always clean the pan with soap and others say soap will be the death of your pan. Or perhaps you've been told cooking with a cast iron pan is a good way to absorb iron, however, there are those who believe that the frying pan will add unwanted metals into your food.
It's time to put these myths to rest. FoxNews.com consulted certified master chef, David Kellaway, managing director of the Culinary Institute of America's San Antonio campus to finally set the record straight.
Myth or Fact: Cleaning With Soap Ruins the Pan
Chef Kellaway says to pick your battles when it comes to washing your pan with soap. "You can wash it with soap if you had a particularly messy sticky cooking session," he said. "But you need to re-season immediately. Get it as clean as you can, dry it, coat it with oil inside and out and then bake it at 350 degrees for an hour and a half or so."
Seasoning prevents the pan from rusting, which can occur if the pan is left slightly wet overnight.
Myth or Fact: Metal Utensils Scratch the Surface
I remember my mom telling me wooden spoons are the only way to go so you won’t damage the pan's surface. But after all these years, it turns out it has nothing to do with the pan's surface. "A cast iron pan that you’ve been using on a regular basis with some hot water washing and thorough drying will overtime build up from the cooking process a very thin layer of carbon," explained Chef Kellaway. "If you then are in the habit of using metal utensils and you begin scraping the bottom of the pan, the thin layer of carbon gets scratched up into the food."
While the carbon layer is not harmful or toxic, it will discolor your food. Wooden or silicone utensils are preferable.
Myth or Fact: Cast Iron Pans Heat Evenly
Cast iron pans are excellent heat conductors, thereby making them ideal for cooking. The belief is that it might not distribute as evenly as an aluminum pan of the same size, but not so says Kellaway.
"Cast iron distributes heat very nicely," said Chef Kellaway. "It's not used commercially because of the weight and the care required to keep them clean without rusting."
Myth or Fact: Once Rust Appears, it's Time to Throw it Out
If rust begins to form in your pan, do not throw it out! Chef Kellaway says to simply start at square one.
"Scour it with a Brillo pad and wipe it with some dense shortening and allow it to get hot. Once it's cool, wipe off the grease and repeat this process until your pan is rust-free."
While your pan may not be as good as new, Chef Kellaway says when it comes to cast iron pans, "well used" is what to be expected.
Myth or Fact: Cooking With a Cast Iron Pan Gives You Nutrients
"I don’t have lab data on that but I think that if all of your hot food was prepared in hot iron pan that might be true," he said. "But since people don't use the pan all the time, the amount of iron you would get is so minimal."
Now that that's all settled, get out your cast iron pan and start cooking!