Wednesday, December 07, 2005

EXTRA! Bittman Washes His Pan!

The Minimalist cooks with cast iron in today's food news. I got a smug feeling upon learning that he's a newcomer to the ways of the Lodge. (What kind of loser am I to be all excited that I've been cooking with cast iron for, oh, three whole years longer than the famous cookbook author?)

But this part made me throw my virtual newspaper across the room:
Despite many recommendations to the contrary, a little mild soap won't tear off the seasoning.
I went bananas not because I disagree. How do I know what a little mild soap will do to a cast iron skillet? Have I ever let mild soap anywhere near my cast iron? Good God no. What made me mad is that I never tried just washing the damn thing. Such a simple notion yet it never entered my mind. And just when I thought I was a step ahead of Bittman, it became all too clear that he's still the king and I'm still his humble subject.

UPDATE: Tigers & Strawberries instructs on the proper care of cast iron cookware. (The gist of it: Washing=good. Washing with the dishwashing detergent most people keep by their kitchen sinks=bad.)

AND: Somehow this Bittman column was the Times's most e-mailed story earlier today. Food articles make it that high not infrequently but I can't remember the last time a Minimalist column had that honor.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Barbara Fisher said...

Bittman is right--a little mild soap once or twice won't hurt the cast iron, but if you do it a lot--it will.

I have been cooking with cast iron forever. My whole life. Been watching others pass pans down from generation to generation--and none of us use soap unless we absolutely have to.

And really, it is better that way. What good does the soap really do? Not a lot.

It might remove excess grease, but if you clean the pan right away in the first place, all you need is water.

Maybe I will blog on the issue, because I disagree with Bittman, and I think just about any Southerner who has cooked in the same cast iron pans forever would, too.

1:00 PM  
Blogger zp said...

I think the first hot meal I ever cooked for myself was a grilled cheese sandwich, which I cooked in a cast iron pan. However, now that I've left my parents house, the cast iron thing seems a little too high maintainence. Besides, everything I cook has lemon, tomato or wine in it. Except grilled cheeses.

You know, mzn, now that I've introduced you to Mantooth (and introduced juniper pearl to emdashes) I'm feeling like quite the Yenta and I think I'll hazard this (and this goes for all the literate foodies who visit you too) - you might want to check out Toast.

She's one of my links listed under Pittsburgh food blogs in my sidebar . . . She's a careful cook, she cooks for one (which is so rad), I think she calls attention to the fact that she's at the high end of the blogger age spectrum (which is also very glamourous), and I can easily read her posts all the way through, even though they are long, because they are so well written. She does a lot of very old fashioned dishes but with a light touch and it seems like she's lived in some interesting places (Greece?) . . . Ok, if that isn't enough to intrigue, I don't know what will.

Or maybe you have enough food blogs on your plate. It sort of seems like it.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Luisa said...

I read this article and promptly went to my wishlist on Amazon and deleted the expensive nonstick pan I'd been wishing for. Cast-iron it will be. My question is, since you seem to know a bit about this stuff is, what if you cook something like oily fish in the cast-iron? Can you use that same pan to make eggs or upside down cake or something you don't want tasting of fish? or do you need a fish cast-iron pan and one for everything else? Thanks for any and all input!

2:01 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

I hope you do blog about it Barbara. I would love to know more about your cast iron techniques.

zp: I have given Toast the once-over and can vouch that it's the real deal. Everyone should go help themselves to some Toast. And hey, thanks for complimenting my readers. (As for "enough food blogs on my plate," probably true but I'll take everything in moderation including moderation and I didn't come up with that up myself.)

Luisa: I like nonstick pans for some tasks, like cooking eggs and, indeed, fish. I've never used cast iron for cooking fish, actually, so I don't think I'm competent to answer your question. Barbara probably can. I can tell you, though, that I use the same 8-inch cast iron pan for cooking steaks and hamburgers, baking corn bread, and caramelizing apples for tarte tatin. I've never noticed a flavor lingering from one use to the next. You do clean cast iron, you just don't wash it with soap in the sink.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Thanks, mzn, very helpful!

4:32 PM  

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