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How to Care for Your Cast Iron
Every camper knows how important good cookware is when it comes to meal time. But how do you keep your camping cookware ready to go anytime you want to go on a trip? The answer is easy and it starts with a good finish.
Before applying a finish, one needs to understand the nature of cast iron. While cast iron is a weighty type of cookware, it does contain pores. The finish that is added to this cookware seals up those pores and prevents moisture from entering the metal and causing it to rust. But the finish that I refer to is one that is unique to cast iron and that is oil. While oil or fat is added to other pots and pans as lubrication, the oil for cast iron is used to lubricate but also as a protective finish.
But simply pouring oil into a skillet will not protect the finish. To do that, one must open up the pores of the metal to allow the oil to seep in and this requires heat. This whole process is called seasoning and begins with clean cast iron.
To clean ones cast iron, really only takes a dish brush and warm water. Once the pan has been cleaned, rub a thin layer of vegetable oil on both inside and outside surfaces. Set oven to 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lay a layer of foil in the bottom of the oven. This will catch any dripping oil. Once the oven has reached the temperature, place the pan in the oven upside down. This will prevent any pooling of oil inside the pot.
Cook for one hour and then turn the oven off. Leave the cookware in the oven until completely cooled. Once cooled, remove and store uncovered in a dry environment until needed.
When you are ready to use, place on cook stove or fire and cook with as required. After you are done with your cookware, remove all remaining food. If the container is still hot, place into plain, hot water and scrub. If there is a lot of stuck on food, place water into the pan, bring to a boil and boil until all the food has been loosened up. Once that has happened, remove from the heat, dump out the liquid and clean as described above.
If you insist on using dish soap due to your concern over food safety issues, make sure that the cast iron is completely cool before placing into the soapy water. Following this tip will prevent the soap from entering the pores of the metal and in doing so preventing your next meal from tasting like soap. Also, do not let your cookware sit in the water, this will encourage rusting.
Season your cookware at least once a year as a preventative measure and more often as you notice rusting or food sticking.
A well-seasoned pot will reward the camper with many taste meals and memories of times gone by.