Cast iron is one of the most durable materials used to manufacture cookware. Skillets, pots and Dutch ovens made from cast iron can safely be used to cook over fireplaces, in the coals of campfires, in a pit filled with fire and hot rocks or in a conventional gas or electric oven.
Never take a cast iron pot or skillet from the refrigerator or freezer and place it into a hot oven or onto a hot stove burner, as this may cause the iron to crack or break. Let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature to let it warm up and remove the lid to prevent condensation inside the pot. Avoid placing a hot cast iron pot or pan into a refrigerator or freezer or into any temperature water. Prepare recipes with tomatoes, tomato-based products, citrus juices, wines, vinegars or other acidic ingredients in anodized aluminum, enamel-coated or stainless steel pots as they will ruin the non-stick surface of cast iron developed by seasoning the cookware.
Common Oven Uses
Use preheated cast iron griddles to sear steaks and chops on the stovetop, then finish them off in a hot oven for maximum flavor and juiciness. Roasting a whole chicken in a large iron skillet browns it evenly on all sides. Iron skillets are preferred to bake cornbread as their even-heating, non-stick surface creates a perfectly browned crust on the sides and bottom. Stew or pot roast can be cooked in the oven just as successfully as on a stovetop in a lidded, cast iron Dutch oven.
Cast Iron on the Stovetop
Whether you are preheating a cast iron grill pan or preparing an iron skillet to bake cornbread, place the vessel on the burner and turn the heat to medium low. Slowly increase the temperature until the pan reaches the desired level of heat. This heating method lets the heat slowly and evenly distribute throughout the pan, naturally preseasons the pan inside and out and maintains its non-stick surface.
Every time you cook with a cast iron pot, you reseason it because the food residue fills in the microscopic holes in the surface and makes it smoother and more stick-resistant. Never put cast iron cookware in a dishwasher as it will ruin the seasoning and make it rust. Cooking with cast iron in a microwave will ruin the oven as well as the pot or pan.