KITCHEN TIP OF THE DAY: CLEANING CAST IRON

castironWe’ve all made the mistake: after using a cast iron skillet, we let it sit, with the good intentions of enjoying our food while the food is still hot.  Instead, perhaps we should have let the food rest a minute or so- about the amount of time it would take to clean the skillet while still warm.  Or, even worse, we’ve let our skillet and stuck-on food bits soak in water overnight with the hopes that somehow it might look better in the morning.  Instead, what we awake to find is our once well-seasoned old faithful skillet now covered with a newly formed rusty patina.  The easiest way to deal with this situation is to prevent it from happening by actually clean the skillet while it’s still warm.  Follow the steps below:

1.  While the skillet is still hot or warm, carefully transfer to your sink.

2.  Wash the skillet with warm to hot water, a stiff brush, sponge, or wash cloth.  You want to avoid using soaps or steel wool as this will remove the skillet’s seasoning.

3.  For stuck-on food, try using a paste made from kosher salt and water.  Only a small amount is needed.  Remember, any abrasive substance used will strip the seasoning, so use sparingly.

4.  Once all the food particles are removed, rinse the skillet and wipe well with a dish towel.  Some people like to return the skillet to the burner and heating it shortly to ensure all water evaporates.

5.  With a paper towel, wipe the interior and exterior of the skillet with a bit of oil.

6.  Store the cast iron in a dry place.  If stacking something on top of the skillet, some people like to place a paper towel inside of the skillet to prevent moisture from being caught there.

KITCHEN TIP OF THE DAY: REMEMBERING MAILLARD- NATURE’S NON-STICK

MaillardThe Maillard reaction is one of the most convenient and flavorful effects of introducing heat to proteins.   During this process, as the amino acids found within meats are introduced to heat, they begin to denature and rearrange themselves.  This not only causes meats to brown on their surfaces, but creates wonderful savory flavors and aromas.  In my mind, though, one of the most beneficial aspects of this reaction is that it has a built-in non-stick effect.  Whether one is cooking on a grill, or in a saute pan, the Maillard reaction will occur if one allows it to.  When the protein is allowed enough contact with the surface of the grill, or the pan, it will eventually release on its own and can then easily be turned over without sticking to that surface.  This is important, as flavor can be lost if the browned portion of the protein ends up stuck to the cooking surface rather than the meat itself.

grillchicken
So, how can one tell if the Maillard reaction has sufficiently occurred and the protein is ready to be turned/removed from the heat surface?  It’s easy; if when lightly pulled upon, the meat seams as if it wants to stick to the heating surface, leave it alone.  Allow a few more minutes of cooking time and try again.  The meat will easily release from the cooking surface once browning has occurred.  We are often tempted to turn meat before it is ready.  Just be patient and the rewards will be worth the time!