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 If you’ve ever watched an old cowboy movie or TV rerun like “Little House on the Prairie,” you’ve likely noticed that almost all the cooking was done over an open fire or a hearth in the cabin — and it was done with cast iron cookware.

 Cast iron cookware was invented centuries ago and is becoming the preferred choice for many cooks today, according to stacylynharris.com.

 The first known use of cast iron cookware was during the Han Dynasty in China, around 220 A.D. Casting techniques became widespread in Europe by the 16th century and since then this versatile equipment has been a staple in households all over the world.

 Some people may think that ancient styles of cookware wouldn’t hold up next to modern aluminum or stainless steel pieces, but cast iron is experiencing a resurgence in restaurants and homes all over the country.

Health concerns

 A major reason cast iron cookware is making a comeback is because of health concerns involving other types of cookware. For example, some non-stick coated pans are now known to emit toxic fumes when they are heated past a certain temperature. Cast iron poses none of these risks, and can be heated to extremely high temperatures without negative effects.

Staying power

 Many people would rather invest in cookware that will last, instead of spending money on something they’ll need to replace within a few years. Cast iron cookware can be used for hundreds of years, as long as it’s treated right.

Visual appeal

 Some restaurant owners are incorporating more cast iron cookware into their mix because it looks great for serving. Bringing out sizzling fajitas or a giant skillet cookie in a cast iron pan adds a rustic and unique feel to the presentation.

Durability

 One of the reasons that cast iron cookware is experiencing a boom in popularity is because it is extremely durable. If you find one at a garage sale or consignment shop, don’t worry, cast iron pieces can be restored, even when they’re completely rusted over. Here’s how to clean rusty cast iron to make it look like new:

 • Scrape the pan with steel wool until there are no more rust spots.

 • Wash the cookware with warm, soapy water.

 • Dry the piece completely. This is an important step that will keep new rust spots from appearing. First, dry with a cloth, then place it on a range burner and let the heat dry your pot or pan the rest of the way.

 • Soak paper towels with cooking oil and use them to coat the inside of your cookware with a thin layer of oil.

 • Place the cookware on the top rack of the oven, face down at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch dripping oil. Leave the piece like this for an hour.

 • Remove your pan from the oven and let it cool. It’s now ready to use.

Caring for your cast iron cookware

 Although cast iron is very durable, you still have to take certain precautions to keep it clean and rust free.

Keep it dry:

 Cast iron cookware will require attention immediately after you’re done using it. You can wash it with a little bit of soap and water, but you’ll have to leave it sitting on a hot burner for a few minutes after you towel dry it. Any amount of water left in the pan can cause a rust spot.

Re-season frequently:

 Seasoning is the process that creates a non-stick layer on your cookware. Be sure to re-season your cast iron often, especially when you first buy or restore it. The more times you use your cookware, the better the layer of seasoning will work.

Coat with oil after every wash:  

 Before you put your cast iron skillet or pot away, be sure to wipe it down with a light coating of oil to protect the seasoning.

 Cast iron cookware has been around forever, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Sources: Webstaurantstore.com; stacylynharris.com

Associate Editor

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