Cast iron pans are great if you like variety in your life. You can use cast iron pans to make breakfast, bread and even bake different dishes.
The good thing about cast iron pans is that they can last for years and are extremely versatile. While cast iron pans are great and one of the best options of cookware you can choose, it is important to be mindful of a few things when you use these pans.
Try to avoid cooking acidic foods in your cast iron pans because it may damage the seasoning. Besides this, cast iron pans are also quite sensitive to thermal changes.
Because of the electric range set to high and thermal shock, cast iron pans can easily crack. The crack may appear as a curved line in the beginning, but if the temperature is not lowered, your cast iron pan may crack in two pieces.
What is Thermal Shock?
Thermal shock may occur when an object expands by different amounts because of a sudden change in temperature. The strain of this high level of temperature does not mean your pan will break in two, but that is how it starts to crack. I
f you keep exposing your cast iron pan to high temperatures after it has cracked, a broken pan is inevitable.
Sudden thermal shock can happen to any material. Whether it’s hard rocks or ice cubes in a glass of water – thermal shock will occur wherever there is a rapid change in temperature.
It can occur with cold temperatures, too. For example, if you fill a hot pan with cold water, thermal shock may occur because of the sudden temperature change.
Cast iron pans are not the only cookware that is at risk of thermal shock. Thermal shock can affect other cookware too, for instance, your cast iron Dutch oven, cast iron griddles and especially old cast iron pots that you may have had for a while.
Thermal shock is also common in enamel pans and can damage the enamel coating on top of the pan. This is why most manufacturers recommend letting your hot pan cool for a while before submerging it into cold water.
This is why it’s always a good idea to never heat your cast iron pan above the temperature that is mentioned in your manual.
Ideally, most cast iron pans are good heat conductors and can take up to 500 degrees, but anything more than that can easily cause a crack on the surface, which will only worsen with time.
The great thing about cast iron pans is that since they are such good heat conductors, they don’t even need high temperatures to cook. They can provide you with well-cooked food with medium heat.
How to Fix a Cracked Cast Iron Pan
If your iron cast pan has cracked because of high temperatures – no need to panic.
Iron cast pans can last a long time so the good news is, you don’t have to get a new one. With some work and the right tools, you can easily repair your cracked iron cast pan.
The first step is to thoroughly wash your cast iron pan with hot soapy water and a stiff brush. You need to make sure you’ve removed all the grease from your pan before trying to repair it.
You can even use steel wool to remove all traces of rust. After you’re done, just rinse the pan and dry it with a soft cloth.
The second step is to check your pan for cracks. Evaluate your pan – look for damage like warping. If your pan is completely cracked, you will need welding.
It is best to contact a wielding expert because it is much safer and they have more experience. If your warped iron cast pan has holes in it, we have some bad news for you. Those pans cannot be repaired, and it is best to just display them if you don’t want to throw them out.
After you’ve figured out where the cracks are, weld them. You can do this by drilling a small hole at each end of the crack to decrease the chances of the crack getting bigger when you heat it to weld the pan.
Make sure to hire an expert if you’re unsure about doing it yourself. If you’re doing it on your own, simply wear welding goggles and fireproof clothing for protection.
Heat the crack and its surrounding area at a temperature of 500 to 1000 degrees.
Make sure to be very careful when doing this – try doing this in an empty room, where there are no children around.
Keep in mind that you can’t weld the whole pan in one go.
Try to weld the crack by taking small intervals so the pan does not overheat and doesn’t get warped. Allow the pan to cool before starting again.
After you’re done welding, remove any excess welding material that might be left behind on your cast iron pan. Make sure to apply a metal primer or a sealant to the weld to prevent it from rusting.
If you feel like your pan has lost color in this process, you can even repaint it to make it look shinier and brand new.
How to Season Your Cast Iron Pan
After fixing the cracks, you need to season your pan so you can start using it again. Here are a few easy steps that will help you season your cast iron pan.
These are the items you need to season your pan:
- Steel wool
- Dish soap
- Vegetable oil
- Aluminum foil
Make sure to wash your pan thoroughly before doing anything.
You can use a soft sponge for this step. After you’re done, dry your pan till there is no water left on it.
The next step is to simply cover the surface of your pan with a coating of oil. Make sure to use vegetable oil, which is best for seasoning cast iron pans.
When oiling, don’t forget to oil the bottom and the handle. Try to use a small amount of oil so it doesn’t turn sticky.
The third step is to simply place the pan in the oven.
Make sure to keep it upside down on the top rack of your oven. Make sure to keep an aluminum foil sheet at the bottom rack in case the seasoning starts to drip. You should heat your cast iron for one hour at 350 degrees.
For small pans, simply place the pan on medium heat on a stove burner and heat it for around 20 minutes. Wait till the oil has baked on the surface completely.
After you’re done, you can store it in a dry place for the seasoning to settle.
If you’re stacking your cast iron pan on top of another pan, make sure to keep a paper towel or a soft cloth between the two pans so your seasoning doesn’t get damaged. After it’s dried, you can simply get back to cooking!
How to Clean Cast Iron Pans
Besides cracking, your cast iron pans can get burnt or become rusty. Here are a few ways to make sure you can clean them easily.
For Burnt Pans
If your cast iron pan is burnt, start with spilling salt on the surface of your pan.
You can use a soft brush or scrub to clean the surface of your pan. Make sure the brush is damp so the cleaning is more effective. For stubborn burns, use a plastic scraper to get the burnt food off your pan.
Try to avoid steel wool, scouring pads and detergent scrubs because they can damage the seasoning.
For Rusty Pans
If your cast iron pan has become rusty over time, you can use a detergent scrub to get rid of it. Rust can form because of acidic and oily foods and if you don’t clean it, it will only end up growing and further ruin your pan by discoloring it and damaging the season.
If your pan is rusting from too many places, you may need to season it again after cleaning it.
For Discolored Pans
If your cast iron pan has lost all its color, there are ways to save it.
First, you will need to scrub it endlessly with steel wool until all the seasoning is removed. Steel wool will remove not only the seasoning but also all traces of food that may have been left behind.
After you’re done scrubbing, wash the pan with warm water and dish soap. Leave it to dry completely and your pan will return to its original color in a while.
Benefits of Using Cast Iron Pans
Even though cast iron pans crack, they offer various benefits. Here are a few reasons why you should still use cast iron pans in your kitchen.
They’re Naturally Non-stick
Teflon non-stick pans are quite common these days, but they aren’t the best for our health. When they are exposed to high temperatures, they can release harmful chemicals in the air and even in your food.
These chemicals can cause liver dysfunction, affect your hormones and even affect your brain health. When you use Teflon non-stick pans, chemicals transfer to your food.
The chemicals take years to biodegrade—this can be extremely harmful to the environment. This is where cast iron pans come in. When you season a cast iron pan, it becomes non-stick which prevents harmful chemicals from transferring to your food.
They’re Easy to Clean
If you enjoy cooking in the kitchen but hate cleaning the mess afterward – cast iron pans are for you. One of the best things about cast iron pans is that they’re extremely easy to clean. Cast iron material does not let the food stick to the surface of your pan.
Here’s a tip: After you’re done the cooking, leave your pan to warm for a while and then put it under cold water.
Make sure to scrape any food bits that are left behind as quickly as you can.
Afterward, simply wipe your pan with a paper dipped in oil, which will help your seasoning to last no matter how many times you wash it. This way, you won’t have to scrub too hard each time and your pan’s life will increase.
They Fortify Food with Iron
Cast iron pans can increase the iron content in your food.
Whether it’s acidic foods or simple eggs, your iron content will increase simply because you’re using cast iron pans to cook your food. This is great for people who suffer from an iron deficiency and even pregnant women.
Another great thing about cast iron pans is that everyone can afford them.
They’ve been around for ages and they still remain one of the most inexpensive cookware in the market. Compared to stainless steel pans, cast iron pans are much cheaper and lasts way longer.
There is a reason why cast iron pans can last for ages– they are quite strong. Unlike other cookware, cast iron pans improve with age. Even if your pan has gone a little rusty, you can always fix them and make them look brand new again.
With each use of a cast iron pan, you will only make the cooking surface smoother, which will gradually improve the seasoning on your pan.
Unlike non-stick Teflon pans that can be easily damaged by heat or even cooking utensils, cast iron pans are a good lifetime investment because they are versatile and durable.
They Provide an Even Cooking Temperature
Cast iron pans are pretty heavy, which is why they are good conductors of heat as compared to other pans. This is great when you need heat for cooking foods like steaks or stew.
Plus, cast iron pans divide heat equally across the pan, so food is cooked and seasoned evenly.
Cast iron pans are great if you’re looking for cookware that will last you a long time and also give you benefits that many other pans cannot.
If your cast iron pan cracks, simply follow the steps mentioned above and fix it today.
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