14 October 2019
Cooking with cast iron
Many BBQ accessories are made of cast iron, from grids to cast iron pans. But what exactly makes cast iron such a suitable material? What cast iron accessories are available for a kamado like the Big Green Egg? And what is the best way to clean and maintain cast iron so that it stays as good as new?
Why is cast iron such a wonderful product?
Cast iron has various advantages as a material. For example, cast iron absorbs heat easily and quickly and releases it very evenly. This is one great advantage of cast iron cooking utensils. In addition, it is extremely durable and will last a lifetime.
When do you use a cast iron grid?
Most ingredients are best grilled on a cast iron grid. Because the grid gives off direct heat to the food, you can use it to make appetising grill patterns. This not only looks attractive, it also enhances the flavour of your ingredients.
These grill patterns are created thanks to the Maillard reaction. This chemical reaction to heat affects carbohydrates such as natural sugars and the amino acids found in proteins. This generates extra aroma, colour and flavour. The structure of the product also changes where it has been in contact with the grid, forming the grill stripes.
Don’t turn your ingredients over too quickly when grilling on cast iron, as they may stick. Always place your cast iron grid with the pointed side of the bars up. A wide grill stripe may seem attractive, but the shape of the grid is especially designed to emit heat in a very concentrated way.
The difference between cast iron and stainless steel
This does not mean that all products are best prepared on a cast iron grid. The stainless steel grid is also indispensable. Steaks, sliced vegetables and sturdy types of fish are particularly suitable for a cast iron grid. These are grilled according to the direct method at a temperature of 180 to 240°C.
The stainless steel grid is more commonly used for indirect cooking, using the convEGGtor, and for the preparation of more delicate types of fish. Food tends to stick less to a stainless steel grid, which is handier when cooking delicate fish.
Another big difference between a cast iron grid and a stainless steel grid is that cast iron is more brittle. Therefore you should always use the Cast Iron Grid Lifter to place the grid in your EGG and to take it out. Because the grid is firmly anchored, you are far less likely to drop it and cause damage.
The advantages of a cast iron pan
In addition to the cast iron grid, the Dutch oven will greatly increase the versatility of your Big Green Egg. You can use this cast iron pan to cook and stew but also to fry, stir-fry, roast, or even bake a loaf of bread or a cake. Here too, the efficient and gradual heat transfer of the material plays an important role. Not planning to eat straight away? With the lid on, the contents will stay warm for a long time.
Using a Dutch oven in combination with a kamado? It’s best to not place the lid of the pan on top for the entire cooking time. By leaving it off for all or part of the time, your food will get that delicious added flavour for which the Big Green Egg is so famous.
Enamelled or non-enamelled cast iron
The choice between an enamelled Dutch oven and a non-enamelled one is very personal. Due to the brittle nature of the material, a non-enamelled Dutch oven always subtly absorbs the flavours of the food prepared in it. The more you use the pan, the more flavour it gives off during cooking.
An enamelled Dutch oven is slightly easier to use, particularly as far as maintenance is concerned. Thanks to the enamel, you can wash the pan and the lid with soapy water, after which it will be ready to use again. Enamelled cast iron does not rust and does not absorb flavour – although, as mentioned earlier, flavour absorption can be considered an advantage. We will return to the maintenance of a non-enamelled Dutch oven later.
Other cast iron accessories
The properties of cast iron are also advantageous with other accessories. For example, the two-sided Cast Iron Plancha Griddle can be used for baking or grilling delicate products. The Cast Iron Skillet is a great cast iron frying pan with a low rim. Both accessories benefit from the fact that cast iron absorbs and releases heat very effectively.
The same goes for the Cast Iron Sauce Pot with sauce or glaze. The contents remain warm for a relatively long time in this handy saucepan. The Cast Iron Satay Grill, the ideal tool for grilling skewered meat, has the same advantages as the cast iron grid. The main advantage is that you will never burn your wooden skewers or your fingers again.
The cast iron rEGGulator and the separately available Rain Cap are unique in their own way. Here, the excellent heat transfer of cast iron does not play a role. The reason why this robust air regulator and the corresponding cap are made of cast iron is simply because, unlike many other materials, cast iron does not warp. Not even if you bake a pizza at a high temperature, for example, or during a very long cooking session. Thanks to the special coating, the rEGGulator and the Rain Cap are low-maintenance and can withstand almost anything.
How to clean cast iron
Cleaning cast iron seems more complicated than it is. To prevent corrosion and to keep your cast iron products in good condition, there are a few points to take into account.
- Untreated cast iron does not like moisture, especially soapy water. Just as it absorbs the flavour of the ingredients, it can also absorb the scent and taste of soap. It is therefore not necessary to wash your grid. Clean the grid with a suitable brush while it is still warm. This will remove any remaining food residues. Then grease the grid with vegetable oil such as sunflower or peanut oil, using a wad of kitchen paper and barbecue tongs. This will wipe off the last food remnants and soot particles. Now your grid is clean, greased and ready for use.
- Cast iron pans can be washed. Use only warm water and dry your pan thoroughly. Grease the pan with vegetable oil if necessary, then place it on the grid in your still-warm EGG so that it can dry completely.
How to maintain cast iron
Cast iron without enamel or coating is known to rust. Rust formation can easily be prevented if you take good care of the material, by thoroughly cleaning and greasing your grid and other accessories after use. In addition, it is advisable to season your cast iron tools once in a while. This not only prevents corrosion, a natural non-stick coating also forms.
Seasoning cast iron
To season your cast iron, ignite the charcoal in your Big Green Egg and place the grid inside. Bring the EGG to a temperature of 180°C to 200°C. Close the draft door and the rEGGulator and leave the grid in your EGG for an hour. Oil the (discoloured) grid thoroughly using a vegetable oil such as peanut oil. Ignite the charcoal again and reheat your EGG to 180°C to 200°C. Close the draft door and the rEGGulator and leave the grid for another hour. Of course you can do this with all your untreated cast iron products. This way you’ll enjoy your cast iron purchase for generations to come.
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