Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: Cast Iron in an RV?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Cast Iron in an RV?

One of the many things that differs about living in an RV than living in a house, is having to be concerned about the amount of weight in your rig.  In a home, there typically aren't any limitations to how much something can weigh. Not only do you have to be concerned about the capacity of the trailer (if you're towing), but you should also consider your tow vehicle's towing capacity.  Exceeding the capacity of either of these could lead to potentially dangerous situations - nobody wants to have to worry about that.  Not to mention, more weight equals lower miles-per-gallon.   So, "why" you ask, am I talking about weight when this is a post about cast iron? Because cast iron is the heaviest type of pot or pan you can get!  So why the h*&l would I want to bring it with me in an RV?  Because no matter what the weight, I would never leave my cast iron frying pan behind!  It's literally a member of the family.

My cast iron was just given to me this past Christmas by my grandmother.  She  (my grandmother) felt that out of everyone in the family, I would appreciate it the most.  She could not have been more right!  The best part is that it wasn't just any old cast iron, it was a Wagner original that's been in our family for decades!  There aren't a whole lot of kitchen tools that have such utility and diversity and that continue to improve the most you use them! Everything from frying an egg, to making french fries or baking a cake, a properly-seasoned cast iron has no substitute.

So what is it, exactly, that makes cast iron so great?  The even distribution of Teflon pans, but there is still question as to the safety of using non-stick pans.  We don't have an opinion one way or another on non-stick pans, but the EPA seems to think that when "heated at high temperatures, off-gassing of potentially toxic fumes may occur".  Potentially and may were two keys words used there.  We err on the side of caution - we only heat our (few) nonstick pans to the medium setting or lower.

Cast iron is slow to heat up, but heats much more evenly than most other types of pans.  In addition, cast iron retains heat for significantly longer than any other type of pan (with heating element removed). These are two of the most desirable properties that chefs want.  From slow and low simmering of a stew to red-hot searing of a thick-cut t-bone steak, cast iron can handle just about anything you throw at it with ease.

It's the seasoning that I love about cast iron.  The seasoning in cast iron is what affords it its natural non-stick properties.  The seasoning is the buildup of polymerized fats and oils - essentially completely broken down oil solids built up over time to an almost perfectly smooth surface. This coating  accomplishes the same non-stick qualities as Teflon pans without any potential health risks (and imparts delicious flavor to the foods cooked on it).  The seasoning is what allows the cooking of an egg, sunny side up, with a crunchy, tasty, golden crust - all without the sticky mess that most other types of pans give you.

I know.  I know.  There are plenty of you out there reading this wondering why I would go through the trouble of hauling a heavy, old, "dirty", greasy frying pan with me when I could just go out to a local department store and picking up a cheap non-stick pan.  Sure, I could do that.   The use of cast iron is a more work, maintenance, and upkeep.  And you can probably cook something every bit as good in a nonstick pan.  (Wow, the more I write this, the more I realize it's starting to sound more like an argument for nonstick rather than for cast)  The aforementioned properties about cast iron are tough to beat, but there are also other intangibles that you simply can't get with something like a standard, simple frying pan.  A truly good cast iron pan will endure years of punishing use and bounce back like nothing ever happened.  It is truly the workhorse of the chef's kitchen.

Some will shake their heads at me and call me crazy (it's OK, I'm getting used to it).   Why would someone go through the trouble of so much maintenance when you can use something else and get the same results faster and probably cheaper?   Others will understand that with the right equipment, cooking becomes an experience, not a chore.  For those of you that have cooked with me (or experienced my cooking), you know that there is a certain level of hands-on that I require.  This typically means that when I cook, it's usually not done in a hurry - and includes only the freshest ingredients.  All of these things are part of the experience of cooking.  Cooking for most is about the end result.  For me, the end is just as important as the journey to get there - it's about the experience of cooking.
I've read on many forums that the only way to get a truly perfectly cooked egg, sunny side up, is on a nonstick pan.  Hogwash!  It is absolutely possible to cook non-stick without the use of a Teflon-coated piece of cookware.  You can cook an egg perfectly in a regular stainless steel pan with no problem! (It just takes an extra bit of learning)  This is about cast iron - sticking isn't something that we worry about.  But without proper seasoning, cast iron is just that, iron.  Since iron is a metal, especially with protein-rich items, you will be fighting an uphill battle with food sticking to cast iron.  So how do you get the proper seasoning?  It's not difficult and doesn't take that long to do, but improperly seasoned cookware is one of the main things that turns cooks off!  Improper seasoning = food sticks!  Nobody wants that so make sure your pan is seasoned correctly.

If you buy a cast iron brand new, chances are, it's already seasoned (Lodge brand are my recommendation if you don't go with an Ebay or Etsy previously used cast).  Whether it it has been pre seasoned or not, it's a good idea to go ahead and season it anyway.  Besides, the more seasoning, the less of a chance something will stick to it!
  1. First things first, wash out your cast with hot water.  Some soap is ok, but it is not necessary to use soap.  If the pan needs to be completely reconditioned, you'll need to follow the directions here before seasoning.  Dry completely and as soon as you've washed it. 
  2. Rub all cooking surfaces with a high temperature smoke-point cooking oil.  Table here.  I use melted vegetable shortening as per Lodge's recommendation.  
  3. Set oven to 375 and place a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven (to catch drops of oil from pan)
  4. Place pan upside down on oven rack.
  5. Bake pan in the oven for at least 60 minutes.  At the end of the hour, turn the oven off, but do not remove the pan.  
  6. When the oven and pan have completely cooled, remove the pan.  
  7. Store uncovered in a dry area
  8. Reapply a coating of oil after every cleaning - Always ensure pan is dry before storing!
Lodge has a great video here that goes over how to properly season (if you're more of a visual learner) you cast iron.
Filed under : Other cast iron uses :)
So there you have it.  No, cast iron isn't for everyone, much less full-time RVers.  Considerations about weight, size, practicality, and upkeep should all be taken into account when deciding how you want to cook in your RV and what pieces of cookware you want to stock it with.  When we were living full-time in a house, I had a virtual cornucopia of pots and pans of varying sizes, shapes, materials, colors, and uses at my disposal.  RV living poses different challenges to the chef, so it's up to the chef to decide what will work best and be the most practical for their RV cooking.

Did we get it right?  Please post any comments agreeing or disagreeing with anything about our post! We welcome any and all criticism as well as any advice or maybe something we missed.  We certainly aren't experts, but we do strive to give the most accurate information we can from our experiences. Please comment below or let us know if you have something to add!  Thank you - we appreciate everyone following our travels!

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

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