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Cast iron skillets: don't mix meat and vegetable oils?

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 8:41 pm    Post subject: Cast iron skillets: don't mix meat and vegetable oils? Reply with quote

I have a fairly well-seasoned cast iron skillet that I have been using almost exclusively for sauteing veggies with olive oil. When I tried to brown some chicken sausage in the skillet it stuck horribly.

My dad used to say that mixing vegetable-based oils and meat in a skillet would cause things to stick. Is this the conventional wisdom, or does anyone else have experience one way or the other?
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Joined: 26 Jan 2008
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Location: Western NY state

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My experience with cast iron is that meat will stick until it's ready to release and messing with it before it's ready is bad news. In other words, don't try to lift the meat until it's cooked enough on that side. I believe it's the moisture and fats that come out and lubricate and the solidification of the meats have reached an appropriate level - that shrink point - that allows the meat to be lifted.

This means if you want a rare steak, start with high heat, so that you're quickly searing that side and not cooking the entire thickness. Something that requires a longer cooking, like a pork chop, is better done at a lower temp for a longer time.

The key with meats on cast iron (which BTW is fantastic on a well season cast iron surface) is knowing the cooking characteristics of the meat and a little patience. Also preheat your skillet before putting the meat in, and make sure the meat is completely thawed. Brushing with olive oil is also helpful since it tends to be more viscous than corn/canola/etc oils.

I've been using a cast iron a lot lately for meats and veggies. One of my favorite kitchen implements is the reversible grill/griddle that covers two burners. It's second best in flavor to a real grill, but beats a real grill when it comes to convenience.
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Joined: 05 Jan 2008
Posts: 99
Location: Dutchess County, NYS

PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:27 pm    Post subject: cast iron skillets - don't mix meat and vegetable oils? Reply with quote

I use cast iron skillets and/or dutch oven almost daily and they are all well seasoned. I agree with Miss Fantastic that rubbing the meat (or sausage) with a little olive oil is a sometimes a good idea before placing them in an already hot skillet. But unlike her, I do move the meat or fish or chicken or sausage or burger after it has been in the pan between 10 and 30 seconds. I think I've seen chefs on t.v. do this. I just push it around a little to release it from its original spot. THEN I let it sit without moving it until the meat is browned. When the first side is browned or charred (if that's what I'm after) I flip it to a different side, let it sit for a few seconds, move it and then let it stay in place til browned. If the meat yields too much fat, I pour the fat off, trying to keep a minimum in the skillet to ensure browning. If the meat is very lean, I might (rub the meat w/ olive oil or) put a teaspoonful or a few drops of oil in the pan...olive oil is what I use, cheaper, not the extra virgin, but rapeseed or grapeseed or corn oil work as well. Just put the tiniest amount; pour out any that pools before putting the meat in. You want to brown, not fry.

Actually the best hint I can offer you regarding cast iron skillets is something I embraced comparatively recently. While they're virtually indestructable, I find the very best way to maintain a beautiful gleaming black seasoning surface is to clean them this way: After use, pour what residual oil you can into a can for disposal, then let the skillet cool until you can comfortably handle it (or longer; it can be cold). Put it in the sink and run cold water on it while scrubbing in a circular motion until there are no more bumps or sticking spots on the surface with a Chore Girl (now known as a Chore Boy))))), i.e., a copper mesh scrubbing pad. Then just dry with a paper towel or cloth. Never use dish soap or brillo or anything else. The heat when you cook in it will take care of bacteria, and the thin bit of oil left after scouring will give you a wonderful non-stick surface. If you DO for any reason feel the need to use soap, just revert to the cold water/chore girl scour, and the non stick surface will repair itself in a short time. BTW: if you make tomato sauce in the skillet, the acid in the tomatoes will remove that surface, but no worry. It will reseason itself if you continue with maintenance as above.
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