when it’s hot enough. Better yet, swipe a little oil inside the pan first and get it glistening. Set it on the flame — it better be flame if you’re cooking and you really mean it — and let it set until it smokes. This could take a few minutes, but it’s worth the patience. Don’t just stand there and watch the pot though or it won’t boil, as they say. Take these few minutes to do some prep work for whatever it is you’re frying up.
The best thing about cast iron, over any other kind of frying pan, is that it’ll last your whole life. Teflon wears off no matter how careful you are. Shiny steel pans look nice hanging up if you keep them scrubbed, but they don’t hold heat like that cast iron can. And don’t ever use soap in your seasoned skillet. A good old fashioned nylon brush and some hot water will do the job, or some say a salted half a potato works if you’ve gunked it up with egg or cheese or whatever. Just be careful not to un-season it with detergents.
While I’m at it, when you crack an egg, crack it like it’s done you wrong. You’ve got to put a good slice in that shell if you don’t want shell pieces raining down into your batter or skillet, depending on what you’re up to. Give it a good thwack on the edge of something, a bowl, the pan, maybe even the back of a knife, and dump out the insides quick, efficiently, with swift wrist motions. Eggs are delicate but you only treat them delicate until they’re of some use to you. Never treat people like that.
When your skillet is dirty, don’t soak it. And by all means, in general, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink. The sink is one of your most useful kitchen tools, and if it’s full of stuff you should have washed, you render that tool un-usable. If you have a dishwasher, load it as you go, run it when it’s full, and keep its filter clean. Good heavens for your own sanity keep its filter clean.
Another thing about dishes: there’s a certain set of tools you use all the time. A couple good knives. A spatula (or whatever you prefer to call it: turner, flipper, lifter….) A couple of big stirring spoons and a reliable set of tongs. These things you keep close at hand — in my kitchen they hang on hooks over the sink — and they never ever under any circumstances go in the dishwasher. The dishwasher is for stuff you have more than one of.
Finally, keep your knives extremely sharp. You don’t need a fancy knife sharpener; just a stone will do. There’s no one right way to sharpen with a stone and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The way I do it these days, I hold the knife at the edge of the cutting board and rub the stone against it. I aim for about a twenty degree angle, but it’s all by eye and feel so who knows what it really is. There’s thunderous debate about what angle you should use, but pay little mind unless you’re getting into the business of sharpening full time. Your customers might care, and you’ll have to be fully honest with them. For the kitchen, just clean up the edge, give it a couple swipes on a steel to take off any burrs, and get to chopping.
There’s a lot of years in this. A lot of misguided moves and flat-out mistakes. Problems discovered and solved.
The only thing makes this all worth it is having someone to tell it to. Now, if you start worrying about how many people you tell it to, that’s a dead end, I tell you. You worry like that and suddenly, it’s never enough. Takes the fun right of it.
Be happy with the telling. Even if it’s just you reminding yourself of these little things, take some comfort in the fact that you know these things. You’ve made it this far.