If you’re unfamiliar with cooking with cast iron, you might be wondering how to use it and whether it can do the things you would normally do with a regular saucepan.
One of the most common things we use our saucepans for is boiling water. But won’t cast iron rust if you put water in it?
So, can you boil water in cast iron? Yes, you can! Your cast iron pan can boil water and other liquids without any issues, like causing rust or ruining the seasoning. The only thing you don’t want to do is to leave your cast iron soaking in water for a long time.
Read on to discover how to boil water in a cast iron and other tips for using this versatile cooking pot!
Do I Have To Do Anything Differently To Boil Water In Cast Iron?
To protect the seasoning on your cast iron, you will want to limit the length of time that you boil foods in your cast iron. Things such as beans that need a long boiling period are best left to cook in a regular saucepan.
If you are boiling something for a short period, like pasta or heating up some water for tea, then you can safely use your cast iron pan to do so.
The key here is that you don’t want to let it rapidly boil for too long. This rapid boil can cause some seasoning to lift off of the pan.
The seasoning on cast iron is what helps keep foods from sticking and prevents your cast iron from rusting.
As long as you take care to properly clean and re-season your cast iron on a regular basis, boiling food in your cast iron shouldn’t be a problem.
A couple of dishes that you don’t really have to worry about boiling or simmering in your cast iron are soups, stews, and chilis.
Since these dishes are often slowly simmered and contain lots of other ingredients, as opposed to just water, there is a low likelihood that the seasoning will lift.
So the bottom line is that you don’t want to rapidly boil items like beans for a long period, since this can lift the seasoning off of your cast iron.
Instead, choose things that require a shorter boiling time, that you can turn down to a simmer, or that aren’t purely water-based, such as stew or chili.
Once you’ve finished boiling your dish, take the time to properly dry and season your cast iron so that it doesn’t rust and you maintain that black patina that prevents food from sticking.
How Do I Boil Water In Cast Iron?
If you are going to boil water in your cast iron pan, here’s a few tips:
- Make sure you have taken the time to properly season your cast iron pan. The seasoning (oil that has bonded to the cast iron) provides a barrier between your food and the cast iron.
- Don’t boil water for long periods of time. If you need to cook beans, which can take hours, definitely do not use your cast iron pan, since this long exposure can cause the seasoning to start to lift away from the cast iron. Keep any boiling to less than 30 minutes and if possible turn the water down to a gentle boil or simmer to cook your pasta or food.
- Do boil or reduce your sauces and soups in cast iron. Typically, cooking your soups, stews, sauces, and chilis requires a lower temperature. They also aren’t pure water, so are less likely to cause your seasoning to lift away from the cast iron.
- Avoid boiling really acidic sauces, such as those made with a lot of vinegar or tomatoes for long periods of time. The acid in these sauces could cause your seasoning to lift. However, if you’ve taken the time to create a really solid seasoning layer then this shouldn’t be an issue.
- Make sure you completely dry your cast iron after boiling and take the time to season it after use. Adding a little more integrity to your cast iron seasoning after boiling can help prevent it from rusting and maintain the barrier between your food and the cast iron.
How To Season A Cast Iron Pan
First off, you might be wondering what it means to season your cast iron pan.
This process refers to the act of heating your cast iron in the oven with an oil of some kind to cross-link and polymerizes the oil and cast iron molecules on the surface of the pan.
By baking your cast iron and oil together, it creates a hard non-stick surface that helps protect your pan from rusting and keeps your food from sticking as you cook.
There are a few key steps to follow when you are looking to create the perfect hard seasoning. Check them out below:
- Choose your oil: There are lots of different kinds of oil you can use to create a seasoning layer on your cast iron. Some of my favorites include flax oil, avocado oil, lard, and olive oil.
- Figure out your oil’s smoke point: This step is crucial because you need to heat your oven above your oil’s smoke point to create the polymerization that builds your seasoning. You can easily find this by searching “oil + smoke point”.
- Preheat your oven to 20°F above your oil’s smoke point: You want to heat your oven a little higher than the stated smoke point, just to be on the safe side.
- Clean your cast iron thoroughly: You want to make sure the surface of your cast iron is free of any food particles or debris so that you can get a smooth bonded seasoning.
- Use Kosher salt: You will want to take some kosher salt and rub it all over your cast iron with a soft cloth (not a paper towel) to remove any dust and debris from the pores of the cast iron. Make sure you also clean the handle and outside of the cast iron since it is all being seasoned.
- Rinse your cast iron: Once you have rubbed your cast iron with kosher salt, give it a rinse under warm water. Use the non-abrasive side of a sponge to wipe off any excess salt. Dry it with a dishcloth.
- Coat your entire cast iron with oil: Pour a small amount of your chosen oil onto the cooking surface of your cast iron and use a soft cloth to rub a thin layer into the entire surface, including the handle and outside. Don’t use too much oil or it will leave a sticky surface once baked.
- Place your cast iron in the oven: Once you have coated your cast iron in oil (it should look dry, with no excess oil patches), place it in the oven to bake, upside down. Place a baking sheet or aluminum foil under it to catch any excess oil.
- Bake your cast iron: Once you have your cast iron and baking sheet to catch any excess oil drips placed in the oven, bake it for an hour.
- Repeat this process 6-8 times. If you want to build an incredibly smooth and strong non-stick surface you will want to repeat steps 7-9 at least 6 times, but hopefully up to 8. Make sure to let the cast iron cool before applying the next layer of oil so you don’t burn yourself.
Now that you have taken the time to season your cast iron properly, you should have an incredible layer of protection that will allow you to boil and cook food with no problems whatsoever.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but once you have this base layer of seasoning applied, you won’t have to worry about doing it again for a long time.
I like to add an extra layer of seasoning every so often to keep it strong, but you shouldn’t have to do it 6 to 8 times every time you season.
Cast iron cookware is incredibly durable and can be used for many cooking preparations from searing meat, to roasting, and even boiling water. To make sure you don’t ruin the seasoning on your cast iron pan you will want to:
- Avoid boiling acidic foods for long periods.
- Don’t boil beans and legumes for long periods.
- Build a strong seasoning layer.
- Dry and season it after use.
If you follow these steps you can boil water in your cast iron without any issues.