August 15, 2016

How to Best Season a Cast Iron Pan Cooking Surface.

Step 1:

To achieve a superior polymerized flaxseed coating regeneration of your cast iron cooking surface it is most important to remove built up food particles that have accumulated during the cooking process.

A scouring agent is required.

We have had a bit of a serendipitous break through at our pan research facilities in Richmond regarding best scouring techniques for preparation of cast iron before applying a seasoning oil.

In turns out that 240 grit sandpaper really hits the mark.

This fine sand paper is fast and effective and available at all hardware stores in the painters section. It can be purchased in small rolls (10cm*100cm) and costs two or three dollars.

After sanding wash the pan in warm water and dry.

 

Step 2:

Use flaxseed oil as your seasoning oil.

The application of flaxseed oil is entirely different to conventional seasoning oils and application techniques.

Best practice:

Warm the pan that is to be seasoned so as to "condition the cast iron" for receiving the applied oil.

Best application cloth found to date is an old cotton tee shirt cut into pads.

Cover all pan surfaces with a fine coating of flaxseed oil. Use the drier part of your application cloth to wipe back any excess surface oil.

You only require the thinnest  coat of flaxseed oil.

Place the pan UPSIDEDOWN on a high oven rack.

Turn the oven up to high heat and bake the pan for 30-40 minutes at least 220-250C.

Turn off the heat and allow the pan to return to room temperature.

It is essential that the pan completes the "smoking" phase during which will see the pan smoke until the oil arrives at the "cured" stage.

Avoid laying down a thick coating of oil as only the flaxseed oil surface cures ( hardens) effectively leaving the oil beneath "underdone" and soft.

 

Step 3:

Repeat step 2 as it has been found that this double coating of polymerized flaxseed seasoning is a very effective regeneration of a cast iron cooking surface.

June 09, 2016

"The Long Handle"

We have developed and released a new product, The Long Handle,
It is a 300mm long slim handle.
In a league of its own as the superior cast iron heat resistant handle, it exhibits a very
slow increase in heat profile.
The handle is designed to fit all element cookware models.
The extra length enables a great two handed grip that facilitates superior pivot control
especially when moving the larger and heavier pans, E3 and E4.
The longer handle also enables deeper oven placement and easier safe retrieval of the pan from an oven or open fire.

These long slim thin handles generally enable pan use without hand protection.
If the pan is cooking over high heat or for a long duration, it is easy just to remove the
handle keeping the handle cool enough to use without oven mitts.
We recommend the use of this product (30cm in Length ) for E3 and E4 , the large
29.4cm models.
The original 25mm original handle features in E1 and E2 Kits.

December 28, 2015

E3 Pizza, Dosa, Sizzling Steak, Searing Pan

New Release: the E3 Sizzling Hot Cooking Platform

The creation of the E3 came from studying the USA pan pizza market, where cast iron skillets are seen as an energy- and time-efficient replacement for home kitchen pizza stones.

The advantage of cast iron is that it takes five minutes to heat to a high temperature. Comparatively, it takes an hour or more to preheat a pizza stone in the kitchen oven, which is not kind on power bills.

The E3 pan is reminiscent of the vintage USA pans. Measuring one-quarter of an inch thick (6.35mm) at its base, weighing 3.14kg and with a diameter of 29.4cm, the E3 is the perfect size for cooking large family pizzas.

The pan features a handle with the ability, with absolute ease and speed , to instantly separate from or connect to the pan. The "gravity lock" design is of a high order and the detachable handle provides very firm control and unbeatable utility. Designed with enough length for a two-handed grip, the handle enables the user to easily and safely place and remove the pan from the oven.

The E3 design features a low, angled rim which makes it easy to cook flat dishes like dosas, tortillas, pancakes, crepes and omelets.

When using the E3 as a pizza pan, the pizza is made, cooked and served (using a trivet) using the same dish – making a picture perfect serving platter whilst saving on washing up.

The E3 is a product that will out live you. There are no moving parts, joints or materials bonded together to be ravaged over time. It is a simple 100 per cent cast iron pan, protected by polymerised flax seed oil to prevent oxidation and create the best non-toxic, non-stick cooking surface.

E3 comes with two bamboo paddles, a traditional French-style crepe turner and an Element Cookware created pizza peel. The pizza peel has been designed for versatile function and features straight edges on all sides of the spatula.

While you can't scratch cast iron, just like other non-stick coated pans, the polymerised flax seed oil will eventually wear out. However, differing to ceramic or teflon pans, which must be replaced once their non-stick finish is damaged, the non-stick cooking surface of cast iron pans can be easily maintained. In fact, it actually performs better as the surface becomes more smooth and seasoned over time.

The nature of cast iron as a porous metal and the increased mass of the E3 also creates a whopper of a sizzling platform to sear food. Because the pan can be heated to high temperature without fear of damage, it can be used as a sizzling hot cooking platform. Simply grease the cooking surface with butter, lay a steak down fast, and with attention to timing, you can create the perfectly seared steak.

We love this unique pan.

Brendon O’Sullivan

Managing Director, Element Cookware

November 28, 2015

The non-stick pan

Teflon

The development of a non-stick pan received its technical impetus from the needs of the Manhattan Project during World War II. After its development, one of the lowest coefficient of friction values for a utility surface had been created. During the 1950s Dupont marketed the technology to create the non-stick cooking pan, and these products became known as Teflon coated pans. Many brands still use Teflon coatings today and the pans are marketed by companies and brand names such as Blue Marble Stone, Non Stick Sapphire, Circulon, Flavor Stone, Gemstone Tough and many more. These all derive from the use of Fluoropolymer technology.

A Teflon coated cooking surface has excellent non-stick qualities; if non-stick was your only concern then Teflon would be your best choice. However Teflon coatings also have a poor anti-abrasive capacity and the lifetime of a Teflon coated pan is relatively short. Teflon pans also have a limited temperature range for safe use. These factors create "the perfect storm" – when Teflon coated pans are dramatically overheated, their PTFE coatings break down and release toxic gases.

A gathering of online advice warns:
• Never preheat an empty pan
• Never cook with high heat
• If cooking broth or liquid check the cooking surface has not been damaged
• Ventilate your kitchen or risk flu like symptoms a few hours are cooking.
• Don't broil or sear meat
• Never overheat when baking, broiling or roasting
• Lightweight pans heat up very quickly, avoid high heat
• Surface damage will increase the likelihood of PTOA and substrate aluminum contamination also

Dupont has released new variants of fluoropolymer technology and Perfluorooctanic Acid free pans are now advertised in the marketplace. The old technology abounds in retail and wholesale stock piles and should be avoided. Teflon is due to be phased out of use in the USA in 2015. The EPA is finally responding to long known health concerns relating to PTFE and PTOA (perfluorooctanic acid) as used in Teflon coating manufacture.

Dupont claims with moderate usage, users can expect their pans to last three to five years. Retailers commonly suggest customers replace their Teflon pans every couple of years.

More reading: In Search of a Pan That Lets Cooks Forget About Teflon

Ceramic Coated Pans

Ceramic technology presents a new technology providing pans free from PTFE and PTOA, and this is an excellent development. Some marketing names and brands are Green Pan, T-Fal, Neoflam, Ecolution, Calphalon , Ceramcor-Xtrema.

However some in the trade argue that nano-particle ceramic coatings have an even shorter life than Teflon and that the colours and glazes, more often than not in real world production, will be set with the use of lead and other heavy metals like cadmium.

The abrasive nature of cooking will expose users to such chemistry, as well as the toxic aluminum, which 90 per cent of non-stick pans utilise as a base metal, hence their light weight.

Ceramic non-stick surfaces break down after two to three years of use.

More reading: Teflon Dangers in Nonstick Cookware and a Better Alternative

Enameled Cast Iron Pans

A good quality French enameled cast iron pan is a superb cooking implement. However, the enamel surface is easily scratched by metal utensils. Again, in the diverse reality that pans are subject to during years of cooking, contrary to marketing stories, enameled coated cast iron does get wear and tear, and also has a limited life. The enamel surface, given careful use, should last many years and grants an excellent low reactivity with cooked food. Beware of lesser quality enameled aluminum based pans, which often have toxins embedded in their glazes and the aluminum substrate itself.

The 21st Century Non-Stick Natural Cast Iron

A conventionally well-seasoned cast iron pan will achieve a good level of non-stick performance, but historically not at the level of a Teflon pan.

However, over the last decade a new technology has been brought into play. It was discovered that flaxseed oil, when polymerised during the seasoning process, produced the smoothest, hardest, longest wearing, easiest to clean, natural non toxic surface, immanently suitable for use with cast iron cookware.

More reading: http://sherylcanter.com

We at element cookware took Sheryl's advice and organic flaxseed seasoning techniques became integral to our production line. Given the time-intensive nature of this applied technique, and subsequent production cost, traditional cast iron manufacturers are reluctant or unable to make this move and continue to market cast iron pans with a cosmetic blackening that is not effective seasoning.

A cast iron pan is more than a non-stick surface, as non-stick capacity is intrinsically linked to the surface and pan temperature range and temperature stability.

The "secret" to cast iron's cooking success is its weight. When produced with a 5mm-6.35 mm (USA 1/4 inch) thickness, cast iron is heavy and the cast iron mass provides a thermal reservoir far superior to "modern" lightweight cooking pans.

Because of this greater mass and the crystalline nature of cast iron itself you can heat cast iron pans to very high temperatures without any fear of damage.

A high temperature capacity allows you to crisp up a pizza base, or sear your steak to perfection. The result is superior browning and caramelisation of food.

Bringing a cast iron skillet to the correct operational temperature for a particular type of cooking is a significant part of achieving a non-stick performance.

Flaxseed coated cast iron cooking surfaces need time to mature. Cast iron needs a bit of abrasive cooking work over time, and when utilising an extremely hardened flaxseed oil polymerisation, a cast iron pan does not have sticking difficulties. At Element, we have found that about three months of daily cooking will provide another level of improved performance of cast iron as a non stick surface. After three months of daily use the pan should be reseasoned.

Your pan can be maintained in this simple way in excellent non stick condition and remains your least toxic non-stick alternative.

Cleaning back the cooking surface and applying at least two coats of flaxseed oil will literally give you a "new cooking surface" but one that performs better again as a non-stick surface.

At a molecular level the best non-stick performance is achieved by simply using the thinnest amount of butter applied to a well heated cooking surface. The butter – an animal fat - "bounces off" the vegetable-based and polymerised flaxseed oil at the correct cooking temperature. It takes a cast iron skillet around three minutes to be temperature set.

Excellent ranges of natural cast iron pans stocked in Australia can be seen at:
Chef's Armoury.com Richmond Melbourne, Rosebery Sydney
elementcookware.com.au
Chef's Hat South Melbourne


Brendon O’Sullivan
Managing Director, Element Cookware



September 08, 2015

Too hot to Handle

Below is a chart of eight cast iron pans that I have purchased for my kitchen research and they are now in my designers "cast iron skillet" collection. This has been 30 years in the making and has provided excellent material allowing the discovery of breakthrough design.

Each pan has one column charting the temperature of the pan cooking surface and one column charting the heating of the handle in the area a two handed grip might experience. 
60C has been taken as the red line denoting the human pain threshold. 
200C has been taken as an acceptable pan surface temperature to commence cooking. 
Green denotes an "unripe" cooking surface. 
Pink denotes the arrival time of an adequately heated pan. 
Reference the master time axis on the left to discover the effectiveness of the pan and handle. 
Red denotes a temperature beyond the human pain threshold. 
Some pans heat up quickly, some pans are impossibly slow. 

Only pans with relatively long removable handles such as the Japanese Oigen Foundry quirky "24cm Oyaji-no-Teppanyaki Literally a cast iron grill plate for middle aged men" produce a satisfactory heat profile. 
The range of Element Cookware models also successfully deals with this syndrome of dangerously hot handles, eliminating a very old cast iron problem.

  

Manufacturer USA Le Chasseur Slow Heating Pan Oigen Element Element Element Element
Pan Size 10.5inch 30.0cm 24.0cm 24.0cm 26.4cm 26.0cm 29.4cm 29.4cm
Pan Type Flat Skillet Crepe Pan Deep Fry Pan Teppanyaki E1 E2 E3 E4
Pan Weight 1.84 KG 2.28 KG 2.48 KG 1.5 KG 2.2 KG 2.33 KG 3.14 KG 3.11 KG
Handle Length 120mm 120mm 220mm 250mm 250mm 250mm 250mm 250mm
Minutes Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp Pan Temp Handle Temp
Start 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20
1 min 135 33 130 28 71 23 144 22 101 20 89 21 89 21 85 21
2 min 164 48 167 47 103 25 209 29 157 21 151 22 148 22 145 22
3 min 205 70 214 69 137 28 237 35 178 22 195 23 178 22 190 23
4 min 245 85 248 96 170 32 252 38 252 23 224 23 205 22 222 24
5 min 272 114 269 101 186 36 279 45 265 26 249 25 235 23 239 25
6 min 300 119 293 128 198 45 319 48 296 28 270 27 260 25 263 25
7 min 320 132 305 148 210 61 326 49 309 32 284 31 272 25 285 27
8 min 328 138 312 149 220 65 329 58 313 32 299 34 280 27 288 27
9 min 335 155 332 150 222 71 334 62 322 34 320 35 290 29 302 29
10 min 343 168 348 165 225 81 336 65 322 36 326 36 306 32 319 31
11 min 349 175 357 180 240 84 336 66 324 40 327 42 317 34 320 34
12 min 353 191 356 195 262 96 338 69 326 42 338 44 320 34 320 35

 

June 16, 2015

Cast Iron Seasoning

Seasoning is the process of creating a stick-resistant cooking surface by applying heat to the pan to polymerize applied oil or fat. For the most stick-resistant and durable cooking surface, we recommend applying multiple layers of organic food-grade flax seed oil. Polymerization can be achieved by heating your pan, covered with the finest smear of oil, in a kitchen oven or on a gas or electric stove top.

 

Element Cookware applies four coatings of flax seed oil to the cooking surface of all pans before delivery. This not only provides an exceptional cooking surface, but also ensures easy cleaning and maintenance. Your pan is ready to be used as supplied.

 

For the best non stick cooking results, try the application of a small amount of butter to a preheated cast iron pan. The flax seed oil seasoned surface does not allow unsalted cultured butter to adhere and a non stick surface results.

However it is best to cook with which ever cooking medium you prefer or which ever medium suits the food and cooking method. Butter, oil, lard cast iron accepts all cooking oils or fats.

 

Over time and through regular cooking your pan will continue to be seasoned, creating an even smoother cooking surface. Your pan will only improve with age and regular use.

All foods can be successfully cooked on a cast iron surface that is seasoned with flax seed oil. However, cooking acidic foods can weaken the polymerized surface. If this should occur, simply re-season your pan using flax seed oil.

 

When attempting to re-season your pan, the cooking surface should be cleaned back.

Intense cleaning is best achieved using steel wool, or if you have access to small electric hand drill, use a circular brass brush that is designed to attach to your drill. This cleaning process will not undo the previous placement of polymerized oil embedded in the porous cast iron surface. It will, however, remove any excess cooking material and will smooth the polymerized surface to enable the successful re-seasoning of the pan using one or two coatings of heated flax seed oil.


You will want to re season the pan whenever the cooking surface becomes less effective in its non stick performance. This may be in three months, six months or a year.

 

The stove top seasoning process:

 

Dry completely by heating the pan. 
Applied a small amount of oil to all surfaces (this will also protect the pan from rust and enable washing in water without concern). 

After oiling all surfaces, wipe the cooking surface with a paper towel, being careful to protect your hands from the hot pan. Ensure no excess oil is left on the pan, just enough to evenly coat the surface. 
  
Turn your stove to high and heat pan until the flax seed oil starts to smoke. 
Turn the stove down to a medium-high heat and continue to cook until the smoking stops. This should take about 15 minutes. 
Turn the heat off and allow the pan to cool to room temperature. 
  

Repeat steps for additional coats. We recommend at least two coats of flax seed oil for each re-seasoning. For best results, we recommend up to six coats of polymerized flax seed oil. The pan already has four coats as supplied.

 

As the design and performance of stoves varies from model to model, we recommend observing the start and finish of each smoking phase and adjusting temperatures/times accordingly.

 

The Oven Seasoning Process:

 

Oven seasoning is the best option if a uniform seasoning appearance is desired.

Stove top seasoning enables the creation of an excellent cooking surface but struggles to blacken the higher walls as this takes cooking time.

 

First wash and dry the pan surface completely with a drying towel followed by stove top heating.

Apply a small amount of flaxseed oil to all surfaces

After oiling all of the pan surfaces, wipe the pan to ensure the oil is not applied excessivly.

We have found that a piece of old cotton tee shirt is a perfect non wicking oil absorbent cloth , be careful to protect your hands from the hot pan.

Only the thinnest veneer of oil remains on the surface.

Turn the kitchen oven temperature to maximum ( above 220C) and place the pan upsidedown on the oven racks.

30 minutes should be sufficient for the flaxseed oil to enter and complete the "oil smoking/curing phase".

Turn the oven temperature down to 180 degrees C and allow the flaxseed oil to set off for another 30 minutes.

Turn the oven heat off and allow the pan to cool, this constitutes one coating of flax seed oil as a seasoning agent. Four to six such coats really do produce a very durable and able non stick surface.

The pan is supplied with four coats of seasoning oil and is very able to function in rigorous cooking, cleaning and washing regimes.

There is no need to apply additional seasoning treatment to the supplied pan and we recommend cooking on the pan as it comes straight out of the box.

Further seasoning requirements will become obvious as you progress with learning to cook on cast iron.

The chemistry of the flaxseed non-stick coating is most effectively exploited by cooking with a thin film of cultured butter. The flaxseed oil coating and the applied butter naturally remain separate at the molecular level when cooking.

However cast iron cooking surfaces are suitable for cooking with all vegetable seed oils, such as olive oil or sunflower oil but especially good when utilizing animal fats, such as butter, ghee or lard.

 

 

A great description of a similar technique can be studied at Sheryl Canter's blog.

 

http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

 

Best regards James