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Taking Care of Cast Iron

From Texas Rib House

How we tested

Routine Maintenance

If you buy a preseasoned pan (and you should), you can use the pan with little fuss.

  • Don't wash the pan with soap or leave it in the sink to soak. Rinse it out under hot running water, scrubbing with a brush to remove traces of food. (This is easiest if done while the pan is still warm.)
  • Dry the pan thoroughly and put it back on the burner on low heat until all traces of moisture disappear (this keeps rusting at bay). Put a few drops of vegetable oil in the warm, dry pan and wipe the interior with a wad of paper towels until it is lightly covered with oil. Then, using fresh paper towels, rub more firmly to burnish the surface and remove all excess oil. The pan shouldn't look or feel oily to the touch. Turn off the heat and allow the pan to cool before putting it away.

 

Heavy-Duty Cleaning

If you have stuck-on food or you've inherited a pan that is rusty or gummy, scrub it with kosher salt.

  • Pour in vegetable oil to a depth of 1/4 inch, then place the pan on a stove set to medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add 1/4 cup kosher salt. Using potholder to grip hot handle, use thick cushion of paper towels to scrub pan. Warm oil will loosen food or rust, and kosher salt will have abrading effect. Rinse pan under hot running water, dry well, and repeat, if necessary.

 

Reseasoning

If cooking acidic foods or improper cleaning has removed the seasoning from your pan, it will look dull, patchy, and dry instead of a smooth, rich black. You need to restore the seasoning. We have found this stovetop method (rather than the usual oven method) to be the most effective way to season a cast-iron pan.

  • Heat pan over medium-high heat until drop of water evaporates on contact. Wipe inside with wad of paper towels dipped in vegetable oil (hold towels with tongs to protect yourself). Wipe out excess oil and repeat as needed until pan is slick.

     

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*