For preparing a stew or roast, opt for cast iron instead of traditional baking pans. Cast iron pots have a heavy construction that slowly transfers the heat to the food, ideal for long, slow cooking methods. An option for some cast iron cooking vessels is the self basting lid. Choose these lids to cover cast iron pots used for long, moist cooking such as braising or stewing for moist and juicy results without the effort of continuously basting during cooking.
Self Basting Cast Iron Lids
Self basting cast iron refers to the specially designed lid of the pot with ridges or spikes on the inside. These lids are designed to catch steam as it rises in the cooking container and condense the steam back into water on the inside of the lid. From there, the water drips down the spikes and back down onto the food like water from a stalactite in a cave.
When choosing a self basting lid for a cast iron pot, opt for a lid that fits tightly onto your pot. Without a tight fit, steam escapes, reducing the amount of condensation inside the pot and lessening the effectiveness of the self basting lid. Look for a high dome shape on a self basting lid. Older, non-self basting lids will be flatter, to hold coals to turn the pot into an oven, but self basting lids will be taller and peaked for steam to drip inside the pot.
Place the self basting lid on the cast iron pot for cooking moist foods such as stews, braised meats or soups. For cooking foods such as pies or biscuits in a cast iron pot, leave the lid off for baking the food in the oven. At a campsite or on top of the stove, wrap a towel around the inside of the lid before covering the pot. Fold the excess towel on top of the lid to keep it out of the fire. The closed lid turns the cooking pot into an outdoor oven, and the towel catches condensation, keeping baked goods from becoming soggy as they cook.
Care and Cleaning
Self basting cast iron lids are made of the same cast iron as the pot and require the same care. For unlined lids, wipe off excess liquid after cooking when the lid is cool. Wipe the inside of the lid with a thin layer of melted vegetable shortening to prevent rusting in storage. Line the inside of the lid with a paper towel to protect the metal and absorb any extra moisture in the storage environment. Avoid washing cast iron with large amounts of soap because the pores in the lid can trap the soap and release it into condensing steam and onto the food when it is used next for cooking.