To make crisp dosas, an utappam which is crispy outside and soft inside and tasty guntapongadalu, we need a good griddle. Using iron/cast iron griddles and patras we get tasty dosa, utappam and guntapongadalu. Nowadays for easy maintenance and convenience, non-stick pans and griddles are easily available in the market. But the taste and texture of dosas, utappams and guntapongadalu would be somewhat different when made using Iron griddles, cast iron griddles and patras.
One cannot just get an iron griddle/cast iron griddle and immediately use it for making dosas as they need to be seasoned before use. Here let us learn to remove rust easily on a cast iron griddle and also learn to season it for making tasty and crisp dosas.
Removing Rust On Iron Griddle:
To remove rust on iron things we need washed rice water (BIYYAPU KADUGU NEELLU) i.e., the water collected after washing rice. While cooking, take rice in a bowl and add water and wash the rice well. Transfer the washed rice water into a bowl. We need to soak the griddle in enough washed rice water. So while cooking collect the washed rice water till sufficient quantity is collected to soak the griddle. If rice bran is available---process is further simplified---use it and remove rust. Take a deep tub and add sufficient rice bran and add water. Mix the rice bran in water with fingers till there are no lumps in the mixture. Then add sufficient water to the bran solution to soak the cast iron griddle. Dip the cast iron griddle in bran water and ensure that the griddle is fully immersed in bran water---use a big tub or a big bucket to fully immerse. Let the griddle remain in bran water overnight. Next day take the griddle out of the bran water and observe that most of the rust got detached from it. Bran in bran solution easily removes the rust on iron things. So if bran is not available, use washed rice water. Rice contains some bran and when washed, it gets into the water---collect that water and remove rust on iron things. Sprinkle some dish washer powder and scrub the griddle using a steel scrubber. Steel scrubber removes the residual rust on the griddle. Another method is to sprinkle some citric acid on the griddle along with dish wash powder and scrubbing it with steel scrubber to clean the griddle. Citric acid removes the residual rust on the griddle. Wash the griddle well under running water tap and wipe it to dry with a clean and dry cloth.
Seasoning Of Cast Iron Griddle:
After cleaning the griddle, now let us learn to season it before using.
Heat the griddle well. Add some oil and smear that oil on the griddle using a crumpled paper napkin or a cloth. While smearing oil observe that if the griddle is not fully cleaned of rust, it sticks on the oily paper napkin which indicates that the griddle needs to be cleaned thoroughly before seasoning it. After smearing oil on the griddle while heating it, observe that the griddle soaks all the oil applied on it. Then add some more oil and smear again using crumpled paper napkin. Repeat this process till the griddle stops absorbing oil and a thin coat of oil remains on the surface of the griddle. The thin coat of oil on the griddle indicates that griddle is sufficiently seasoned and is ready to use. To know how far the griddle is seasoned, make dosas and test.
Add a ladleful of batter in the centre of the griddle and spread the batter with the back of the ladle into a thick dosa. Make thick dosa as we are using the griddle for the first time after seasoning it---if it fails it would be easy to scrape the dosa if it is thicker. Similarly add more oil on and around the dosa as it would help in removing the dosa once it is done. Spread the oil on the dosa with a flat ladle and cover and cook---covering the dosa allows it to cook and that helps in easy removal of the dosa from the griddle once it is done. After few minutes observe that the underside is brown in color---observe this from the holes on the dosa. Then try to remove the dosa from the griddle using flat ladle. If the dosa comes out clean then the griddle is fully seasoned. If it was needed to scrape the dosa using flat ladle then the griddle needs to be seasoned further. Making more dosas automatically seasons the griddle. Here in this case for me the third dosa came out clean though with some difficulty. Making few more dosas it got seasoned well. So, repeat the process of dosa making till we get fine edged dosas---by that time the griddle gets seasoned fully.
Maintenance Of Seasoned Cast Iron Griddle:
Let us also learn how to maintain the seasoning of the griddle when not making dosas. After making dosas, rub the griddle with paper napkin to remove excess oil on it and allow it to cool. Take a scrubber and dip it in a MILD liquid soap. Using the scrubber dipped in liquid soap, wash the cast iron griddle lightly---do not scrub hard to remove all the oil traces on it. Wash the griddle with clear water and wipe it dry using a dry cloth. Observe that the griddle looks clean. Run fingers on the griddle and observe that there is no trace of oil on the fingers. As we have washed the griddle JUST LIGHTLY that too using a mild liquid soap, only the oil on the top layer gets washed away. Oil in the pores, which the griddle has absorbed, still remains. So when the griddle is heated in next time use, the oil in the pores helps the griddle to season instantly. Place the cleaned griddle in a big plastic cover and cover it fully so that the griddle would be clean and free from dust till next use.
Alongwith the cast iron griddle, I have also removed rust and seasoned a cast iron guntapongadala patra.
After few days (3 days) test the cast iron griddle and the guntapongadala patra to know whether the seasoning stills remains as we have washed them using a mild liquid soap.
Heat the guntapongadala patra and add some oil in each dent. Add batter into the dents and cook covered till the underside is crisp. Turn each pongadalu in its slot and fry uncovered till crisp on the other side. Observe the golden colored guntapongadalu which were fried to a crisp texture. the well seasoned cast iron guntapongadala patra works like a non-stick patra and the pongadalu just come out easily from the slots.
Now let us test the cast iron griddle. Heat the cast iron griddle and apply a thin coat of oil to season it. When heating the griddle on a gas stove observe that the centre of the griddle gets heated more when compared to the edges of the griddle—the reason for this is…the centre of the griddle portion is directly under the burner. So to cool the griddle, at the centre portion add some water in the centre of the griddle and it cools instantly. As this is an ongoing process, add water in the centre of the griddle at intervals to cool the very hot griddle.
Take a bowl and add some oil in it. Add water to the oil in the bowl and make a solution and keep it nearby. Take an onion and slice it horizontally. Prick a fork at the back side of the onion leaving the cut portion open. Fork allows us to hold the onion comfortably. Dip the onion in the prepared solution and rub it on the hot griddle evenly. The water in the solution cools the griddle and the oil in it seasons the griddle. Repeat the process of rubbing with onion dipped in prepared solution, before making each dosa. When the griddle is too hot, it would be difficult to spread batter on the griddle. Due to the extreme heat, the batter forms a lump even before spreading it on the griddle. So cool the griddle to the required level before spreading batter on it by adding water. Now add a ladleful of batter and spread in circular motion to make dosa. Spread oil and fry dosa. When it is done, observe the dosa leaving the griddle on its own---as the griddle is well seasoned, it works like a non-stick pan and it comes out like that. Fold the fried dosa and observe how evenly and crisply it has been fried with an even golden color all over. Similarly make utappam and fry on both sides and serve. To test further I have used the cast iron griddle once again after two weeks to make pesarapappu pesarattu and it came out nicely. So we have learned how to remove rust on a new cast iron griddle and have also learned to season it and maintain it when not using it.
Seasoning And Maintenance Of Iron Griddle:
Now let us see how to season and maintain a normal iron griddle. When we bring a new iron griddle, remove rust and season it as shown in the case of cast iron griddle. But to maintain the seasoning of the griddle, do not wash it with a mild soap using a scrubber. Let us learn to maintain the seasoning of iron griddle.
After making dosas, wipe the griddle using a paper napkin to remove excess oil. Cool the griddle well. Take some rice flour or any edible flour and sprinkle on the griddle evenly. Using a paper napkin scrub the flour coated griddle. Rice flour soaks all the oil and paper napkin works as a scrubber to clean the griddle. Cleaning this way all the excess oil comes out easily with the flour. Shake off the flour and wipe the griddle with a dry cloth. As we have not cleaned the griddle using soap or any detergent, a thin layer of oil still remains on the griddle which would help in maintaining the seasoning on it. Hence remember not to clean a normal iron griddle with soap after use---as soap washes away all the oil on the griddle. If the griddle is not washed, dirt gets accumulated on the oily surface of the griddle. So cleaning with rice flour, clears the oil on the surface of the griddle and makes it look clean. Rub fingers on the griddle and observe that there is no trace of oil---but there is a very thin coat of oil on it which helps in maintaining the seasoning of the griddle. Place the griddle in a plastic cover and cover it fully to keep the griddle free from dust.
Why The Difference In Maintaining Different Iron Griddles?
As cast iron griddle is porous, oil gets into the pores and gets seasoned well. So even after washing the griddle using a mild soap, it still retains oil in the pores which helps in maintaining the seasoning.
Whereas a normal iron griddle is less porous and after washing the griddle using a mild soap, all the oil gets washed away. So when we make dosas with a washed pan, we get crumpled dosas or pieces of dosa till the griddle is well seasoned again. Cleaning the normal iron griddle with rice flour retains the seasoning.
Even cast iron griddles may also be cleaned using rice flour….but….when the griddle is heated again, the rice flour which is stuck in the pores gets roasted and gives oily smell….so it is advisable to clean a cast iron griddle using mild soap.
Even seasoned and maintained griddles lose their seasoning when not used for months. So…first season the griddle as mentioned above and then make dosas.
Iron Pans & Griddles…Cast Iron Pans & Griddles:
All iron pans, griddles, cast iron pans and griddles and guntapongadala patras need to be cleaned using bran water or washed rice water and all cast iron pans and griddles need to be seasoned as mentioned above before using them. Cast iron pans and griddles work as non stick pans on long use as the surface of cast iron pans is coarse and porous, oil gets settled in the pores and the seasoning is well maintained making it work like a non stick pans.
Using iron pans in daily cooking helps to get sufficient iron required to the body as iron leaches while cooking in iron pans. Use flat iron pans for curries and fries and observe that even with little oil they turn out into superb dishes. Use deep pans for gravy dishes and small pans to season chutneys. Use the smaller pans to season charu, majjigapulusu etc.,
Use flat cast iron pans to make stuffed vegetable curries like vankaya kaya koora, dondakaya kaya koora, dondakaya ullikaram, for making pav bhaji and jalebis. I use a small deep cast iron pan for deepfrying dishes likes pakodas and bajjis---even if some oil is left in the pores of such cast iron pans---they work as nonstick pans in next use.
Important point to remember while using cast iron pans is to handle them very carefully---once slipped from hands would be broken into pieces.
Maintaining these iron pans is also easy only some procedures are to be followed. After cooking add a pinch of citric acid in the pan and sprinkle dish wash powder on it and scrub using a steel scrubber to clean the pan. After rinsing the pan clean it dry with a cloth to remove moisture otherwise they get rusted due to oxidation.
When citrus vegetables and fruits are added in a dish cooked in iron pan, the color of the dish turns dark. If making tomato chutney it would get dark color as the tomatoes react with iron and changes color---do not worry---it is good---it indicates iron has leached into the food. Similarly when turmeric is added in any dish it reacts with the iron---when I make Guguni it turns dark and at the end when I add lemon juice to season Guguni the pan turns white as iron reacts with lemon juice. So except for parties where presentation is important, for daily cooking, one can comfortably use iron pots and pans.
Iron is required to absorb vitamins we get from vegetables. Growing children and ladies (especially after menstrual cycle) require iron. Instead of using iron pills, protect your family members from iron deficiency by using iron pans and griddles while making meals.
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