If you’re like me you’ve probably had a complicated relationship with your cast iron skillet.
Okay, maybe not that complicated.
Of my 20+ years of cooking, I’ve only owned a cast iron skillet for the past few years. My mom, however, has been using cast iron for as long as I can remember. She used to make some delicious roasts in her cast iron skillet that I still can’t duplicate to this day.
Mom had been telling me for years to get a cast iron skillet, but I liked my nonstick skillets and truthfully, I was a bit intimidated by the care a cast iron skillet needs.
So I’ll be honest; when she gifted me with one for Christmas a few years ago, it took a few months before I actually used it.
I’m now glad I got past that initial reluctance. For one, I love love love using it to get a good sear on meats and for charring veggies. For another, it’s not as hard to care for as I first thought.
Seasoning your cast iron.
A lot of cast iron cookware comes pre-seasoned these days. Obviously, you don’t have to season your already seasoned pan. However, some people recommend seasoning it anyway. And then there are others who say you don’t have to re-season it. I mean, you bought it pre-seasoned for a reason, right? I say do whatever you want. It’s not going to hurt to season an already seasoned pan. It’s also not going to hurt to not season an already pre-seasoned pan.
Whether you buy a pre-seasoned pan and decide to season it again, or bought a pan that needs to be seasoned before using it the first time, know this… seasoning the pan isn’t as hard as it sounds.
The easiest way I’ve found is to heat your oven to 350°. Place the cast iron pan in the oven and heat for about 10 minutes to warm it up. Using a paper towel, smear a small amount of oil around the whole inside of the pan and bake for an hour. Use a saturated fat, like lard, bacon fat, coconut oil, or vegetable shortening. You can use a liquid oil like vegetable or olive oil to season it with, but I’ve heard it can leave a sticky residue behind. I have used vegetable oil in a pinch, and didn’t have that issue, but I thought I’d mention it as a possibility.
That’s it! Let it cool completely, place a paper towel over it to keep it dust free between uses, and stick it in your pan drawer.
Though you can season your pan as much as you want, I haven’t had to re-season mine, and it’s been a couple years. So far simply using it has kept it well seasoned. I also place a very small amount of coconut oil on a paper towel and wipe the inside of the pan after each use and wash.
Yes, you actually can wash your cast iron skillet.
That’s right… I said wash.
Do not be afraid to wash your cast iron with soap and water. If the thought of food cootie residue bothers you, then by all means wash your pan! It’s perfectly okay to do so as long as you’re not using a ton of soap or soaking the pan.
Don’t ever let your pan soak in water of any kind (soapy or otherwise). And though I do use soap, I don’t use a whole lot, just a few drops. Wash your pan after you’re done cooking, making sure to let the pan cool enough to work with but still retain some heat (cast iron retains heat for a long time, enjoy your meal first). Use a couple drops of soap, scrub the pan out, and then rinse and dry immediately.
Before putting away, I then add another very small amount of coconut oil to a paper towel and wipe the inside of the still warm pan (yep, it should still be warm). Place another clean paper towel over the pan to keep it free of dust and you’re done.
There is another method of cleaning out the pan if you’re not afraid of food cootie residue. A tried and true method of scrubbing out any leftover food is to wet the pan with a little water and scrub with coarse salt (again, preferably while the pan is still warm). Rinse out the salt, dry immediately, and follow up with a quick swipe of your favorite fat or oil before putting away.
A few other notes.
~ Use your own judgement, but I do use my cast iron skillet on my glass stove top without any problems. I just make sure to be careful when setting it down, and not to sauté by shaking the pan.
~ You can use metal utensils with your cast iron cookware, as long as you’re not purposefully gouging at it, it is very unlikely that you will remove the seasoning. Due to the heating process, the seasoning is not something that can easily be removed. It becomes polymerized, meaning it has bonded to the metal – this is an extremely hard substance that should require concentrated efforts to remove. If you find black flakes in your meals, this is more than likely old food and should be scrubbed off during your next cleaning.
~ If your pan rusts, you’re probably letting it stay wet for too long after cleaning. Dry immediately using a towel; don’t let it air dry. If you find rust, scour the pan with steel wool and re-season the pan. It is almost impossible to completely ruin a cast iron pan. Scouring and re-seasoning will fix nearly any problem.
I hope these tips ease any trepidation you might have about using a cast iron skillet. Have more questions? Please comment below! Loving and caring for cast iron cookware doesn’t have to be scary or difficult. And the tasty benefits certainly outweigh the small amount of upkeep it takes to keep your cast iron in shape. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Please don’t mind the mess.
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