I love my cast iron skillet. You can cook nearly anything in it, and cast iron is pretty much indestructible. Cast iron is definitely one of those things where, if you take care of it, it will take care of you and last a lifetime and more.
Caring for cast iron can be a bit tricky, if you’ve never done it before. Here are my ten commandments of cast iron care and use.
1. Where to buy cast iron.
First things first: where can you find good quality cast iron?
You can buy good cast iron pans new, or you can find them at yard sales and estate sales. Even if rusty, if they have a flat bottom and are in otherwise good shape, they can be cleaned up and will look and work as good as new.
2. Clean your cast iron first. Gently.
The first thing to do when you get a cast iron pan, whether new or used, is to clean it. NEVER clean cast iron in a dishwasher.
Instead, use water and a brush or scrubber. Use mild liquid dish soap if needed to remove stubborn dirt, but, otherwise, soap isn’t necessary. Rinse and dry very well.
3. Remove rust from old cast iron.
If you bought or inherited an old cast iron pan and it’s rusty, don’t despair! You can remove the rust easily!
First, wash the cast iron as described in #1, above. Next, take kosher or other coarse grain salt and generously sprinkle into the bottom of the pan.
Next, cut a potato in half and use one half to scrub the salt on the surface of the cast iron pan. You can also use a paper towel to do this, but a potato is much sturdier and easier to hold.
If the salt gets dirty, throw it out and replace it with clean salt. Once the rust is gone, rinse with water and dry well. Now it’s time to season your pan!
4. Season your cast iron.
Once you have cleaned your pan, you need to season it before using it. “Seasoning” the pan means coating it with a light layer of oil and baking that oil on, into the iron, to seal the surface. This creates a smooth, nearly non-stick surface on the pan. Here’s how to season your cast iron pan.
You’ll need solid vegetable shortening, like Crisco, and some paper towels. Heat a few tablespoons of shortening in the pan until it melts. Let it cool for a bit, then dip a paper towel in it and wipe the entire surface of the pan. You just need a light coat over the whole pan.
Next, line the lower rack of your oven with foil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the skillet upside down on the upper rack, and bake for one hour.
After an hour, turn the oven off, but leave the pan inside the oven to cool a little. Then remove from the oven. And that’s it – you’re ready to cook!
I season my skillets about once a month when I use them a lot, or just before using them if I haven’t used them in a while. Just check your pan to see if it looks dry. If so, re-season it.
5. How to clean your seasoned cast iron.
Once you’ve seasoned your cast iron skillet or pot and cook in it, you’ll need to clean it. To do this, just use water and a scrubber or brush. If you have grease or stuck-on food, you can use a bit of mild dish soap, but make sure you rinse it well.
Once you’ve washed and thoroughly dried the pan, rub it all over with a little vegetable oil. Use just enough to give it a sheen; it just needs a light coat. It will soak into the iron and keep the surface smooth.
6. How to store cast iron.
Store your cast iron in a cool, dry place; moisture will create rust. Also, store it so that air can circulate around it, even if it’s just by elevating the lid or the pan stacked on top of it a bit.
7. It’s an oven-proof wonder.
You know those recipes that call for oven-proof skillets? Cast iron skillets are the best for this! They go from stove top to oven and hold heat really well. Just make sure to use an oven mitt because they get really hot!
8. You can cook almost anything in cast iron.
Sure, you cook cornbread and cobbler in cast iron, but did you know that you can cook almost anything in cast iron? I make turkey burgers in a cast iron skillet, and it gives them the perfect crust on the outside, while staying moist on the inside.
Or how about these caramel cinnamon rolls from Hello Creative Family – yum!
9. Utensils for cast iron.
You can cook in cast iron with any kind of utensils – wooden, bamboo, silicone, or metal. Just be careful with metal spoons and spatulas so you don’t gouge or scratch the surface; it removes some of the seasoning.
10. It adds iron to your diet, too.
Cooking in cast iron actually adds iron to your diet. Sure, it’s just a bit, but it will. (Conversely, if you can’t have added iron, you might want to not use it.)
Do you have cast iron cookware? What’s your favorite recipe to make in cast iron? Share in the comments!
Additional source for this article, other than those linked above: The Cornbread Gospels, by Crescent Dragonwagon. You can find information about cast iron in it, but get it for the recipes. They’re fantastic!