I love my cast iron skillet. The ability to go from stove top to oven, cook in one pan, and the diversity of types of dishes that can be cooked, make the cast iron skillet and absolute must have. In this post I cover how to care for cast iron so you don’t make the same mistakes I see so many newbies make.
First off, food tastes better when it’s cooked on cast iron. My favorite cast iron meals are all actually breakfast. Biscuits and sausage gravy, eggs and bacon, steak and eggs, and pancakes all cook up wonderfully in a cast iron skillet.
Cooking in a cast iron skillet is just as comforting as eating the wonderful comfort food that comes out of it. So if you plan on using your cast iron a lot you are going to need to know hot to care for cast iron before you get started.
Welcome To The Cast Iron Club
I remember purchasing my first cast iron skillet. I wanted it solely for crispy chicken thighs because no other baking dish or pan could give me that delicious crisp while easily moving back to the stove top for a delicious gravy.
I was pretty intimidated by this pan though because it’s not a use and wash pan. The pan should not be washed with soap, it shouldn’t be put in a dishwasher, and it needs to be seasoned to keep it working well. There are a lot of rules for a cast iron that other baking dishes just don’t have.
However, once you learn how to care for your cast iron it’ll become your preferred pan to cook with. You’ll start cooking everything you can and coming up with new dishes using your cast iron skillet.
How To Care For Cast Iron Skillets
There are two separate ways to clean your cast iron skillet. There is the cleaning you’ll do before seasoning your cast iron and the cleanings you do in between seasonings.
Below I’m detailing how to clean your cast iron skillet both ways.
If you notice that food is sticking to your cast iron more or it’s lost that beautiful shine it might be time to prep your pan for another seasoning.
First, you will want to check the pan for rust. If you have rust you will gently clean away that rust with a stainless steel scrubber. Get ones like these not the ones with chemicals.
Using a stiff bristled brush and a small amount of dish soap gently scrub the pan out. Make sure you rinse the pan well to remove all soap from the pan.
Dry the pan completely to make sure there is zero water on the pan. Once this is finished you can skip down to my seasoning instructions.
For Already Seasoned
If your pan is already seasoned, cleaning is pretty simple. While the pan is still hot rinse it under warm water and gently rub off bits of food with a paper towel or a clean dish towel.
Once all the food is off and the cast iron is cleared you dry it completely with a paper towel. From here you simply spread vegetable oil over the inside of the cast iron pan and heat it on a stove top until hot and smokey.
Once the pan is completely heated you can turn off the stove top and let the pan sit and cool completely before putting it away.
Well seasoned cast iron pans have a beautiful silky sheen to them, using a vegetable oil helps to keep your pan from turning rancid like it might using a meat based oil. As you cook and learn how to care for cast iron pots and pans it actually becomes like second nature to use it.
How To Season Your Cast Iron
Seasoning your cast iron skillet is simple. The step by step guide is below.
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Spread vegetable oil all over the skillet, inside and out.
- Place a lined baking sheet on the bottom shelf of your oven.
- Put the pan upside down on an oven rack.
- Bake the pan for an hour.
- Shut off the oven and let the pan sit and cool completely in the oven.
I typically will let the pan cool for the rest of the day or overnight depending on when I started the seasoning process. As always be extremely careful with cast iron and give it plenty of time to cool before handling.
As a side note, a lot of people recommend lard to season a cast iron with. I do not, I prefer using vegetable oil. The trick to keeping your pan from becoming sticky with vegetable oil is to use a smaller amount.
If you used the correct amount of oil there shouldn’t be any drips of oil inside the lipped cookie sheet that you placed on the rack under your skillet after baking. If the skillet has a beautiful shine to it and no drips on the cookie sheet you likely seasoned it perfectly.
Lard and other animal fats are likely to go rancid if they sit for too long on a cast iron. Use an oil to protect you and your family and to keep your cast iron upkeep easier to handle.
How Often To Season Your Cast Iron
There isn’t a strict time frame to follow on how often you should season your cast iron skillets, pots, and griddles. It all depends on the look and how a pan performs before you decide to re-season your cast iron.
If it loses its sheen or the food you are cooking sticks to it heavily, it’s probably time to clean it and give it another seasoning.
Keep in mind that as long as you heat a small amount of oil in the pan before cooking and then clean your skillet properly it should work just fine on one seasoning for a long time.
Storing Your Cast Iron When You Live With Animals
Most people just love to leave their cast iron skillets on the stove tops, however, some of us know that if we do that it will likely end up with fur and dust inside of it. I don’t recommend leaving your cast iron out because of this reason. I instead recommend storing your cast iron in an upper cabinet.
If you can, I recommend adding a lid to your cast iron pots and pans too. This will help to keep animal fur and dust from settling inside and sticking to the pan leaving you to gently clean and season your pan more often than necessary.
If you have animals or live in an older and dustier home I recommend storing your cast iron in an upper cabinet to keep the dust and fur off your new favorite cooking surface. Soon you will master how to care for cast iron pots and pans like the pros.
Cast Iron Love
Cast iron skillets, griddles, and pots make some of the best cookware. Once you learn how to care for cast iron, it quickly becomes a favorite.
Remember, cast iron spreads heat evenly and holds on to it longer so the entire pan will get hot. Be extremely careful when you handle cast iron handles. Use oven mitts or hot pads any time you have a cast iron in use.
What is your favorite cast iron recipe to make? Let me know in the comments below. Follow me on Pinterest for more like this and pin this to your favorite cleaning and cooking boards.
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