How to Care for Cast Iron

The original non-stick pan, the cast-iron skillet is an essential piece of cookware to add to your arsenal. Here’s the guide to how to care for cast iron — the bad boy of cooks’ tools.

overhead shot of cast iron skillets on a stove grate with a wooden bowl of salt

My favorite pans in my kitchen are my cast iron skillets. I use mine all the time to make our favorite Cast Iron Skillet Pizza. Before you click the “x” and close the page, give me at least a chance to show you how to care for cast iron and why you’re going to fall in love with it.

Kind of like that boy who might be a little rough around the edges but has a certain sumpin sumpin’, a cast-iron skillet is the bad boy of cook’s tools. With a dark side that needs a little tender loving care, this pan is strong, dependable and literally, the non-stick pan that won’t let you down– EVER.

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The top 5 reasons to love cast-iron

overhead shot of cast iron skillets on a stove grate with a wooden bowl of salt
  • Indestructible  -a cast-iron skillet found at a garage sale should be scooped up way before that used pair of Jimmy Choo’s. Why? Because the skillet can always be restored to its former glory. The shoes? They’ll still have always had someone else’s tootsies in them.
  • Versatile – You can use any tools from metal to wooden and everything in between. And cast iron is at home on any cooking surface from gas, electric, induction and glass. Just don’t put it in the dishwasher.
  • Non-stick – a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is the best sunnyside up egg pan you’ll ever have and will release the eggs perfectly without breaking the yolk. It’s the seasoning that makes the pan non-stick. Maintain it and you’re set.
  • Good looking – take care of your cast iron and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful dark pan with a wonderfully fabulous sheen. See below.
  • A steak’s BFF – for the perfect steakhouse steak, use a cast-iron skillet. Sear at high heat for approximately 2 minutes per side and finish in the oven at 450. This is fool-proof and will impress the people who live or visit with you every time.

What cooking surfaces or appliances are safe ?

stacked cast iron skillets and grill pans

Let’s talk about all the places you can use your cast iron:

Do use it:

  • with a gas oven or stove
  • with an electric oven
  • with an induction cooktop
  • with a glass cooktop (don’t drag across the surface or it’ll scratch!)
  • on the grill – either charcoal or gas

Don’t use it:

  • in a microwave


How to clean a cast iron skillet

steps shown to clean a cast iron skillet from washing to heating to oiling.

Today’s skillets are ready to go right out of the box (after washing of course). A little oil or butter in dry and heat slowly and get cooking. Use any utensils you like. Heat it slowly and remember a little goes a long way when it comes to heat. These are the kings of heat conduction next to copper so heat slowly and not too high.

Here’s how to care for your cast iron skillet after each use:

  1. After cooking, cool it down, and if needed, scrape out any bits with a plastic scraper or nylon brush.
  2. Wash with a mild dish soap and a non-abrasive sponge or brush (#1). I repeat – you CAN WASH a cast-iron skillet. Even the king of cast iron, Lodge says so which is like your mom saying so. So there.
  3. Dry thoroughly with a paper towel or dish towel.You can also heat on the stove until thoroughly dry.
  4. Heat a quarter-size amount of vegetable oil or a small amount of shortening in your skillet (#2).Don’t add too much or your pan will end up sticky and not have that smooth finish you are looking for.
  5. Slowly swirl the pan to coat the bottom and continue heating over medium-high heat until the oil begins to slightly smoke.This should take about 5 minutes. Don’t walk away during this process!
  6. Turn off the heat, remove the pan and allow it too cool completely.
  7. Take a paper towel and wipe the bottom, sides and even the handle with the remaining oil until just a slight coat remains (#3).That’s it! Your pan is now ready for its next use.

Favorite cast iron pans

There is one standout cast iron skillet in my kitchen.

Cast iron troubleshooting

cast iron skillets on a stove grate with a wooden bowl of salt and a green handle of one pan sticking out
  • Food stuck in a cast iron pan?
    • Place the pan on the stove and add a little water to the pan.
    • Heat the pan on low and allow the water to simmer and soften the hardened food.
    • Turn off the heat. Allow the pan to cool completely and then follow the “how to clean a skillet” directions above.
  • How to restore a rusted cast iron skillet
    • Use a copper scrubbing pad to remove any rust. You can also use a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt.
    • Thorough hand-wash with soap, if necessary.
    • Season as in the recipe card with vegetable oil or shortening but skip the stove.
    • Instead, place some foil on a lower oven rack and place your pan upside down on the rack (above the foil rack) in an oven set to 450-500˚ for 1 hour. Remove and voila! Magic time.

Made this recipe?

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cast iron skillet with a little salt on a blue and white cloth and little brass spoon
5 from 2 votes

How to care for cast iron

Today's skillets are ready to go right out of the box (after washing of course). Here's all you need to know to care for your cast iron.
Prep Time:2 minutes
Cook Time:3 minutes
Total Time:5 minutes

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients
 

  • vegetable oil

Instructions

Here's how to care for your cast iron skillet after each use:

  • After cooking, cool it down, and if needed, scrape out any bits with a plastic scraper or nylon brush.
  • Wash with a mild dish soap and a non-abrasive sponge or brush (#1)
    I repeat – you CAN WASH a cast-iron skillet. Even the king of cast iron, Lodge says so which is like your mom saying so. So there.
  • Dry thoroughly with a paper towel or dish towel.
    You can also heat on the stove until thoroughly dry.
  • Heat a quarter-size amount of vegetable oil or a small amount of shortening in your skillet (#2).
    Don't add too much or your pan will end up sticky and not have that smooth finish you are looking for.
  • Slowly swirl the pan to coat the bottom and continue heating over medium-high heat until the oil begins to slightly smoke.
    This should take about 5 minutes. Don't walk away during this process!
  • Turn off the heat, remove the pan and allow it to cool completely.
  • Take a paper towel and wipe the bottom, sides and even the handle with the remaining oil until just a slight coat remains (#3).
    That's it! Your pan is now ready for its next use.

Notes

  • Heat a pan over medium heat, add a little butter or oil and get cooking!
  • Use any utensils you like.
  • Heat it slowly and remember a little goes a long way when it comes to heat. These are the kings of heat conduction next to copper so heat slowly and not too high.
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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6 Comments

  1. I love my dad’s old cast iron. I originally came back to using them when I became anemic. I was so sure that this was all just bull hockey but they do indeed up the iron content in foods especially if they’re acidic.

    1. Hey Marg! I would love to know who has your dad’s old cast iron! I bet he had quite a collection ♥️ And yes on the iron – every little bit helps, right?

  2. I LOVE my cast iron pans but have definitely struggled with keeping them seasoned. I have used a method from Epicurious in which you scrub them with coarse salt, coat with oil (super high smoke point) and then bake at 400 for an hour. It’s a very stinky process and I haven’t found it to work very well. I’m excited to try your way!

    1. Do it! It’s super easy! If they’re heavily charred, check out Lodge’s site for the restore process which is baking them upside down for an hour also. You also can wash them with soap which Lodge also approves.