How to care for your cast iron skillet. 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 cleaning and seasoning the bad boy of cooks’ tools.
My favorite pans in my kitchen are my cast iron skillets. Before you click the “x” and close the page, give me at least a chance to convince you why a cast iron skillet is worth falling in love with. 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.
The top 5 reasons to love cast-iron:
- Indestructible -a cast-iron skillet found at a garage sale should be scooped up way before that used pair of JimmyChoo’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 to use with cast iron?
- gas oven or stove
- electric oven or stove
- glass (don’t drag across the surface or it’ll scratch!)
- grills – charcoal or gas
How to Care for your Cast Iron
Brand new skillet / first use:
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.
After each use:
- After cooking, cool it down, and if needed, scrape out any bits with a plastic scraper or nylon brush.
- You can wash a cast-iron skillet with 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 dishtowel.
Before putting away:
- 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. Don’t walk away during this process!
- Turn off the heat, remove the pan and allow it too 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.
Stuck on food:
- If you have scrubbed and can’t get the food to come off, 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 “after each use” directions above.
are cast iron skillets safe (or will they rust?)
Cast iron pans are made from…you guessed it: cast iron. This is a perfectly safe metal that has been used for centuries. And yes, they might rust especially if you leave them in water for an extended period of time or don’t dry them thoroughly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get them back to their handsome selves.
Salvaging vintage (Or Rusty) Cast Iron
You’ve found a skillet at a garage sale – lucky you! Just read through this info and you’ll be good to go!
I follow Lodge’s recommendations for restoring cast-iron back from the place old pans go to die.
- 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 described above with vegetable oil or shortening but skip the stove.
- 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.