The first time I used my cast iron skillet, I thought I had ruined it for sure. The food baked on so hard that I had to soak my pan. But when I soaked my pan, it rusted. And I thought I had wasted my money on a heavy piece of metal. But in reality, the pan was just fine. I just had to take care of it the right way. Cast iron cookware is very sturdy and pretty foolproof if you follow a few simple guidelines. Here’s what I learned about taking care of cast iron cookware.
How do you take care of cast iron cookware? Cast iron cookware needs to be cleaned, oiled, and seasoned correctly. To season cast iron, rub it with oil and then bake it in the over for a short period of time. Cast iron rarely needs soap, but it does need to be rinsed and dried thoroughly each time you use it. After it’s dry, you can add a little bit of oil to keep the seasoning in good shape.
In this article, we’ll look at how to take care of your cast iron cookware. If you are new to using cast iron or just need a little refresher, you’ll want to keep reading because we’ll go over what to do with a new cast iron pan, how to clean your cookware, and how to season it. We’ll also talk about what kind of oil you need to use for seasoning your pan and how often you should do it. But first, let’s take a look at what’s so great about cast iron.
What’s So Great About Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware is remarkable for its durability and versatility. You can use it on your traditional stovetop, on a wood stove, and even over an open fire. These types of cookware are so durable they can last for generations. There are plenty more benefits of using cast iron – you can find out more here.
First Time Using Your New Cast Iron Pan
You will often hear that you should never use soap on a cast iron pan. But sometimes you can, and when you first get your new pan, whether it’s brand new from the store or new to you from a friend or garage sale, a little soap is a good thing!
Thoroughly wash your new pan with some mild dish soap and then rinse it really, really well. You want to make sure you get rid of all the soap residue! This will remove any dirt, dust, or metal shavings that might be leftover from the factory or anything unusual that might have gotten on the pan you picked up from the neighborhood yard sale. Just make sure to rinse it thoroughly.
And always dry your pan completely so that it doesn’t rust.
A new pan will probably come pre-seasoned, but if not, or if your pan is used, you’ll want to follow the directions on seasoning your cast iron cookware before you use it the first time. Even if your pan came pre-seasoned, it doesn’t hurt to add another layer.
How to Season Your Cast Iron Pan
What Is Seasoning Cast Iron
Seasoning is the process that makes your cast iron non-stick. It is the process of baking several layers of oil onto the pan, which creates a surface that is resistant to rust and non-stick. Over time, the seasoning can wear away, so it’s good to season your pan regularly.
How to Season Your Cast Iron Cookware
Seasoning your pan is very easy. Once your pan is clean and dry, you’ll want to pour a little oil into the pan. Take a paper towel (or a clean reusable dishcloth, if you prefer) and use it to coat the entire pan with oil. Make sure you rub the oil in thoroughly and don’t miss any spots.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pan, upside down, on the middle rack and allow it to bake for 60 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re short on time, you can bake it at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. You may want to put some aluminum foil on the rack below to catch any drips.
Turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool before removing it. The pan may smoke a little during the seasoning process as the oil heats up. A little smoke is normal, but make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated.
Your pan should have a light, shiny coating on it. You can do this several times in a row to get just the amount of seasoning that you want.
Care for In Between Seasoning Your Cast Iron
Seasoning is a process that takes a little bit of time. But in between, you can give your seasoning a little boost.
After you’ve cooked with your cast iron pan, rinse it and dry it well. Put a little oil on the inside of the pan, and spread it around. This time, don’t put any on the outside. Put the pan on your stovetop and heat it until it begins to smoke. Then turn off the stove, cool the pan, and then wipe off any excess oil. Your pan should be good to go!
If you pull your pan out of the cupboard and it looks a little dull, just wipe a little cooking oil over the inside surface, and heat it before you begin to cook. Oiling it before use will allow you to cook with the pan until you can re-season it well.
How Often Do You Need to Season Your Cast Iron Pan
If you use your cast iron often, you probably only need to season it 2 or 3 times a year, especially if you touch it up from time to time.
You may want to touch up your seasoning on the stovetop about once a month, and you should oil your pan a little bit after every use.
The Best Oils for Seasoning Cast Iron
Cast Iron cookware companies often sell their own seasoning oil. For example, Lodge Cast Iron sells Seasoning Spray that is 100% canola oil. These are great, but you can also use oil that you already have in your kitchen.
Never use oil not intended for human consumption when you season your pan. Never put anything toxic or inedible on your cast iron cookware. Doing so could have very serious and even deadly consequences.
However, there are plenty of healthy options for seasoning your cookware that you can choose from.
- Canola oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Vegetable Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Melted shortening
In the past, lard was traditionally used to season cast iron cooking because it was readily available. However, you should only use lard to season your pan if you use it frequently. If you are going to be storing your cookware for long periods, lard can go rancid and smell bad.
When you season your pan, you want to make sure you heat the pan to the oil’s smoke point. The smoke point is the temperature where polymerization occurs, creating the nice, semi-shiny finish on your cast iron cookware.
How to Clean Your Cast Iron Cookware
You can’t put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher. And you shouldn’t use soap on it regularly, so how do you clean it?
If your cookware is well-seasoned, it should have a nice non-stick surface. Most of the time, the food won’t get baked on. It will just slide right off. If the food does stick, there are a few things you can try to remove it gently.
- Run the pan under warm water and scrub with a soft brush.
- Pour cooking oil over the crusted-on spots, and reheat the pan for a few minutes to soften up the baked-on food.
- Pour a little kosher salt into the pan, and scrub with a dry sponge.
- Pour some dry cornmeal into the pan and scrub with a dry sponge.
If those four tips don’t get your pan clean, you may need to resort to steel wool. First, gently rub your pan with steel wool to remove the cooked-on food. When you’re finished, you’ll need to wash and re-season your pan.
After you’ve cleaned the food out of your pan, rinse it well. Make sure the pan is completely dry, then apply some cooking oil before putting it away.
How to Store Cast Iron Cookware
Never store food in your cast iron cookware, and don’t keep it in the refrigerator. However, you can store it in any cool, dry area. You just want to make sure it doesn’t get rusty. If you’re going to stack your cast iron, you may want to put paper towels or dishtowels in between to keep them from banging each other.
You can store your cast iron in a cupboard, in the oven, or even on hooks on the wall if they are sturdy enough. Remember that cast iron is heavy and bulky, so store it where it won’t fall.
What Kind of Utensils Should You Use on Cast Iron Cookware
For years, I was told that you should never use stainless steel utensils on cast iron cookware, but that simply isn’t true. Cast iron is extremely tough and durable, so you can use pretty much any kind of utensil that is heat safe, including wood, silicone, and stainless steel.
Are there are any foods you shouldn’t cook in cast iron?
You can cook pretty much anything in a cast iron pan. However, there are a couple of foods you might not want to. For example, delicate fish can get stuck to the pan too easily, as can eggs.
Sticky food is less of a problem if your pan is well seasoned. However, very acidic foods, like tomatoes or spaghetti sauce, can break down the seasoning over time. If this happens, just clean the pan and re-season. Lastly, very smelly foods can leave odors behind in your pan, so you might want to avoid baking brownies in the same pan you just seared garlic in.
What if the food is really stuck on your cast iron pan?
If the food is really stuck on your pan, you may need to resort to steel wool to remove it. First, scrub the pan as gently as possible. Using steel wool on your cast iron will probably remove the seasoning, but you can easily clean the pan and season it again.
What do I do if my cast iron pan rusts?
If your pan rusts, you’ll want to remove the rust with steel wash, wash it with soap and water, and dry it thoroughly. You’ll need to re-season it, but your pan should come out just fine with a little bit of elbow grease.