A few years ago my dad offered me his cast iron pans, all of which were hand-me-downs from my great-grandmother. I'm not even positive she was the first owner, but if she was then these babies have made it through four generations (and maybe longer).
Whenever I serve out of a cast iron pan, our guests always remark about how they have no idea how to care for cast iron and therefore, would never think to purchase one for themselves.
Funny story -- When friends offer to help with the dishes after a big family meal, they are terrified of cleaning the cast iron. My husband was terrified for years, especially since he knows how much I love my heirloom pans.
Well, friends, let's get rid of that fear. Cast iron really isn't that hard to maintain.
I love Cast Iron for so many reasons
- It conducts heat super well
- If I have to "grill" something in the winter it always goes in a cast iron skillet because that will be the way to give it a crust without standing in the cold Seattle rain during winter.
- If you keep the cast iron well-seasoned, it is basically a non-stick pan
- It can go from the stove to the oven and then to the dinner table. So incredibly versatile. Less cleanup and a gorgeous pan to serve from.
- If your pan is well seasoned you shouldn't need to use much if any oil.
What Do You Mean When You Say "Seasoning" Your Cast Iron?
You don't need to do this every time you use your cast iron. I like to do this 1-2 twice a year for each of my pans depending on how often I use them. Another great sign of needing to reseason would be needing to use more oil than normal when cooking with your pan.
[NOTE -- Many new cast-iron pans are pre-seasoned and can be used for awhile before needing additional seasoning]
Basically, the oils that you cook with buildup on the pan itself and create a natural non-stick coating. When you first start using a cast-iron pan you can season it yourself by making sure the pan is clean and dry. Then rub the entire pan down with a bit of oil. I prefer Grapeseed because it has a high smoke point. I've also used plain old vegetable oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil in the past. All have worked fine.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take a small dollop of oil in the pan. Rub around with a paper towel. you want a thin coating of oil. If there is too much oil in the pan it will turn into sticky globs on the pan. [Definitely better to start with less here and add-on.]
Rub that oil inside, outside and on the handle.
Place the pan on the top rack of the oven with the bottom facing up.
Place a baking sheet on the rack below the skillet to catch any oil that drips off.
Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and let cast-iron pan cool in the oven for 2 hours before storing.
Store with a paper towel in between pans if you are stacking them together.
**If you have a newly purchased "used" cast iron that has rust inside of it, be sure to remove all rust using kosher salt + half a potato. Work the salt into the pan using the cut edge of the potato until all rust is removed. Start with steps above to re-season.
How Do I Clean my Cast Iron Pans?
Be sure to let your pan cool before placing under water.
If you did minimal cooking in it [reheating something] and are able to just wipe it out with a rag, then you are clean.
For a normal clean -- I love The Ringer which is a metal mesh chain that works wonders on the stuck reside in the cast iron skillet. Add a bit of water to the pan and work the Ringer around the pan to lift all stuck on bits. This Lodge Scraper is another game-changer for the cast iron [Let's be honest. I love this for cleaning all my pans actually].
After you've gotten most of the stuck bits off with The Ringer or the Lodge Scraper, rinse with a bit of water. Add 1-2 tablespoons of salt and work around with a sponge. Dump some kosher salt in my pan and use a sponge to do an initial cleaning. Put a tiny amount of water in the pan and scrub the salt around to pick up excess oils and debris. Repeat step with Ringer, Scraper or salt as needed until pan is clean.
Dry COMPLETLY. This is very important. Either hand-dry or place in a warm 200-degree oven for 15 minutes.
Never leave your cast iron wet. Don't let the pan soak in water or air dry -- both leave the possibility of rust, which means that you have to start over with the re-seasoning process above. Never prep items and store them in the cast iron to cook later. It is fine to serve cooked items in your cast iron, but marinating or prepping ahead in it is not a good idea. Do not soak your cast iron.
A Couple Common Cast Iron Myths
- You can't use metal utensils. -- In fact, you can. This is a very durable piece of kitchen equipment. All scratches to the seasoning will be replenished with the oils from the dish.
- You can't cook tomatoes or other acidic foods. This one is partially true. I wouldn't suggest cooking tomatoes or highly acidic foods on a brand-new skillet. The seasoning needs to build up. If you use it regularly for a year or two or have inherited a well-seasoned skillet than tomatoes shouldn't be an issue.
Give it a try. Lodge Cast Iron pans are great quality and affordable. Once you get the hang of maintaining them, I would bet they become some of your favorites to use, especially for entertaining. The ease of stove to oven to tabletop can't be beaten. Save yourself -- no more transferring everything to serving dishes when you have guests over!
Whatcha cooking in your cast iron??
Post your pictures, friends, and Tag Me #eternalhostess!