I started cooking with a cast iron skillet about seven years ago. I honestly did not know much about cast iron care and put my Lodge cast iron skillet through the wringer. After a couple of years I added a cast iron grill pan to my collection, and that skillet proved more difficult to care for than my regular pan. After doing some research I finally learned how best to care for my cast iron and I’m here today to help you with yours. This is Cast Iron 101 – How To Season, Clean, and Cook with Cast Iron.
Why Cook with Cast Iron
The first reason you may want to cook with cast iron is because of its durability. Cast iron will last forever. Cast iron can go through a fire. You can use the same skillet your great grandmother used. It’s extremely long lasting.
Another reason people love cast iron is because it is a healthy non-stick pan. The cast iron is seasoned with oils, rather than chemicals that can flake off. Also, if you need extra iron in your diet, cast iron will add that to your food effortlessly.
Cast iron is amazing because it can go from the stovetop to the oven. I love starting something on my stove and then transferring the pan to the oven to finish. An example of this is my skillet chicken thighs. You can get a perfect sear on the stovetop and then finish the cooking process in the oven with a gentler heat.
I also like to think in case of an emergency, I can always hide behind a door with my cast iron skillet and whack a burglar over the head with it. That’s another perk, right?
Can I Cook with Cast Iron on a Glass Top Stove?
I’ve heard a lot of debate about cooking with cast iron on a glass top stove. Always check with your manufacturer, especially if you have a warranty.
That said, I’ve known several people who cook with cast iron on a glass top and have no problems. I’ve also heard of people ruining their glass top with cast iron. I would be extremely careful with cast iron and a glass top.
How To Season Cast Iron
I have only ever owned new Lodge cast iron pans. I just very recently learned that the pre-sesoned Lodge pans are not as smooth as vintage pans, and obviously they aren’t as smooth as pans that have been used over and over again. There are people who decided to completely sand down their new Lodge pans and then build the seasoning back up, but I’m too lazy for all of that. I just buy my pre-seasoned pans and keep on using them, but I have made some mistakes with my pans which prompted me to reseason my cast iron skillets.
How do you reseason a cast iron skillet?
The first thing you want to do is wash with a mild dish soap and a stainless steel wool pad. This will allow you to easily remove any rust or built up gunk on your pan. You may want to reseason a skillet if you find that food is sticking to your pan even when you cook with oil. I chose to lightly reseason my regular skillet because I had scrubbed it with steel wool many times and the coating seemed a bit thin. I wanted to help build up that coating.
My grill pan has been a pain for me. We often cook steak in our cast iron grill pan and burnt on food gets stuck between the grates. It’s really annoying. Because I lacked the desire to quickly clean out the pan before it got cold, it was really hard to get the gunk off. I decided to scrub it down as much as possible and reseason it.
And apparently Lodge makes a scraper just for their grill pans! I JUST found this out. That would make cleaning SO much easier!
Once you’ve scrubbed your pan as much as possible, dry it completely. I use a towel to dry mine. You can even place it in a hot oven for a bit to make sure all the water gets evaporated.
Coat the pan with oil. I use plain old vegetable oil, but you can use flaxseed oil or coconut oil. Wipe off any excess oil with a towel.
Turn your pan upside down and bake in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour. You may need to repeat the process a few times to build up that seasoning.
- Wash with mild dish soap and steel wool, making sure to remove rust and buildup
- Thoroughly dry the pan
- Coat with oil such as vegetable, coconut, or flaxseed
- Wipe away excess oil
- Turn pan upside down and bake in an oven at 450 degree Fahrenheit for one hour
- Repeat the process if necessary
How To Clean Cast Iron
Cleaning your cast iron skillet is really not that complicated if you know what you’re doing. I didn’t know at first. You want to clean your pan while it’s still warm, but cool enough to handle.
I use a Full Circle C cast iron brush to scrub my pans. The bristles are soft enough they won’t scratch the seasoning on my pan and it has a little plastic scraper that I can use to scrape off stuck on gunk. I simply rinse my pan with water and use my brush to clean it.
If your pan is relatively dry after cooking in it, you may be able to just use a paper towel and wipe out any excess food such as pancake batter and not have to worry about rinsing your pan at all.
Remember, never use dish soap when cleaning your cast iron. Water and a good scrub brush will do.
Always thoroughly dry your cast iron after using water on it. Wipe it down with a towel and then place it on your stove for a while so all the water can evaporate. You can also place it in your oven, turn your oven on to preheat, and then turn it off when it beeps. This will make sure your cast iron doesn’t rust. Even a drop of water will cause your cast iron to get rusty spots.
You can add a drop or two of oil to your pan after it is clean and rub it into the cast iron to help protect it and keep building that seasoning up.
If you have a cast iron dutch oven and you find that you get rust inside after storing, you may want to put a handful of uncooked white rice inside your dutch oven with a paper towel draped over the side. The rice will absorb the moisture, and the paper towel will allow air to flow between the lid and the dutch oven.
How do you clean a burnt cast iron skillet?
I mentioned earlier that I’ve had trouble with my grill pan because burnt on food gets stuck between the grates. My favorite way to scrub away burnt on food particles is with a steel wool pad. It really works like a charm. You can also use kosher salt and half of a potato. Just put the cut side of the potato down in the pan and scour it with the salt to get all the particles off of the pan.
After cleaning the pan, completely dry it with a towel and put a drop or two of oil in the pan. Rub it all around and turn your stove on and heat the pan up to the smoke point. Allow the pan to cool.
How To Cook with Cast Iron
Now, let’s talk about cooking with cast iron and how to do it.
First, preheat your pan. You want it to get nice and warm before adding any oil.
Next, add a cooking oil of some sort. I like to use butter when cooking eggs or vegetables and coconut oil when cooking meat.
Add your food to the pan and listen for that nice sizzle sound.
Don’t flip your food around. Meat especially will stick to the pan before it’s ready to turn. Once it is seared, it will release from the pan allowing you to easily flip it.
And that’s it! I love using my cast iron pans. The more you cook with it, the more seasoned and non-stick it will become, as long as you follow the care rules and don’t mess up your seasoning as I have done in the past!