My Simple Cast Iron Care Routine
Written by Shannon, Contributing Writer
For so long I avoided cast iron because I was intimidated by the seasoning and care process that I had read about. Then my husband came home and surprised me one day with a cast iron skillet. Of course I swooned – who needs flowers when you have Ma Ingalls-style cookware?
Still I procrastinated on putting it to use in my kitchen. When I finally did break down and prepare the pan for cooking I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Now I use this pan most days of the week and love to fry eggs, make frittatas, and bake skillet breads with this non-stick wonder. All you have to do is keep it simple and you’ll have a pan that cooks like a dream and will last a lifetime.
Most of us know by now that teflon is a toxic form of cookware. When I ditched my teflon I opted for stainless steel cookware – which I love for sauces and soups. But I still believe cast-iron is superior for so many reasons:
- Inexpensive – the average skillet runs $15-$20.
- Non-stick for everything from eggs to fish to pancakes to bread.
- Once seasoned properly it is really easy to clean.
- So heavy duty it will last a lifetime.
- Suitable in all conditions – from the top of the line kitchen to the open fire pit.
- Holds heat extremely well and therefore makes a superior steak or stir-fried vegetable.
Purchasing Your Cast-Iron
Walk into any hardware store and you’ll probably find a Lodge cast iron skillet just like mine. A lot of them come “pre-seasoned” which according to their website means:
The cast iron is sprayed with a soy-based vegetable oil and then baked on at a very high temperature.
If you’re like me and avoid soy because it is not a health food, then you’ll want to scrub this off with hot soapy water. Then place it on your stove over low heat and allow it to dry completely.
Cast-iron pans are only non-stick when they are properly seasoned. Seasoning a pan involves coating the pan with a heat-tolerant fat and then allowing it to bake into the iron, creating a slick surface.
Cast-iron pans are often used for high heat cooking, whether you’re frying an egg or baking corn bread. For that reason I prefer to use a saturated fat, which is more stable over high heat, for seasoning. Good choices include:
- coconut oil
- beef tallow
Once your pan is clean and dry, and still warm from your stove top, add just enough fat to coat the pan bottom and sides. I then use an old cloth napkin to distribute the oil all over and soak up any extra. Then put your pan in a 250 degree oven for a few hours. You now have your initial layer of seasoning. You can repeat this process anytime you find that your initial seasoning isn’t holding up.
Photo by naotakem
The first thing to know when washing your pan is do not use soap. Soap will remove the layer of seasoning you just added. So, this is how I clean my skillet:
- Take a soap-free dish rag and wipe out the pan while running under hot water. Get everything out, but don’t be too rough.
- Once the pan looks clean place it on a burner over medium-low heat until all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan and it has gotten fairly hot.
- At this point you can store your skillet in a dry place or do a seasoning upkeep by placing a dab of fat in the hot pan, swirling, and wiping as you did when you initially seasoned it.
That’s it! It sounds a bit more complicated than the care of your stainless steel pans, but really it is just a different process and no more difficult. I highly recommend cast iron cookware, and a simple care routine to keep it healthy.
I have a lot of cast iron that I use when camping, but I recently moved into a house with a glass top stove, do you know if I can use it on a glass top. I have been nervous about doing it and I desperately miss using my cast iron.
@leah, I use cast iron for all my cooking, and I have a glass top. I have never had problems, but there are two rules I try to follow. First, I try to be very gentle when putting the cookware onto the stove so I don’t crack the glass top, as the cast iron tends to be quite heavy. Second, I make sure that I don’t use any pans that lap over the edge of the designated burner area, since the glass that is not a burner area is not intended to get hot, and it might crack. But with following those rules, I have have been using cast iron on a glass top surface for two years without any problems. 🙂
@leah, I have always used my cast irons on my glass top. Honestly, I’ve never even thought of it possibly being a problem. I’ve been using my pans on it for years with no special treatment, and it hasn’t broken yet.
just one thing to keep in mind with a glass top and choosing your cookware…
the bottoms should be smooth – not just un-rough but not have a ridge or ring around the bottom. One of my cast iron fry pans does and while it still works, it doesn’t get the full use of the heat because there isn’t complete contact with the stove top surface.
So if you are buying, look for a smooth bottom. If you are using what you already have, just keep it in mind.
I have glass top stove an.d used my cast-iron on my stove and it good just keep in the medium to high
Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been wanting cast iron for awhile now and finally bought one pan last week. Now I want more. I’m so excited to use it and to build up a good seasoning. I would add that lard probably isn’t the best choice unless it’s fresh or homemade since anything they sell on a shelf at a store contains trans-fats. I’m actually going to be making lard this weekend for the first time.
I found a source for un-hydrogenated lard at my local Save-A-Lot. It is available out there if you just look for it. But, I’ll admit, it is really hard to find. Check out Mexican markets if you have a med-large metropolis near you.
I have one skillet that I always use for baking cornbread and it’s great~seasoned well. I have another skillet that I’ve reseasoned several times, but it just doesn’t seem to stay seasoned and things always stick. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. Any thoughts?
@Lora @ my blessed life,
What have you used to season? Lard or beef tallow, I have found, works the best. I have also found that some cast iron needs a thicker seasoning to start (I don’t know why but it just seems to be so). I do the grease-heat in oven process about 4 times in a row. Then, I fry something like taco shells, egg rolls or dough dabs – anything that will need deep oil and is generally known for not sticking. Then, I let the fat cool to still-liquid-but-pourable consistency. Once it is empty, I wipe it out and let it season in the oven for about an hour on 200*. At the end of an hour, I turn off the stove and let it cool down with the pan still in there. This has redeemed a pan or two that just wasn’t keeping the seasoning.
Also, I never boil water or cook high acid foods in my cast iron. That always strips the seasoning (but Hub insists on cooking his ramen in the frying pan so I have to repeat the above process now and then).
Hope this helps.
Can cast iron be used on flat, glass-topped stoves? I know teflon is bad, but I currently use them for eggs and stuff like that because I can’t find a safe alternative. I’ve never really looked in to cast iron, but it looks like I need to, if the cookware can be used in flat, glass-topped stoves.
@Jill, I use cast-iron skillets on my flat glass-top stove all.the.time. It works beautifully 🙂 I think the owners manuals say you’re not supposed to… but you’re not supposed to can on them either, and many, many people do (including myself) without any problems.
Thanks for the info! I just stuck my skillet in the oven with some beef tallow!
Thanks for this primer. We use a cast iron skillet but I don’t think I’ve ever seasoned it correctly. I have to season it after each use. Maybe I was using the wrong kind of oil. I used it this morning for pancakes so after I wash it I think I’ll follow your directions.
I also have a glass top stove and follow Beth’s guidelines – no problems.
Completely and totally in love with my cast irons! I particularly love my Dutch Oven. I can heat it and sear the meat then make the whole stew right in it getting all that yummy droppings. After the seasoning is done these are my easiest to clean pans!
A couple of my pans desperately need re-seasoned. Maybe I’ll stop procrastinating and do it today!
I only use stainless steel and cast iron. Cast iron is awesome for eggs!
If your cast iron pan gets really dirty or you have caked on gook, clean it with salt and oil or lemon. Pour a little salt (kosher or a larger grain sea salt) into the pan and add some oil. Use a dry washcloth to scrub it around the pan. When you’re done just rinse the pan and let dry on the stove. An alternative is to sprinkle in the salt and scrub with a cut lemon. This works every time and won’t ruin your seasoning.
@Suzanne, Yes – eggs are great out of cast iron.
@Suzanne, I’ve been trying out two methods on separate pans out of curiosity. The first is the salt method, which I really like, but sometimes it just isn’t quite enough (really stuck on stuff that hasn’t scraped or boiled out, like sometimes happens with heavy duty searing). The other is just washing in plain hot water, drying on the stove, and rubbing with oil. It works beautifully–I was worried about stripping away the seasoning, but honestly the pan I treat with this method looks nicer and has a better nonstick effect.
I never thought about new pans that are pre-seasoned being coated in soy oil! I will definately scrub that off the next time I get something new. I love my cast iron pans and use them for everything except acidic foods, like fruits or tomatoes.
@Kristen, Why don’t you use castiron for acidic foods?
@Chelsey, I think it is because the acid can undo the seasoning of the pan & also leave that icky “metal” taste in your food.
I LOVE my cast iron pans, it took me a long time to get to that point & lots of money on other pans….but I finally came around!
I enjoyed this post quite a bit. I love my cast iron pan and use the same method to clean it. My pan belonged to my great-grandmother and is about 120 years old.
@Jodi Anderson, That’s so neat – the best source for good pans!
@Jodi Anderson, so awesome!
My pans belonged to my Great Grandma too. Hers came with her from the reservation in Oklahoma to Michigan just after World War II. I make a silly little ritural out of it each month on the first.
As for my other cookwear… I have some of my husbands Oma’s Betty Crocker Stainless Steel from the 50’s and its great! But I am still hooked on non-stick teflon for eggs, I guess my schooling in hard to break.
I love my cast iron pan, but our glass top stove doesn’t like it (we rent). I’m excited to get a enamel/ceramic covered cast iron set over time, but they are very pricy. I’ve seen some on ebay affordably. I’d like to at least have a skillet as we can’t cook eggs or fish without using the “non-stick” pan.
This was very informative! I didn’t know you could use cast iron on a glass=top stove. My sister-in-law quit using hers because she got a glass-top stove. I’ll let her know what you’ve said. Also, I wanted to use cast iron but thought it was very complicated to care for and my hands are not strong enough to lift those pans very well. I did find some lighter weight enameled cast iron that I love!
I grew up with my Mom using cast iron. She always treated it so lovingly. All her pieces have little stories too. She “rescued” one from the ashes of a house fire, brought one back to life that had been rusting on the back porch of a friend’s house, and the others belonged to my Great Grandma & her Momma (that’s some OLD cookwear!).
That’s funny, I wrote an article on this same topic awhile back!
I have two thoughts on using soap to clean it, though. If you use it often, then no soap is really needed. But if you only use your pan occasionally, the oil that seasons the pan can actually go rancid. In this case it might be better to wash with a bit of soap.
@Kait Palmer, Good point, which is why I recommend a fat like coconut oil which has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
@Shannon, ahh I must have missed that! Good call!
I use cast iron, too, and only recently picked up a stainless skillet for certain items.
Cast iron is my go-to pan and has always been. 🙂 I bake chicken and pork tenderloin, i saute and pan fry, i bake cornbread, nearly everything except pancakes. I never liked my pancakes in a cast iron. The ones I own are older than the hills and I even have a huge one that was my grandparents when they first got married. I rarely use anything else.
Since I use mine daily I don’t ever need to season it. A good scrubber and hot water and mine are good to go.
After much trial and error, I also now love my cast iron pans. I would like to encourage those who have never used cast iron that it is fairly different than using nonstick. I think different discourages many people from trying. But once you get into your cast iron groove, the pans are awesome!
I also wrote a post about how my journey using cast iron pans: http://haphazardhomemaking.blogspot.com/2010/10/loving-my-cast-iron.html
Another piece of advice: do not procrastinate in cleaning your cast iron pans after a meal! I tend to be rather lazy and, ahem, had to reseason my pans a few times when I first got them because I was not in the cast iron routine yet. (You don’t need to stress too much. After making dinner, just make sure to clean them sometime before bed.)
@Tanya, Me too! That is why I like to do a little “mini-season” with the quick layer of coconut oil after drying out. 🙂
Yes, Shannon, I do as well. That is now what I consider part of my “cast iron routine”. It is really quick and easy. Great post! 🙂
Thanks for that. I needed these post badly. I have two cast irons pans but know that I haven’t been “treating” them as I should.
I use my cast iron pan almost every day, and use lots of butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard or tallow in it. To ‘season’ it I just cook bacon in it once every week or two, pour off the excess fat, and wipe gently with a clean cloth. So far no problems!
I have a little cast iron pan I’ve never used and would really like to, now. But, I just looked at it, and it has a few little spots of rust – what do I do??
Thanks so much for this info!
@ShannonM, I’d start over if I were you. Wash it well in soap and water, season it as above, dry it on a burner and repeat if the rust returns.
@Shannon, I’ve read to use steel wool to remove the rust and then reseason. It’s hard work, I’ve done it…much easier to keep the rust away than to scrub it off and reseason!
I love my cast iron pans! I found all of mine at a flea market and purchased all three for less than the price of one brand new. I find all they need after use is a little scrub under hot water. I dry them with a cloth I keep for that purpose and then store them. I have never dried them on the stove and haven’t had a problem. I have never had to reseason them until last week when my husband burnt BBQ sauce in one of them (it was bad….the pan was smoking). Wish I had known Suzanne’s tip about the salt and lemon!
I love my cast iron pans. I’ll admit I don’t season them, and never have. I even occasionally soap them.
However, they’re not rusty, or badly treated. My griddle, which I use a lot, gets quickly washed (not every time I use it, just when it’s got something scudgy on it like baked-on cheese) and immediately towel dried. Then I wipe a bit of oil on top and bottom, and put it on the stove. The heat gets rid of any remaining moisture, and the oil seems to seal on pretty well. My other one is a frying pan, and it’s used for…well…frying. A quick rinse under hot water and a wipe of oil on the bottom, onto the stove for a dry and it’s good to go back on the rack.
Not saying this will work for everyone, but it does work for me.
Soil oil (or anything else) baked on at high temps cannot be scrubbed off with soap and water!
@Jenn White, This is true. I read somewhere to just scrub it off with soap and water and then season, but my pans were never quite non-stick. They were sort of a pain to clean sometimes and I found myself avoiding them more and more. I finally got up the gumption to re-season and I started by scrubbing HARD with brillo and hot water then I seasoned at 500 rather than 200 and they are better than teflon! it is amazing!! I just wrote a blog about this as well, so I was excited to read this post 😀
@Jenn White, This is true! when I first got my pans I read to wash with soap and water b/f seasoning and followed all the instructions, but they were never quite non-stick and were quite a pain to clean sometimes. I found myself avoiding them more. I finally got up the gumption to reseason them and wrote a blog about it, b/c they are so wonderful now that I’ve done it right. Scrubbed HARD with steel wool and HOT water, then dried on stove, rubbed in coconut oil, seasoned 3X at 500 rather than 200 = amazing. They are better than teflon!! 😀
Thanks for this post. I got 2 cast iron pans for wedding from my husbands uncle and had no clue how to take care of them. This really helped me with my fear of destroying them. Hopefully now I will use them more often.
Thanks for the post! Looks like your covered cooker might be the same brand as my pan (Lodge Logic). I have had that 10″ skillet for about 3-4 months and what I don’t get is how the bottom is bumpy-ish. My other cast iron pan, my grandma’s 60 year old 7-8 in. skillet is nice and smooth on the bottom cooking surface. My new pan is getting better and better at being non-stick but I don’t understand if they ALL come textured like that and my grandma’s pan used to have that or if this is supposed to be the seasoning.
I usually wipe my pan down with a butter wrapper when I’m done washing it in hot water. I’ve fried in canola oil, browned hamburger and sausages in it, and that’s about the extent of the fats I’ve used in it. I’ll have to try the cocunut oil. Does it leave a coconut-y taste?
Oh, and I use a glass-topped stove. I’m very careful setting the pan down on it. I’m not terribly concerned about scratching the stovetop (small price to pay for using a cast-iron pan!) but I also have a basic stove. It’s taken me a while to remember I don’t need to use a nylon spatula on it and it’s ok if it gets super hot 🙂 I think I’ve had way too many years of brain damage from the scary teflon stuff, hehe – which I can’t seem to think of any good reason to even use anymore! I just wish we could get campfire-cookers (pie-irons) that didn’t have non-stick coating in them. That seems just plain reckless!
I love my cast iron! Plus it just looks so pretty and old-fashioned hanging out there on the stove. It was my grandmother’s too! I also really love my stainless steel. I just scrub it with a steel scrubby and it shines! I don’t have to put any elbow grease into it or worry about taking off the finish. Either way I love that my pots and pans are safe and will last for generations.
One time I found an old Wagner round pancake griddle (cast iron, of course) at a thrift store. It looked horrible ~ it was all encrusted with LOTS of baked on icky stuff. BUT, I knew the heart of gold that was in there and only paid $3.00 for it. I took it home and my DH (very dear) took it out to the garage and he cleaned it with oven cleaner. It completely stripped it. Then I was able to season it, and it is like new. Just thought I’d tell you…. I LOVE my cast iron and there is a joke amongst my daughters that when I die, they will see who gets to the house first to take my Griswold 12 inch skillet. 🙂 (Hmmm… maybe they aren’t joking after all.)
The reason you don’t use cast iron for acidic foods (like tomato sauce) is because the acid leaches iron from the pan into the food.
You can also clean off caked on grease by using letting it soak in baking soda and then scrubbing with salt. You probably should re-season after that.
I use my cast iron skillet for eggs, stir-fries, browning meat, and skillet breads. I have two cast-iron dutch ovens which I use for slow-cooking pot roasts and other braised meat dishes, like stews and chicken cacciatore. I also have a beautiful vintage cast-iron muffin pan that makes the best muffins. I just have to grease well!
I LOVE my cast-iron cookware!
I use my cast iron skillets every.single.day. If something does stick, I fill my kettle and bring water to a boil. I pour that water in the skillet and wait for the water to cool enough to scrub the skillet. Wipe it out, oil it and use it again. I have had two of my skillets for about 15 years and I recently added a small skillet from my grandmother. Once I had the small, medium and large cast iron skillets, I donated every other skillet and wok in my house. That large skillet is GREAT for stir fry!
I also love my skillet. A few tips I have picked up. One – if it needs a little scrub, baking soda works well, and is gentler than salt. Two – I store mine in the oven to keep it dry. Three – Don’t cook anything sugar-y in it (like BBQ sauce), it will carmelize and ruin the seasoning when you try to scrub it off.
Have you guys read Wardehs post on this topic? Here are the basics, but please read the full article here: http://gnowfglins.com/2010/03/12/how-to-season-cast-iron/
If you do this, your cast iron will be just as non-stick as a regular teflon pan. Like glass. It really is miraculous. I swear by it!
Step 1: Pre-heat your pan to 200°F in your oven to open its pores and remove all moisture for about 10 -15 minutes, or when the pan looks dry and your sure it’s warmed up.
Step 2: Get your flax seed oil from the fridge and shake it really well to mix the contents. Then remove the pan from the oven using a good oven mitt and sit it on your stove-top. Squirt about a quarter size drop of oil (for large skillet) in the pan and using your hand, or utensil rub this into the pan all over. Be sure to get every crack, and be generous. As you do this the pan will be cooling off so using your fingers lightly will become more doable. The pan will have a very shiny appearance at this point.
Step 3: Now wipe all that oil off with paper towels or a non-fuzzy cotton cloth. YES, all of it! It will look dull and no longer shiny, like all the flax oil is gone, but it isn’t. A very thin layer remains, and that’s exactly what you want. You are going to bake (polymerize) this oil into the pores of the pan, thereby sealing them.
Step 4: Now turn up your oven to its highest temp – mine went to 450°F (anywhere between 400 – 500 is good). Place your wiped-off pan upside down into the oven. You shouldn’t need any foil to catch drippings, because there had better not be enough oil left to drip! When your oven comes up to temp set a timer for one hour. At the end of an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let the pan cool inside the oven, about 1 hour, or until it’s cooled enough to handle. The pan will come out of the oven a little darker, but matte in appearance – not the semi-gloss you’re aiming for. It needs more coats. In fact, it needs at least six coats.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 4 five more times.
The full post explains the science behind using Flax Seed oil, and why its best.
I layer several coats of grapeseed oil, one at a time, on my grill over hot coals. (i use the grill so the baking oil doesn’t smoke up my house).
take a cool cast iron pan, coat with oil, place over hot coals for an hour. With high heat resistant silicone oven mit, grab pan. Coat again with oil, bake again for an hour. Repeat at least once more, leave until coals die down and pans are cool.
before cooking in pan, heat, coat bottom with oil. When oil is hot, add food. When done, take hot pan to sink, runn cool water, deglace pan with cool water and scrub with a scotch bright scrubber, but don’t “scour” the pan. Dry the bottom (i have a glass top stove) and return to low heat. When dry and warm, add a little oil and spread with a paper towel. Leave on med-low heat until oil has soaked into the pan.
my hubby likes crispy over easy eggs. I flip and plate them with the FORK I give him to eat with. Heat pan on high, add oil, when oil is plenty hot, drop in three eggs. Reduce heat to med. When whites are set, slip fork under the eggs (that slide effortlessly in the not-greasy pan) and flip. Wait thirty seconds, flip onto plate and serve with the flipping fork.
I love my cast iron and use it all through the day. I even get excited as I watch the layers of shinny fat (lard, butter, bacon fat) build up on the smooth surface.
I have a dedicated stiff plastic bristle brush I use to clean it with. After cooking and while it is still hot I will put enough water in it cover the bottom. Let it soak 2 or 3 minutes. Use the detergent free brush to loosen any debris. Use the spray nozzle to rinse it clean. This will leave a shinny lint free surface. Put it in the oven to drip dry. Since I cook bacon several times a week I never have to add any fat to keep it seasoned. It just keeps growing. It is better then the Teflon non-stick.
I started these out on lard when I bought them new. NO! I didn’t buy pre-seasoned!
One of these days I am going to find a wooden or bamboo brush. If you use food grade plastic type, make sure it is for hot surfaces and make sure you allow you pan to cool down to about 140f.
I always wondered about cast iron pots and pans. I never considered them because I honestly had no idea about the upkeep and cleaning for them. Your post really breaks down the care that they require. I think if I can just get the hubby on board to help with the care so I am not the only one doing it all the time, I would definitely consider it!
Okay, I love this post! I have 3 different sized cast iron skillets that I’ve never used!! I have seasoned them awhile back though just because. I have some yucky teflon that needs to be thrown out now! (it’s all chipped). But for some reason I have been afraid to use my cast iron! lol
Can I use them for EVERYTHING??? I don’t want to have to think twice about using them for certain foods. And…I have coconut oil to season them with!! So excited about that. Just another use for my coconut oil.
Any info would be appreciated!
@Angela, I use my two cast iron pans for pretty much everything. They definitely get daily use, and I can’t really imagine using anything else now!
I’ve put up a SCD/GAPS for the Holidays page for everyone to put links to holiday recipes. I hope this will help everyone find plenty of SCD recipes, especially those who are new to the diet. If you want to add any links of your great recipes: http://mrsedsresearchandrecipes.blogspot.com/2010/11/scd-for-holidays.html
I also love my cast iron. I had to learn to use it and my husband has been the one to give me tips on it. he loves to cook over fires and loves cast iron. The instructions were just like he taught me. Except that he was really picky that the grease had to CRISCO(brand). But since we have quit using hydrogenated oils, I use coconut oil and it works just fine. He also was adamant about no soap. I need to cure mine again, because stuff has been sticking. Thanks for sharing your routine.
i know everyone has been saying this, but thank you! i picked up a skillet at a garage sale this summer and have been at a loss as to how to season it. now i’m excited to use it! 🙂
Thanks for the post. I’ve been wanting to get a cast iron pan, but have been nervous about the upkeep. This seems easier than I thought.
Thank you so much for this post. I have wondered how to properly care for the cast iron skillet my husband bought me last year. I knew it needed to be washed with hot water and dried, but I didn’t know how. I will be following these directions to a T…I even wrote them on a note card to tape inside my spice cabinet for easy reference. Thanks again!
My other love…cast iron! Nice post, I plan to share this one too. I was converted to cast iron by a friend of mine, who made me fried eggs in one. They were the best fried eggs I think I’ve ever had. Since I have my own cast iron cookware now, I make everything in them just about. I love that I can “bake” cornbread on my stovetop, and even use them to bake biscuits in the oven (AMAZING YUMMY!), casseroles and desserts. I’m not sure which I love more, the cast iron or the stoneware!
I gently scrub my pans with a soft bristle brush under running water, if needed, then after drying them on my stove top, usually use coconut oil or butter (real butter, not margarine) wrappers that I save for greasing pans or caring for my skillets. Now, I have beef tallow and will use that.
The only thing I do differently than your care is while the skillet is heating/drying on the burner, I use a paper towel with a little shortening and wipe it down to keep the seasoning nice.
I have cast iron skillets, and like you stated they are great however they do take a special care procedure. I’ve heard the comments before about not using soap to clean them, but that sounds questionable to me. One question might be; If we are to wash after handling poultry , then how can you not wash after poultry has been in the pan? For me that’s just one example, the bacteria, I assume can be side stepped by preheating the pan, but that hardly is a suitable in my kitchen.
So while I wash my cast iron, I use a nylon scrubby and plenty of soap and warm water. My normal care procedure for my cast iron is, once washed and dried, I coat with oil and it’s stored on an unused shelf in my oven, where it remains while I cook other dishes etc.
When I’m ready to use it, I’m confident it’s bacterial level is minimum if at all, and it’s coating is black, smooth, and non-stick.
Peace in the middle……..GregT2U2
Do you season the bottom of the pan too? If you do season it, do you add the maintenance oil to the bottom as well as the inner surface? If so how does the stove burner react when the pan is placed on it after being oiled? If the bottom isn’t seasoned, how do you keep the bottom from rusting.
If anyone responded to you, I would be interested to know what they said. The bottom of my pan is rusty as someone left it sitting in water. But I don’t want to season it with oil as am afraid it will come out when cooking over flame, I have a gas stove. Perhaps it’s no big deal that it’s a bit rusty on the bottom? But I don’t want rust getting on things. Was curious if you got any help! Laura
I love reading how everyone cares for cast iron! I do it pretty much like this, except I don’t rub it down with oil after every use. If it looks like the black coating is coming off, I rub a little shortening over it and put it in the oven. Then the next time I bake bread, it’s in there, and the shortening gets baked on. As good as new!
Question: I do not use shortening in baking since there are other much healthier fats to be found, but do you think it is a problem to use it on the pan? My thinking is, it carbonizes into a tough coating, so it’s not really getting into my food when I cook it. Just curious what anyone else thought!
I love my cast-iron skillet, and recently got my grandmother’s hand-me-down cast-iron Dutch oven. I’ve also read that cooking in this kind of pan imparts iron into the foods you’re making – pretty cool!
We have several that we use for camping but have talked about bringing them inside. We wash ours in soapy water and oil them after every use.
Very interesting article 🙂
What are your thoughts on enamel coated cast iron?
@Karla, I think it can be great, but I would just be cautious of who makes it and what the enamel includes. Try to find out about the manufacturer and ensure that they is absolutely no lead or other toxic elements being used in the coating.
I have used a cast iron skillet for years, after my grandmother expressed her deep love and memories with cast ironware. My cast iron is used for everything including camping. I boil water with salt in my cast iron skillet until boiling and bubbling. I use a rubber scraper or spatula to scrape off the sides as my cleaning process. Never thought about coconut oil- I’ll try that after my olive oil.
I grew up using cast iron to make corn bread and gravy in. As I’ve grown into creating my own home, I find that I turn to my cast iron more than any other cookware and use it for everything. When my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told her I wanted a cast iron Dutch oven. I have wasted so much money through the years buying various brands of cookware that are supposed to be the greatest and have a life time warranty. None of them have held up to their lofty promises. That’s why I keep going back to cast iron. It’s dependable, cooks evenly, is non-stick and I know for certain that it will not only last a lifetime, but will be able to be passed on after me with proper care.
I have three pans but it doesn’t matter what I do to them they are sticky. Any suggestions? I usually have them in the oven for an hour at 350. Not long enough? Not hot enough?
I’m really sad that two cast iron pans I have get rusty. They’re lodge. I figured it’s because they aren’t the “high end” cast iron?
I was taught to add water and boil it than pour out and scrub with a sponge and than let dry or heat it up over a flame. Never soap.
For a rusted pan… I would soak the pan in a solution of half white vinegar and half water to remove accumulated rust.
Completely submerge it into the solution. Let it soak for 1-4 hours, but not longer.
If the rust doesn’t dissolve completely, a plastic scrub brush will loosen stubborn areas.
Make sure you do not leave pan in the vinegar for too long, the acid will start to dissolve the pan and damage it. check the condition of the pan off & on while soaking. The rustier, the longer it will need to soak.
When the rust is gone, remove the pan from the vinegar solution and rinse thoroughly under running water. Use rubber gloves for this
Dry with a towel, then put the pan into an oven set at a low temperature; for a few minutes so the pan is completely dried.
There may be a faint bit of rust color on pan, just use fine sandpaper to remove the light rust, wipe with a soft rag to remove dust from sanding.
Using a paper towel, immediately cover the pan with a thin coating of vegetable oil or shortening to prevent rust from returning.
I have had my cast iron skillets for 50 years and use them all the time. I also found a very rusted one at the city dump in the small town we lived near….it was like new except for the rust. So I cleaned it up and still using it.
If they are severely rusted you can use steel wool (brillo) on them and then season with coconut oil. Each time you use it, put it on the burner to dry after washing and while it is hot, smear coconut oil all over it. I stack my skillets (3 sizes) with a sheet of paper towel between them. It absorbs the excess oil. It is my understanding that “Lodge” is the top of the line. I have a dutch oven as in the picture with a wire handle and I love it. The only downside is I have arthritis in my hands and wrists and it is quite heavy.
I have a cast-iron skillet that was a wedding present for my mom and dad’s wedding from the mid-40’s. I still use it regularly and there is no rust. I resurrected in when my mom died — rusty etc. I remove the rust that had accumulated from neglect as mom got older.
I re-cured the pan and it’s one of my favorites. However, besides not using soap to wash it, all I do is to soak it for a while it the hottest tap water I can get from the tap — remove all the fond from whatever i have cooked — usually it dosen’t stick anyway — rinse — then wipe it dry and hang it back up on the wall with my other pans until I need it again. Once in awhile I give it a light coating of cooking oil and wipe off any excess. No muss — no fuss and I have the deep pleasure of using a family heirloom that my dad used to prepare a lot of Sunday dinners.
Hope my formula for caring for cast iron makes things easier for everyone.
Another really great bonus to using cast iron is that it actually adds iron to whatever you cook in it!! This is great for anemics (or borderline anemics) who don’t want to take iron supplements.
Bosth of my grandmothers always used bacon fat/lard to season their pans. They would do it in an oven or over a camp fire. They would have the shiniest most beautiful coating on them. I’m not sure who got my grandmother’s pots, but I would have LOVED to have them in my small but growing collection of cast iron cookware. I have always hated teflon coated cookware. I couldn’t stand the flavor they gave off and even the smell. So going the extra mile of seasoning these pans are so worth it. In the long run, the teflon would cost sooo much more than CI sets.
I love my cast iron skillets!!! I use salt to get mine clean (http://groovy-mom.com/2009/04/cleaning-iron-skillet-with-salt/). Usually I use a paper towel with the salt. Cheap, simple, effective.
Thanks for this post! We just started using a cast iron wok…How long did it take for yours to become non-stick? The main thing I plan to use it for is fried rice…any suggestions? We’ve been using oil, keeping it dry, doing frying in it. It is getting better! We’ve been able to scramble eggs without too much sticking and the rice is getting better but a bit oily…maybe I should just use less oil for the cooking of that?
Blessings to you!
spray it with non stick oil spray everytime you use it and it will get better over time you can still add other oil to the cooking, but the spray gets into all the pores of the cast iron good. no soap to clean it, just hot water and heat it back up on the stove
Another way to clean a cast iron skillet with out water is to pour some salt (regular, table salt; not course salt) in the pan then scour with a rag or paper towel until clean. The salt will absorb the excess oils, if there are any, and scour anything else. Wipe out the salt and put away! Great when camping, too.
I have heard that you can’t use them on a ceramic stovetop. Does anyone know if this is true? We currently rent so I can’t change the stovetop out. Would love to have a gas burner stove one day …..
I have a ceramic stovetop and I use cast iron cookware. If you look on the back of the wrapping, you will see everything that it can be used on. I have Lodge which pretty much can be used on everything from open fire to induction.
Hope this helps,
I have both the cast iron and the ceramic stovetop and have no problem with using them on it. Yes I would love to have a gas stove also.
I’ve had I don’t know how many ‘non-stick’ pans over the years that ended up being scratched up and then having alot of the metal pan showing through the teflon. (Did we eat all that teflon?) Finally, I asked my hubby for a cast iron pan for my birthday, and he graciously gave me one. I will never go back to non-stick! My kids have nicknamed me ‘Cast-iron momma’ cause toting my cast iron around gave me muscles to help me beat them in bowling :o)
Soooo…I am reading around online that you could and even should store them in your oven. IT seems like a big fuss to store them in the oven and then take them out every time you use the oven for something, can you tell me if you can just leave them in there when cooking something else? Thanks!
That’s where I store mine, and I just leave it in there while cooking other things. I like to oil it after I’ve used the oven though, while they’re still hot. It seems to help the seasoning process.
The reason it is suggested to store them in the oven is purely for the assumption you will leave them in while cooking other items. The heat will help maintain your seasoning.
This is probably heresy, but apart from keeping my cast iron dry and greased, I really don’t worry about them. I use them on my ceramic stove (very gently) and use them on the outdoor grill until they glow. I had one even catch on fire outside one time. Have I torched the seasoning? Many times. Have I found rust on some of the less used pans? Or course. The greatest thing about cast iron is that you can start over from scratch with a can of oven cleaner. Concerning the post about Lodge pans not being quality or prone to rust – I disagree. Admittedly, my older cast iron I picked up at various garage sales and Goodwill are higher quality and smoother; however, I have a fair amount of Lodge pans too that always get the job done. I recommend getting the old ones if that is an option – as long as they aren’t warped or too corroded. Try to stay away from the really cheap generic pans –
If anyone in your home drinks coffee, you can use the coffee grounds to scrub your cast iron. Just knock them into the pot when you are cleaning the coffee maker; you can let them sit for a while if you’re not ready to scrub the pot right away. Then add a little water and scrub. We usually scrub with our hands to avoid getting coffee grounds into the dishcloth or sponge (because they’re difficult to get out again) but if that hurts your hand, you could wear rubber gloves.
After scrubbing and rinsing, we dry the pan with a black towel (so there’s no worry about stains from the cast iron or the coffee) and set it on a back burner of our old gas stove. The heat from the pilot light helps it dry thoroughly. We use the pans often enough that we just keep them on the stove most of the time!
About every 3rd or 4th washing, or if the surface looks dull, we rub in a little oil. This is a great use for those last drops of cooking oil remaining in a bottle that aren’t enough for a recipe–stand the bottle upside down in the pan, come back a few minutes later and chuck the bottle in the recycling and rub the oil into the pan. I use my fingertips and then moisturize my cuticles afterward. 🙂
If you are trying to avoid bad chemicals in your food, cooking sprays like Pam contain bad ingredients. Add oil to a spray bottle or get an oil mister instead.
Soaking cast iron in water is bad for it, but soap isn’t as long as the pan is properly seasoned. This myth comes from soap makers who discovered their seasoning had been removed when they made soap in cast iron. The lye used to make soap is what removed the seasoning. Once soap has been made, the lye is no longer active. I prefer not to use soap most of the time, but I have used a sponge with soap residue with no problem. If I feel the pan needs a bit of soap I don’t hesitate to use it.
How do you clean the clothe you use to wipe it down? Do you wash it after every time you use it on your pan? I was using a towel (tea towel type) to wipe my pan down, but I guess I should have washed it more often as it is now very oily.
Also, what do you do after you cook meat? Mine doesn’t have a great seasoning on it and I’m never sure what to do with the fat/oil in the pan and bits of chared meat (like after you cook bacon).
How do u get the back crusty stuff off?
The seasoning oil is cooked only on cast iron and carbon steel. The seasoning creates a natural, easy-to-release cooking surface and helps prevent your pan from rusting. It may take a little extra care, but a well-seasoned cast-iron pan will last generations.
Every item of the Lodge’s cast iron pot is seasoned and ready to be used right out of the box. The easiest way to maintain this layer of Best Oil for Seasoning Cast Iron is to use your cast iron pan. Every time you cook an egg, grill a steak or bake a pie, you add layers of baked-on fat and oil that overtime for a natural, easy-release finish are formed over time.
Slightly remove your seasonings, such as cooking acidic foods, using excessive heat, or scrubbing with abrasive utensils or scouring pads. It is why our simple cleaning steps have rubbed oil into your pan after each use to maintain spice for quality cooking with cast iron.