Chris and Laura, our oldest married kids recently acquired a cast iron skillet. He asked me how to take care of it and I thought to myself, “that would be a great post for my tips and tricks section!”.
Cast iron skillets are special. They just are. Cook fried potatoes or sausage in one, and you’ll see what I mean. because of the surface material and the wonderfully even heating they provide, they give a great crust to anything you cook in them from steak to blackened fish. A cast iron skillet, seasoned properly is just as great as a non-stick pan. And it can take a dish from stovetop to oven beautifully!
But first you have to take care of your skillet.
I am showing you my skillet, which was handed down from my mom. I truly love my cast iron skillet!
If you have a skillet that was handed down from your grandma or mom, and it’s rusted a bit, never fear. Just take some steel wool and scrub on it and the rust should come out. If you have a new skillet? Most new skillets come with a protective coating on them that will need to be removed with a very mild, very hot soapy water mixture and some steel wool. In both cases, new and old you need to season your skillet.
Seasoning means to cure your pan by rubbing it with oil (vegetable or canola works fine) and heating it for awhile. This fills in and levels out the rough surface of the cast iron. The more you cook or season your pan, the better it’s going to work.
Start by preheating your oven to 400º. Place your oven racks in the middle positions in the oven, one right under the other. On the bottom rack, put in an empty cookie sheet. This will catch any drips that might happen.
Pause. It’s apparently time to clean the oven isn’t it? But that means I am using it a lot so that counts for something right?
Take your skillet and pour in a tablespoon or two of oil (vegetable or canola is ok). You can also use peanut oil or shortening, if that’s all you have on hand.
Now fold a square of paper towel in half and then half again and rub this oil all over your skillet.
Make sure you rub up the sides as well.
Wipe off any sloppy excess and your skillet will now be coated well with a thin layer of oil.
Place your skillet in your hot oven on the top rack face down.
And let it bake for about an hour. New pans, are recommended to repeat this process, 2-3 times, allowing the pan to completely cool in between in each use. Important!! When removing your skillet from the oven? Please make sure and use a hot pad!
Remove your pan from the oven and let it cool down completely. When it’s cool, lay a piece of paper towel inside of it to absorb any excess oil. Do not keep the lid on your pan if you have one, as it can allow moisture to form inside causing rust.
Some will tell you to never wash your cast iron skillet with soap. I am not one of those people. I know that health codes would not allow chefs in restaurants to not wash a pan, and my own personal health code tells me the same. I use a very, very mild soapy water solution to clean mine after use (do not soak a cast iron skillet in water). Then I dry it as best as I can, and set it back on the burner for just a few minutes to burn off the moisture.
Then I lightly oil it again with a paper towel, line it with a towel and store it back in it’s drawer.
Now my pan is ready for its next delicious use.
Get yourself a cast iron skillet soon.
You’ll love the way your food cooks in it.