How do you care for cast iron?

19th century kitchen

They really knew how to rock cast iron in those days.

A couple of months ago I found an 8″ cast iron skillet on the sidewalk. It was a newer model pan, already seasoned, hardly used. One of my neighbors had apparently decided they didn’t like it, or need it.

I snatched that puppy up. Not that I need more cast iron–I have three skillets in varying sizes, and no room for another. But to me, cast iron is solid gold. So I gave it to a friend who didn’t have one, who’d never cooked in cast iron before.

Initially she seemed skeptical of the whole “no soap” thing, but now she has discovered how versatile a cast iron skillet is, and how it makes everything taste better. The precise selling point may have been the night she made apple crumble in it, a discovered the delightful crust of caramelized sugar that had formed on the bottom.

Now that it is her go-to pan for everything, she’s developed many questions about its care. Questions I don’t know if I can answer properly. This is what I told her, and it is all I know:

  • Never wash it with soap, just wipe it out with a damp cloth.
  • Never scrub it with a pad or scouring powder. If stuff is stuck to the bottom, soak it, then scrape the residue off  gently with the flat edge of a spatula.
  • If it looks dull, oil it.

I know there are whole web sites devoted to the care of cast iron, and these have competing doctrines, especially when it comes to the seasoning process. I don’t have the strength to sort out these arguments, so I just muddle on. “Good enough” is sort of my all-purpose mantra. But my friend has lots of questions. So I thought I’d throw this out to you all:

How do you care for your cast iron? What do you season it with? Where do you stand on the soap issue? How do you get stuck stuff out of the pan. How old is your pan? What’s the most useful piece you own?

Of course, I don’t mean that you have to answer every single one of those questions! But if you have any advice you’d give to a newbie cast iron owner, please do let us know.

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55 Comments

  1. When I was a teenager, I washed my grandmother’s cast iron skillet with soap and water while visiting her on vacation. The beating I got for that won’t be forgotten. Now, when I wash my skillet, I do so with cloth and water, then I oil it and put it on a warm stove so it can dry. If you don’t it will rust. I also store it in the oven and not with the rest of my pots and pans. And if I have to bake something, I leave it right there.

  2. One thing I always tell new cast iron users is to make sure that your spatula is stainless steel and has a flat edge. If it’s a plastic spatula, the pores in the cast iron can fill with plastic that has come off the spatula and that can ruin a pan.

    Part of the job of a spatula is planing off the high points in the pan. It helps to build up that non-stick ability. If the spatula is not flat, it can slowly make the bottom of the pan wavy and no longer flat.

  3. I use the sprayer on the sink to spray mine out. What doesn’t come out I use a plastic scraper on, like the kind you use for a pizza stone. Since it’s non-stick now almost nothing crusts in it that can’t be quickly sprayed or scraped off with hot water. Bacon grease seasons it perfectly, just rub it in and let it heat until smoking, and rub the residue off if you used a bit too much grease and it’s sticky. Always heat to dry, but you don’t always have to grease it when drying. I only grease it when it looks pale and sad. I cook with coconut oil in mine almost every day (eggs!) and it stays nice and shiny and dark.

    I do use soap occasionally–only when I make tacos in it because I cannot get the taco flavor out for some reason! Then I just rub it with coconut oil or bacon grease, and it’s fine again. Stuff may stick a little for the first few uses after, but it recovers within a few days. Love cast iron!! I never want to use any other pans.

    • (The captcha is is being quirky! I had to refresh the page and come back to try again because it told me the answer to every problem was wrong!)

  4. I’ll use soapy brillo pads to get off the hard stuff and then add fat to the pan afterward. Soaking is something I would never do, though. I can smell the rust within minutes! I have my great grandmother’s pans, and they still work great.

  5. I’m sure I’m violating some sort of cast iron care law, but I’ve got a much-loved 10″ Griswold skillet that I use for everything. When I’m done, I put some water in it to soak (no soap), then I do use a stainless steel scrubber (again, no soap) to get the crusty stuff off if it won’t come out with a rag. I dry it on a warm burner on the stove top and wipe with a little bit of fat.

    I actually like old cast iron more than new. The new stuff has a pebbly finish on the inside that I don’t care for; older pots and pans are smooth. I read somewhere or other that it used to be the practice for cast iron to be sanded smooth at the end of manufacturing, but that is no longer done. For my taste, I’d rather shop at flea markets and yard sales for older stuff.

  6. I echo wanting old cast iron as opposed to new. I have my Grandmother’s small griddle I use for pancakes and omelets. I have other cast iron in varying sizes my mother gave me that I use for everything! To clean, I soak, time depends on what’s stuck, and use a mesh pad to scrape. Sometimes i have to resort to the spatula scraping. Not often. I rarely need to reseason, but when I do I just add oil and heat it on a low temp for a few minutes, then wipe out the excess.

  7. Amen to Donna. The old cast iron pans were machined smooth on the inside after casting, that’s why those ancient Griswold and Wagner goods are so smooth on the inside. I too have found that they keep a better non-stick finish. But that’s an expensive manufacturing step which has fallen by the wayside.

    I wash with hot water and a coarse rag, no soap. If something is stuck on, I scrub with kosher salt. Then I toss on the stove and heat on medium flame, and add some drops of whatever oil is closest. When it’s hot, I wipe it evenly over the surface with a dry rag.

    Only hitch I’ve found is cooking acidic food like tomatoes. They just eat away the non-stick layer and stick. Anybody have a fix?

    • I have the same problem with tomatoes (and apples, incidentally) – and also I find they pick up an iron taste from the pan. Any tips?

  8. I have my spouse’s great grandmother’s Wagner dutch oven. I use it for soup, bread baking, and jam. I have to say besides the more common skillets and dutch oven, the best thing about cast iron is that when baking in a cast iron bread pan, the bread just pops out of the pan, every time. Hardly any clean up involved.

    I do scrub my pans with water and a scrub brush. I heat them up on the stove to dry them and then rub them with a little canola. I have a great little silicone brush that I use to rub the oil around, but if the pan is mostly free of stuck on bits, I just wipe it out with a paper towel (the only thing paper towels are allowed to be used for at my house).

  9. +1 for kosher salt to get the nasty bits off. A tablespoon or so of salt and some elbow grease has never left anything stuck to my cast iron. If I’ve got a lot of stuck bits, I’ll fill it with water and boil a few minutes.

    I do really recommend finding a good stout (not flexible!) stainless steel spatula. I’ve got one that was a freebie from the Kimball (NE) Grain Coop probably 25-odd years ago. Can’t find anything nearly as sturdy to replace it, but if you hunt around at the kitchen stores you may eventually come across something tough enough to scrape your pans. (I think Lehman’s had something a while back, but it was over $30, which is awful spendy for a spatula IMO.)

    Finally, don’t schvitz about it. I know people who have complex 10-step systems and must take 45 minutes every time they clean their cast iron. I wipe mine out, leave ‘em on the stove for a few minutes, and I’m done. If you make it a chore, you’ll rarely use your cast iron. Then it’ll rust or go rancid, and you’ll *never* use it.

  10. Soaking is a no no. But, occasionally I do. Soaking more than a few minutes can start rust. My oldest skillet is a Griswold, made from 1897-1957. It is a free piece of cast iron gotten through freecycle. And, I did not know there was cast iron in the stuff I picked up.

    On my blog, i am recording the attempt to use vinegar and water to remove rust from 9 skillets, 2 lids, and one soup pot.

    http://practical-parsimony.blogspot.com/2013/04/cast-iron-cookware-restoration-part-ii.html

    If you go there, you can click on part I to see how it started. So far, I am still too long into the soaking stage!

    For everyday care, I scrape the bottom with a flat spatula, getting all the stuck stuff before it cools. After it cools, I put water in the skillet and put it on the stove, heat and scrape again. Sometimes, I just use a plastic scrubby and rinse. I rarely use Dawn, but it is a reflex, not what I know to be best. I turn on the stove eye for just a FEW minutes to help dry the skillet. Or, I put it in the oven during the last of the heat left from baking.

    If you wipe the grease out with a rag, you have a stained rag. I don’t use paper towels at all, so it is difficult to not wipe. Someone stated she used a cloth that she kept in the freezer in a container. You don’t want that black or greasy cloth in the wash. I am going to start storing a piece of tshirt for wiping the cast iron.

    If you continually heat the empty skillet by sitting it on the stove eye or in the oven, a line of gooey will form inside the skillet. This is from the skillet or the oil just applied. Cast iron should be heated upside down on the top of the stove or in the oven. I am not willing to turn them over on top of the electric stove. Maybe I would on a gas stove.

    The piece I use most is the 10″ skillet for scrambling eggs. If I could only have one piece, it would either be the pot that holds one gallon or the very deep skillet that holds almost a gallon. I can scramble eggs in either of those, and I have.

    Bacon grease is what I use most of the time. If I do not have bacon grease, I use canola. Peanut oil is probably the best.

    For thirty years, I never had to season any cast iron. Then, I became lazy and all had to be reseasoned. However, all the cast iron on my blog–12 pieces was not used in my home and was rusted when I received it.

  11. Interesting that so many of you use scouring pads, or salt, on your pans. I have this notion that using the flat of the spatula sort of reinforces the smooth, non-stick finish, while something rougher would disrupt that finish. I have absolutely no idea where I got this idea, though. I likely made it up.

    I agree with Chris, above, that the most important thing is not too worry to much. Just use the pans.

    Oh, and a note on soaking: I’d never submerge the pan. That’s probably important for newbies to know. I try to keep the bottom dry all the time, as that seems to be where rust breaks out. If I need to soak, I just put some water in the pan and leave it on the stove until I’m ready to rinse.

  12. The anonymous comment above was mine!

    I never use plastic utensils to scrape cast iron, just a stiff, flat, metal spatula. I do use the plastic mesh scrubby if that will get the slight amount of residue from cast iron. Really, not much scraping should be necessary. However, cooking a hamburger always leaves a bit of residue that easily comes out.

  13. Well, I guess I am the outlier in this equation! I occasionally soak my pans (by putting a small amount of water and soap in THEM, not the other way around) when they’ve got schmutz stuck to the bottom of them. I use the coarse side of a scrubber sponge, with soap, to wash them off. I dry by hand and then rub in a coating of olive oil inside the cooking area, then buff, before putting them away. Haven’t had any problems with doing this for 15+ years, and my pans are level, smooth and wonderfully seasoned. I think they are tougher than we give them credit for. The key is to always dry them completely, top to bottom, IMO, and oil them, or corrosion and rust will be an issue.

  14. Older cast iron is worlds different from the heavy and coarse stuff that is made now. Thinner, smoother, and seem to heat more evenly. All of our cast is either Griswold or Wagner, found at thrift stores, estate sales, etc. (except for one monster skillet we have that’s unmarked). We even have a couple Erie pieces (early Griswold) that I’ve been told are well over 100 yrs old. Soooo worth purchasing the good stuff. It’s all over eBay if you can’t find it locally.

    Hot water and a coarse rag to clean. We season/protect with rendered lard. I’ve found that seasoning with bacon grease can sometimes leave bacon taste behind… And not everything benefits from bacon flavoring. Lol. For serious crusties, we put water in it and heat it on the stove. Loosens it right up. We wipe with lard and put it in a warmed but cooling oven. (Wipe with fat, heat oven to 200, turn heat off, put pan upside down on rack, and close the oven.)

    That monster skillet? At about 18″ in diameter, it is great for a huge pork roast with potatoes, and hubby makes a killer deep dish pizza in it. :)

  15. great post, and great responses. have learned a lot about caring for my own cast iron. have one old 12″ skillet which is fabulous, but getting too heavy for me to use regularly (there are downsides to getting older). everything else is newer, with that pebbly finish and no matter what I do, can’t seem to season them to that non-stick condition. Even my griddle, which has never seen soap or water since I started using it still sticks regularly. Will try to kosher salt and see if it helps.

  16. Chris speaks words of wisdom: “Finally, don’t schvitz about it.” The greatest thing about cast iron is its toughness and durability – it can be brought back to life after years of misuse. That’s no excuse to misuse it of course, but it’s helpful to remember when you’re sorting through dozens of unique care regimens and trying to decide what’s best. Try a few different ones and see what works best for you!

    I’d heed the advice to avoid overly acidic foods when cooking (apart from damaging the seasoning, cooking tomato-y dishes in CI can give them an “off” taste) and to avoid soap in the clean up. Apart from that, as long as you keep them dry and give them a good oiling from time to time they should serve you well for decades to come.

    • I don’t know about avoiding tomato in cast iron. I and my mother always make soup and spaghetti in cast iron. The tomato has not affected the surface at all. Nor is there ever any off taste.

  17. As far as getting stuck food off- I always fill the pan with about half an inch of water and put it on the stove. Set the heat on high and the food boils right off the pan. Stuff that is really still stuck on after that can be scraped gently off with a spatula, but mostly it all comes right off.

    My Dad seasons his by oiling the whole thing and putting it on the grill for a few hours, weather permitting of course. His cast iron is amazingly perfectly seasoned all the time!

  18. Well I guess I’m the black sheep of this conversation. I use soap, soak when I need, don’t really ever oil it. Ack!!! It’s my husband’s skt from before we got together. We use it for everything. sed t it back then but now only every couple of months if he feels guilty about it. I use a lot more butter than he does and he has to admit it’s much happier since I came along :-)

    • Something is very weird with the typing box on the mobile site! That should have said husband’s skillet, and he used to oil it back then. To continue… I hand dry and put on the shelf. Nothing special and the pan is happy as can be. I do have a griddle that was my mom’s that I’m a bit more careful with as we don’t use it as much. That I will give a wipe with oil after its washed.

  19. We soap ours, scour and scrub them, soak them where necessary, try to let them drain well after cleaning, and clean off whatever minor rust appears. We very rarely have to season it anymore, probably because we usually cook with generous amounts of olive or coconut oil. When we do season it, we rub it lightly with coconut oil and bake it in the oven, hot, for a few hours. I’m told the classic technique is simply to cook bacon in it and let the grease burn a little.

  20. Love my cast iron! One of my ‘finds’ was an unmarked dutch oven with a glass lid that I use for Everything. I’ve several skillets, a chicken fryer and a ‘grill pan’ that is deep like a skillet, but with ridges in it. I REALLY wish I had my Mom’s old (flat) griddle; she said ‘it got a bit rusty, so I tossed it’ (gasp!!!) It had a rolled/forged edge instead of a stamped/pressed one and I’ve never seen another one like it.

    I’m still trying to break my DH from using soap to clean them, so I’ve had to re-season them a few times. When I get something really stuck on them; I usually add salted water and set it on the stove to simmer a bit, then voila’… no mess! Grease them well and back on a low burner to dry.

  21. I have my grandmothers (born in 1901) cast iron flat griddle and frying pan. If necessary I soak and/or wash quickly with mild soap. Always dry off on warm stove. No other care needed.

  22. I have one new Lodge cast iron pan, which I’ve not used yet, I just seasoned it and placed it in storage to use this summer on the grill.

    But I found an older cast iron pan (no brand, just Made in USA and an 8 on the bottom) at an antique store that was $10 — and *totally* rusty. I scrubbed it with salt, with soap, with a green scratch pad (yeah), and scrubbed some more…. and scrubbed … and scrubbed … And there is still a spot, or two, which looks weird/dark/possibly rusty that I’m not happy with. Coated it with oil, baked it for an hour (bottom side up & placed over foil) in the oven at 400-degrees Fahrenheit, washed it with more water and a gentle scrub (because it was gummy/sticky when it came out of the oven), then oiled it again to store it. Since wiping it with a white rag makes the rag dirty looking, I’m hesitant to use the older one.

    What I really want is a POT, though — at least 2-4 quarts.

    • That gummy, sticky stuff is the “seasoning”. It gets into the pores in the metal and fills them in, which is how the surface gets non-stick in the first place. It probably won’t wash off easily without soap, and scraping it would remove the seasoning and undo the work you just did. Just cook on it. The layer won’t harm you, and will wear down a bit over time.

  23. I scrape my pan clean, rather than washing it, if I can possibly get away with it. I’m also not above cooking some food in it to clean it: if there were taco flavor in it, for example, I might cook up a taco-flavored fried egg or two before cooking any pancakes.

    I have to second the use of a spatula to shape and condition the pan. I’ve also heard of using a putty knife, though I might want to round off the sharp corners of it.

    I use any oil that’s at hand, but ones with a low smoke point like olive oil have a limited usefulness. I’m kind of old-fashioned about this, but I save and use bacon grease and rendered chicken fat quite a bit.

  24. my neighbor taught me that in restaurants they wash them with soap and then wipe them with oil after use. she also said to wipe the water off and not heat it on the range b/c it can weaken the iron over time to heat a dry skillet. this method has worked better for me than any other care method i have tried from the internet including the very very messy salt method

  25. One of my cast iron pans is a curbside special, two (including a wok) I bought new, and one a friend found in her mother’s basement. (My grandma got rid of her cast iron long before I started looking for it and my stepmum never owned it.) Oh, and I recently bought cast iron muffin pans that make amazing cornbread.

    I was very strict about cleaning the pans with salt and oil at first but now I admit I just wash them last when the water doesn’t have much soap left, using a steel scrubber when necessary, rinse them well, and then dry them on a warm burner. Maybe the seasoning isn’t perfect, but I cook with oil or butter so the food doesn’t stick.

  26. I’m still new to the whole cast iron thing, having dug my mother’s cast iron out after she passed. I’m still figuring it out. I scrubbed with salt and oil the first few times, rinse out the salt with hot water and a soft cloth, dry it and set on a stove burner on low for a few seconds to make sure it’s bone dry before putting it away. Now I use a pizza stone scraper made of a tough plastic, hot water, dry and the stove. I’ll occasionally wipe the whole thing down with a touch of veggie oil before putting on the stove.

  27. I have a 12″ one yr old cast iron skillet. After cooking if food isn’t stuck I just wipe with an oily T-shirt sleeve I keep in a bag the freezer. If it’s really stuck I put a little water in the pan, put on the stove to boil and use a scrub brush. I put back on flame to dry and wait for it to cool and rub with oily rag. Will try the stainless spatula after reading these postings.

  28. Personally, I’ve always just rinsed it while still warm and then wiped it clean with a paper towel. If anything sticks, I’ll scrape it out with a wooden spatula (I’d always heard never to use metal utensils for fear of scraping out the seasoning — the comments above are making me rethink), and if it’s really bad, I’ll pour a quarter cup of kosher salt in and use that as an abrasive. Then water and wipe.

    For seasoning, I’ve learned to start from scratch. Chuck the piece in the oven on the self-clean cycle to remove *everything*, then bake it at 500 degrees Fahrenheit with a thin layer of flaxseed oil (I’m told this is the chemically closest modern oil to the natural fats in wild boar and early farm-raised pigs our grandparents had) for an hour, letting it cool naturally in the oven. Repeat a couple of times, and then it’s good to go again.

    For all of this, though, my cast iron seems to do the best when I pay the least attention to it. Obsess about seasoning, and it starts to stick and burn everywhere. My pans are always at their best when I’ve managed to stop caring.

  29. Shark suit is the trick.

    A few years ago we got a small chunk of shark suit (machine-made chain mail that crazy people wear when they get in the water with sharks). It’s great at cleaning chunks off of cast iron without scratching the seasoning.

    One of these days we’ll probably invest in some stainless steel mesh gloves, like the ones butchers use for meat-cutting. Until that day,we’ll keep using that chunk of shark suit.

  30. I treasure my cast iron pans, especially the old Griswold 10″ skillet and a newer unmarked 4 liter Dutch oven with lid. I never use soap inside the skillets, but do use a little on the bottom to remove fresh grease. I use soap on the Dutch oven, since it’s used for slow-cooking and boiling pasta, which removes the seasoning anyway; I just wipe a little oil on to prevent rust after washing.

    Old pans are the best, as other posters said. If you are buying one, set it on a flat surface to be sure the bottom isn’t warped. A pan that’s been overheated (on high heat without food in it) will warp, which will make it wobble around on the burner instead of sitting flat. Very annoying, and cooks unevenly.

    I’m wondering if the type of cooking oil might influence the seasoning process. I use sunflower oil in my skillets, and seldom need to re-season. Sunflower oil gets gummy after heating, judging by the film of gum that I’m forever cleaning off surfaces near the stove!

    Someone mentioned looking for a flexible stainless spatula like the old ones. I recently bought one of these, ($10.)
    http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=62804&cat=2,40733,44734
    It works well, though the handle is shorter than I expected.

  31. There is cast iron and cast iron! Cast iron is an alloy – a mixture of metals and elements. Some have alluded above to the older examples being better and that is probably true because they were manufactured well. As with anything these days manufacturers cut costs and alloy quality, casting techniques and finishing are all part of the equation. My best advice to a newbie is to get the BEST quality. There is no use spending significant dollars on inferior products that seem to resist non-stick treatment and will rust at the drop of humidity. Manufacturers who enamel the bases save you a lot of work and greasiness on the bottoms of the pans for durability and storage (see Le Creuset). Basically just remember that the oiling/greasing is to prevent an environment for rust. Dry thoroughly before storage. Grease to prevent moisture from the air reacting with the iron. Do NOT leave food sitting in the pan particularly acidic or sulpherous foods that will react with the iron if they penetrate the oil barrier. As suggested above, animal grease (bacon fat, tallow) is great and some non-acidic oils are also good to use. Avoid using olive oil as it is slightly acidic and I have seen many customers bring a pan back that they have “well oiled” but it is too acidic and has caused light reaction.

  32. OK now I am going to get everyone really upset with what I have to say but this is also an example of how well the really old cast iron stands up to anything.
    I received some very ancient cast iron skillets from my mother who got them when she first married in 1923 and they were ‘used’ when she got them. They were caked up with burned on food that was at least a half inch thick in spots. This was food and not seasoning. She was told never to wash them at all. Needless to say she did not like to use them much except for a 9″ one that was half way decent. Then I got them and they sat in my cabinet for another 20+ years until I figured that if I could get the gook out I would use them. I tried everything posted on the net until I found an obscure reference to soaking in ammonia. Yes, that’s right. I figured I’d never use them as they were so I had nothing to loose. I put them out in the garage and poured straight ammonia in them and let them sit for a couple of days. I had to keep repeating because they were so nasty but eventually with a steel spatula and those stainless steel Brillo pads and Playtex gloves, I got them clean. Washed them, seasoned them and now they are my favorite. Have given away all the other pans. We often wondered if they belonged to some ’49′s who roughed it in mining camp though I heard they at least used sand to clean them out. Oh and I make spaghetti sauce in the big 10″ one. No problem.

  33. So…I may get flack for this, but I don’t do anything fancy with my cast iron pans. I cook with them constantly, occasionally leave them to soak, use a little soap, and scrub away at them with a metal wire scrubbie. I hardly ever remember to lube them up after washing, and mostly I let them air dry. And you know, they look great and work well. If they get a little rusty looking, I wipe them with a little oil before I cook in them. If the finish gets wonky, it comes right back if I rub in a little extra lard or whatever when I cook with them next. Nothing sticks, nothing cracks, and all (even the vintage no-name wonders I’ve rounded up at thrift stores and estate sales) are holding up well under my benign neglect care. So I think while caring more for your cast iron pots and pans might make yours look shinier than mine, I don’t think it will ruin them to treat them like the functional cookware they are.

    • That’s what any oil does — polymerizes, though some may be harder, or sticker, than others. The sticky stuff is that polymer. It tends to fill in the pores in the cast iron, and leftovers make those blotches. They’re perfectly safe, and will wear down after seasoning to a nice finish.

  34. My oldest cast iron pan I bought as a 18 year old and I’m now 53, so I guess that makes it 35 years old now! Its surface is super smooth, and that’s from the use of metal spatulas aka pancake turners on it for so many years. I also have a couple of carbon steel pans that we use everyday, sometimes twice, and their care is the same as cast iron because they will rust as well. To get the stuck stuff off, we put water in it, set it on the stove and bring the water to a boil and let it simmer and loosen everything up. Then we take a dish brush to it, sometimes a scrubber if it’s really stubborn, and then set it back on the stove and turn on the heat to dry it quickly, and then once it’s dry and hot, oil it again.

    And the best way to keep your steel and iron pans seasoned is to make a Dutch baby in them!!

  35. I have 3 pieces of Renfrow cast iron from the 60′s so as cast iron goes not very old :) I guess I’m the heretic in the bunch I would never use salt to scrub my cast iron salt + iron = rust. If something horrible happens I use a bit of sand. Never never used soap and HORRORS…..I season with crisco shortening (cringe) and only use a metal spatula. I wipe the pans out with a damp cloth let them warm on the stove, wipe in a bit of shortening then store them in the oven. My oven is always warm because I have and old school one with a pilot light.

  36. No one ever told me not to use soap on my cast iron pans. I use soap and I scrub them with a plastic sponge (one of those Dobie Sponges). I rarely have to oil them. When I had a gas stove I used to heat it for a few minutes after towel-drying just to dry the ridges in the bottom. Now that I have an electric stove I no longer do that. I think the main point is, cast iron doesn’t have to have these hard and fast rules. If it gets rusty, don’t leave it wet. If it gets crusty, scrub it out. If it gets dry, oil it. I love the browning ability of cast iron.

  37. I have new cast iron skillets (meaning I bought them myself a few years ago and wasn’t lucky enough to inherit any). Probably EVERYONE knows this but I didn’t – let the pan heat up before putting the food to be cooked in. as far as cleaning, I scrub out with a plastic bristle brush while still hot and drizzle some oil in.

  38. The older the better! I have 3 cast iron pans and have used my mom’s dutch oven for making many things. Especially stews and soups in the dutch oven, I like it better than the crock pot idea. Tastes better.
    I found a small frying pan the size for an egg dish at a thrift store in Venice. Never have a rust problem. I use the 12 inch flat cast iron to make all sorts of melted cheese sandwiches and pancakes. Store in a warm place. The 2 smaller are on top of my range all the time.

  39. I am not supposed to use cast iron pans anymore because i have hemochromatosis so i have them hidden away. They do make a nice diy home wmd or extra large mallet for this urbane homesteader.

    • Yes, anyone with too much iron in their blood could pose a problem with using this kind of cookware, I suppose. I gave away almost all of my other pots and pans once I discovered cast iron. I had also a couple of those fancy, expensive skillets that are supposed to be so wonderful, but except for the fact that their handles didn’t get hot, I didn’t like the food cooked with them as well as I do my cast iron. I keep handy those slip-on hot pads that fit on the handles, and they work wonderfully.

      I have about every item that you can buy today of cast iron and I used them all. I am fortunate to now own an AGA cookstove, but I used them long before I did. But unless I have cooked something that leaves hardly no trace of food at all, I always wash my ware with a couple of drops of mild dish detergent. I let them soak for about 15 minutes while I clean up the kitchen, then I gently clean them with a dish cloth. Afterwards, I hand towel dry them, quickly put them on one of the burners with a dab of lard. Even Lodgeware people actually prefers lard over cooking oil to season, as the high fat content is the best for cast iron. I do NOT cook with lard at all, but keep it just for my cookware. As soon as that dab of lard melts, I take it off the heat immediately, and spread the grease with a rubber or silicone brush and let the item cool. Later, I wipe it down with a paper towel and ‘viola!’ It looks brand new, waiting to be used again. I also have some vintage pieces and treat them the same way. But seasoning them after every usage is not very time consusming if you incoroparte it into your daily clean up kitchen routine.

  40. When we got married in 1964, my mother-in-law gave me a 10-inch cast iron skillet for a shower gift. I was so upset; I figured she must hate me. It was 1964, for crying out loud. I was a modern girl! I have used that skillet almost everyday for the past (almost) 50 years. What a smart and wonderful woman she was. I now have quite a large collection of cast iron cookware, but none of it means so much to me as that 10-inch skillet I got for a wedding gift.

  41. Hi, nice blog. I’ve read through the comments now, and only a couple come close to the best way to care for your cast iron. If you’re serious about cast iron, or anything for that matter, you want to know how it works, not just all the folklore advice that abounds here.

    The best fat for seasoning your cast iron is linseed or flaxseed oil (depending on your geography, it’s the same thing). The reason is that this oil has the lowest smoke point, thus it forms the best carbonized coating. Sheryl Canter has written about this, google her name and cast iron, and read upon the specifics of the chemistry if you’re so inclined.

    All of you that use other fats – here’s the key to the best cast iron experience: get out a steel brush bit for your power drill, and brush your pan down to the raw iron. Coat it very thinly with flaxseed oil and bake it on your oven’s highest setting for at least half an hour, up to an hour.. Repeat at least three times, ideally more than four or until you’re happy. The result is an unbelievably non-stick surface from day one, and you can even clean it with a tiny bit of soap if you want – nothing can touch the coating (well, I bet the dishwasher could, but I’m not going to find out). Point is, all this talk of “it takes years to season it properly and my grandmother did it during world war one” is just not right. Season your iron correctly today, and you’ll see that you only thought you loved your pan – in its new coating you’ll discover true love.

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