Care for Cast Iron Skillets, Griddles and Cookware
A Guide to Proper Cast Iron Seasoning, Cleaning and Maintenance
Cast iron cookware is as durable as it is frugal. When properly seasoned, cleaned and maintained, your pots and pans will last for generations to come.
How to Season Cast Iron
Seasoning, or curing, a cast iron pan is essential to its care and a seasoned pan will create better-tasting and easier to prepare food. Without seasoning, you will have nothing but frustration while cooking, so this should not be considered an optional step if you own cast iron.
You will need to season any old cast iron that you pick up second-hand as well as any new cast iron cookware that is not pre-seasoned by the manufacturer (check the manual).
The process of seasoning couldn't be easier. All you need is the pan (along with its lid if there is one) and vegetable oil or shortening. After an hour in the oven, the pan will be non-stick and easy to clean and it only gets better the more you use it.
- Coat your cast iron cookware inside and out with vegetable oil or shortening.
- Place in a 300 F oven for one hour.
- Remove and wipe off any liquified shortening. Your pan is now seasoned!
- To avoid a mess in the oven, place a piece of foil under the pan.
- A true non-stick surface takes time to form. To avoid cooking frustrations, only use your pan for meats and other fatty foods in the beginning.
How to Clean Cast Iron
Now that your pan is seasoned, you can use it to cook your favorite foods. This is also when proper cleaning is most important and you should follow these tips to ensure its long-term use.
- Wash your cast iron in hot water immediately after use. Due to concerns over bacteria, I recommend washing with soapy water – though there are many cast iron users who feel it’s best to stick to water only. Whichever route you choose, be sure not to scrub too vigorously, and take care not to submerge the pan in water. This could cause damage to the seasoning on the pan.
- Dry your cookware completely. Cast iron will rust if it isn’t dried immediately after washing. Start by towel drying your cookware. Then place it on the stove over low heat for a minute or two to pull out any remaining moisture. If desired, lightly coat the inside of the pan with oil and heat for a minute or two longer. This will help restore any seasoning that might have been lost during washing.
- Store the pan with the lid off. To further protect against rusting, store your cookware with the lid off. Many cast iron users also recommending placing a paper towel inside the cookware to absorb any additional moisture - either in the pan or the surrounding environment - that may be present.
Cast Iron Maintenance Tips
- Cook over low heat, to avoid damage to the pan.
- Use plastic or wooden cooking utensils to prevent scratching.
- Remove acidic foods from your pans immediately after cooking and wash promptly to prevent damage to the seasoning.
- Do not store foods in cast iron as this can break down the seasoning.
- Never submerge cast iron in water.
- Never put cold water in a hot pan; this can cause the pan to crack or warp.
- Do not wash cast iron in the dishwasher.
Troubleshooting Common Cast Iron Problems
Why is my cast iron skillet rusty?
Rust indicates that a pan is not properly seasoned. This can occur when a pan is new and not fully broken in. It can also occur when the pan is scrubbed too hard or not dried adequately after washing.
To remedy the problem, scrub or sand off the rust then reseason your pan.
Why is everything sticking to my skillet?
If food is sticking to your pan, it’s a sign that the pan isn’t fully seasoned. To achieve the desired non-stick surface, you will need to reseason your pan.
You may also find it beneficial to lightly oil your pan before and after each use and to cook fattier foods until a deep seasoning develops. Bare in mind: a true non-stick surface develops over time, and after much use.
I accidently cooked at too high of a temperature and now my pan is one big, baked on mess. How can I fix it?
Start by scrubbing out all of the stuck on food, just as you would with any other pan. Then, once the pan is dry, evaluate the condition of the seasoning. Are there areas where the seasoning was removed? If so, you’ll need to reseason the pan before you can use it again.
The Bottom Line: Cast iron cookware is very forgiving. Learn how to clean and season your cast iron, and you’ll have it forever.