How to Care for Cast Iron

How to Care For Cast Iron | OUR NOURISHING ROOTS

I love my cast iron skillets!  I got them a few years ago, and by now they are beautifully seasoned and make everything I cook in them taste amazing.  I use them most mornings to fry eggs, and most afternoons to make several variations on grilled cheese sandwiches.  Okay, and I also cook a lot of bacon in them! Was it hard for me at first to get used to cast iron?  Was it hard for me to season them?  No! I get a lot of questions about how to care for cast iron whenever I mention that I use it.  But the truth is that it’s not hard at all.  Or at least, I have not had any problems with mine!  So let me share with you what I do with mine. When I get a new piece of cast iron, whether it’s a skillet, a grill pan, a griddle (or a BIG griddle!), a waffle iron, or even this ebelskiver pan, I always take care to season it properly.  When your cast iron is seasoned well, not even eggs will stick to it.  I know!  But it’s true!  I make fried eggs in my skillet several times a week, and they don’t stick.

What is Seasoning?

Seasoning is when you bake oil into the surface of the cast iron to make a natural non-stick surface without chemicals.  It also protects your cast iron from rusting, corroding, or wearing out.  If you care for your cast iron properly, it will last you generations!

When you buy cast iron, make sure you season it properly, and it will serve you well for years and years.

How Do I Do It?

It’s simple really.  When you buy a new piece of cast iron, you just need to follow these steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Wash the cast iron with gentle soap and a scrub brush.  Dry completely.
  3. Rub the entire surface with coconut oil, pastured beef tallow, or palm shortening.
  4. Set the cast iron piece in the oven and bake it for one hour.

How Do I Keep It Happy?

After you’re done cooking, it’s time to clean it without removing the non-stick you worked so hard to get!

  • Don’t wash it with soap!
  • Just use hot water and a clean scrub brush to scrub off food until the surface is clean
  • Then wipe out the pan with a paper towel or, even better, a thin towel (I prefer these) that you plan to designate for your cast iron.  Make sure it’s dry so it doesn’t rust.
  • Add a small amount of coconut oil, tallow, or palm shortening and rub onto the surface of the pan.

I like to store my cast iron skillet on the stovetop, since it’s getting used every day!  But you can also store yours in the oven, or on a hanging rack like this one.  I think cast iron is so pretty and rustic.  I like to leave it out for all to see!

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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Comments

  1. I have a 25-year-old cast iron skillet I bought myself in grad school when I got tired of cooking on crappy cast-off pans. Even though I seasoned it properly before I used it, I was only 24 or so and very busy when I bought it and didn’t always care for it properly; it ended up rusty and crusty. A decade later I got interrupted in the middle of cooking and somehow left it on a high gas flame–for several hours. I was lucky I didn’t burn my house down…. but every bit of seasoning had been burned off! So I started over and it has been gorgeous since then.

    I later inherited another skillet that had been mistreated, and this time, rather than leave it on an open flame in my kitchen, I put it in my self-cleaning oven while I cleaned the oven. It emerged shiny as new–so I repeated the seasoning process and it’s fine!

    A few years back I posted this on facebook: “My cast iron skillet is a well seasoned thing of beauty.” One of my cousins responded, “So am I.” :-)

  2. Can a cast iron skillet be used on a smooth electric cooktop?

    • I think I’ve read, “no”, but I would check with the stove’s manufacturer to be sure.

    • Debby Cousins says:

      You are not suppose to use cast iron on the glass top stoves but I do. My husband sand blasted and hand sanded my pans to make them smooth and then we seasoned them and they turned out wonderful and smooth inside and out. Cast iron and stainless are all I use now!

    • Yes, just be careful to not drop or slide it on the surface of the stove.

    • I use cast iron on my electric smooth top stove all the time with no problems. Just be careful you don’t drag the pan across the surface or it might scratch (though I forget sometimes and have never scratched mine) and don’t drop the pan on the surface of course.

    • I use mine on an electric skillet. It takes a little more work to keep it seasoned, but it is worth it!!

  3. Melissa Womack says:

    After daily cleaning with water, and drying, do you rub oil all over the entire thing, inside and out, or just the inner surface, which touches the food?

    • Debby Cousins says:

      I read that you are suppose to season inside and out but after the initial seasoning I only do the inside after I’ve used them and cleaned them and this has worked for me.

  4. Kendahl, I love my cast iron pans and use them almost daily! Thanks for sharing how to season and care for them. This post should help many people!

  5. Ellen Nygaard says:

    Great article. Cast iron is the best! I would add to buy (new, garage sale, thrift store) only made in USA ie Lodge brand. It’s on the bottom of the pan. If it doesn’t say that, skip it. You can Google why. I own my grandmother’s pots and pans, which must be about 90 yrs old; use the skillet daily. Add: when you cook with iron, you receive iron and it isn’t toxic.

    • My favorite castie is made it taiwan. I like the shape and it’s a nice well finished pan. Not sure where I got it, but used. I say buy the pan not the name. New cast iron by lodge is unfinished, which makes it function very poorly. I would never advise buying a new lodge pan.

      • Lodge is the only brand at a decent price range that doesn’t have the unwanted stuff added. Only buy lodge in my opinion. Even if pricey it doesn’t mean other harmful, low quality materials aren’t added. Research it. We love our lodge!! It comes per finished.

  6. after washing mine with hot water and a scrubber, i just set it upside down over the burner (on minimum) for a few minutes to dry and warm it up, then i rub a few drops of oil into it while its still warm.

  7. I worship my cast iron. My first piece was a dutch oven that my grandma got out of the Sears catalog in the 20s. I have two charcoal type dutch ovens where the lids have a rim to hold the coals and the bottoms have “feet” for outdoor cuisine, one big, one smaller. I have five skillets, including a 5″ deep 12″ cast iron pan that I got from Lodge Logic last summer that I ADORE!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWz0EpskEG4 Butch also sells his own line of dutch ovens, including aluminum dutch ovens for hauling into back country camp kitchens. This is my idea of heaven.

  8. How often do you wash the flour sack towels you use to clean it & do you just wash with the regular laundry? I tried a towel before, but I think I used it too long & it got very oily.

  9. I used cast iron for years treating at you describe and could never get a decent seasoning. I’ve realized now that the seasoning is not just oil, but both carbon from food residue and oil. Now I scrape out any food with a spatula and then wipe out with a rag. No water. It makes a much better surface. Seasoning hot with oil makes a usable temporary surface, but it is not enough to smooth out and cover the milling marks on the bottom of the pan, and it isn’t durable. I tried doing oil seasoning in the oven, on the stove top, using different oils, multiple coats, etc… but it never lasts.

    The new lodge pans are not finished on the inside. I think they’re basically junk. They stopped milling the pans in the 90′s. No one would have bought one back in the day. Better to buy used. Any cast iron should show fine concentric rings inside from the milling process (unless hidden by seasoning). If the pan is not milled, it will have a fine sandy texture from the casting process (they are cast in a sort of sand). I was working on a cast iron blog post recently, maybe I’ll finish it up.

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