How To Care For Your Cast Iron Skillet
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know how much I love cooking with a cast iron skillet. I use it for EVERYTHING. Biscuits, casseroles, cakes, desserts, steaks, burgers, I even roast whole chickens in mine!
But, a new cast iron skillet can be intimidating! When I started out cooking, I worshiped the nonstick skillet. I went through at least five of them before giving up on them.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using my link. But rest assured, my friend. I only recommend products and services that I love and have used myself. For full details see disclosure page.
My husband and I took a camping trip, and I tried cast iron cooking for the first time. I made a stew, a meat and potatoes thing over the fire in a deep cast iron skillet. Of course, I didn’t know much about cooking at that point. But I loved the ease of clean up and how everything could be done in one pot.
Then I washed the skillet.
I woke up the next day to find my BRAND NEW pan covered in rust!! I was furious and fairly certain that I had been sold a crap item. And then I googled what had happened to my pan, and found that I had skipped a whole part of cleaning it when I failed to season my cast iron skillet.
What is “seasoning” and why is it important?
Since that camping trip, I have learned how to properly care for my cast iron skillet, and have had zero issues. It is a trusted friend in my kitchen now, easily the product I use the most when cooking.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
This is the skillet I use for every day working. Lodge has excellent products that will last you a lifetime!
Seasoning is a fancy term for oil/fat that is baked onto cast iron cookware. It keeps your cookware from rusting, sealing its surface against moisture.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, it’s this oil layer that makes your cookware nonstick. You may have heard that the more you use your cast iron skillet, the better it will be. This is absolutely true! The seasoning will continue to be more effective overtime, as long as you take proper care of your cookware after every use.
*For this post, in order to show the full cleaning process, I tried to intentionally mess up my cast iron skillet. It took me four times of washing my skillet with soap to bring on rust! That means my seasoning has really
How To Eliminate Rust and Burnt Food From Your Cast Iron Skillet
A pan that hasn’t been properly seasoned will easily hold onto burnt food and will rust easily. But luckily, both these issures can be eaily fixed!
To remove burnt food from cast iron (or any pan!), simmer water and baking soda for about an hour, or until you see the food particles start to float into the water. Use a generous amount of baking soda – a few handfuls at least. After pouring the water out, when the pan is still warm, scrub away anything that’s left with steel wool or a stainless steel scouring pad.
To remove rust, simply wash your cast iron in hot soapy water, using steel wool or a stainless steel scouring pad on the rusty areas. If the rust if very stubborn, add some coarse salt to your pan to use an abrasive. It will come right off!
What you’ll need To Clean And Season Your Pan
Stainless Steel Scouring Pad
This is what a use for mild food build-up on my cast iron skillet, like after cooking a steak. They last forever too!
SOS Steel Wood Pads
If You have burnt on food or significant rust, steel wood will buff that away. These SOS pads even have dish soap right in them to help break up residue. However you will ONLY want to use these if you are planning to fully season your pan. The soap will strip any seasoning on your pan.
A Neutral Oil for Seasoning
We’ll talk about this later in greater depth, but when picking the oil to season your pan, opt for a light oil with neutral flavor, like vegetable or canola oil.
How To Properly Season Your Cast Iron Skillet
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Start with a clean pan. Refer to the last section if your skillet has rust or burnt food on its surface. Then wash with hot soapy water.
- Dry your pan thoroughly with a clean towel.
- Using a paper towel, rub a thin layer of cooking oil or seasoning spray onto the skillet’s surface. Make sure to cover the handle and bottom side of the pan too.
- Place your skillet in the oven for 1 hour. Then turn the oven off and allow your skillet to cool slowly in the oven.
- When the skillet is cool, wipe down with a dry paper towel to remove excess oil.
You don’t need to bake the skillet after every use. This full seasoning process if only necessary when your seasoning has been removed by washing with soap, burning food onto the surface, or when you notice rust.
How To Maintain Your Skillet
It isn’t necessary to strip and season your skillet after every use. When you cook with your cast iron skillet, Simply wash it with hot water and a mildly abrasive tool like a washcloth or sponge.
Make sure the pan is DRY! I will sometimes allow my pan to heat on the stove once it’s clean to ensure that all the moisture is gone.
Then coat it with a thin layer of oil before you store it.
What Oil Can You Use to Season?
When seasoning your cast iron skillet, I recommend you stay away from animal fats, like lard or duck fat, as those fats have a higher likelihood of turning rancid. I personally use canola or vegetable oil, because of their shelf lives and neutral flavor.
You can use virtually any cooking oil to season, but I advise you to stay away from oils that have strong flavors like olive oil, peanut oil, or sesame oil.
Whatever you decide to use, research that oil’s smoke point. When you season a pan, a chemical reaction takes place that bonds the oil and meal. You need to get the pan up to the smoke point temperature of your oil in order for the bond to occur.
New to cast iron cooking? Here are some dishes to try!
- Fried rice
- Chicken Parmesan
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Artisan Bread
- Chocolate Brownie
- Corn Bread
Have fun with your cast iron skillet!
Remember, it will be easier to cook with and to clean the more you use it! And, of course, email me if you have any questions!