Cast iron skillets can seem a little intimidating. You may have heard they require extra maintenance, such as oiling, seasoning, and careful cleaning. Conversely, you may have heard about cooks who never clean their cast iron pans. That can sound a little scary if you are accustomed to thoroughly scrubbing, sanitizing, and rinsing your dishes. Cast iron skillets allow for excellent heat conduction, non-stick cooking, and flavor. You may be considering using a cast-iron skillet, or perhaps you just want to make sure you are properly using the one you already have. If so, check out these tips.
12. Purchase a Pre-Seasoned Skillet
It is critical to start off with a well-seasoned pan. Some companies pre-season their cast iron pans before selling them. Seasoning refers to allowing cooking oil to bake into the surface of the pan or skillet. This process prevents rusting and forms a smooth, protective surface on the pan. Pre-seasoned pans come with a layer of polymerized oil already lining the pan. Purchasing a pre-seasoned pan gives you a head start when cooking with this versatile tool. However, if you have purchased a skillet that requires seasoning, you can easily perform this task at home.
11. Season Your Pan Correctly
To season your pan, Field Company recommends heating the skillet on your stove for five minutes while preheating your oven. Next, pour a teaspoonful of vegetable or grapeseed oil into the pan. Use a paper towel to rub the oil into the pan, including the cooking surface, bottom, and handle. Then, use a clean paper towel to wipe away any excess oil from the pan. Martha Stewart then recommends baking the skillet upside down on a foil-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees. After one hour, turn off your oven and allow the skillet to cool to room temperature in the oven.
10. Re-Season as Needed
The process of cooking and the oils and liquids released by the foods you cook help to re-season your pan. Additionally, rubbing a small amount of oil into the pan while it is still hot after cleaning and drying it can help to maintain the seasoning. However, on occasion, you may want to re-season your skillet. If your skillet loses its shine and becomes dull, blotchy, or rusted, take steps to re-season it so it will continue to provide benefit. Furthermore, if you notice your pan has become sticky, Lodge Cast Iron recommends placing it in the oven. Bake the pan upside down at 400 degrees for one hour to allow the oils to transform into seasoning.
9. Preheat Your Pan
When you are cooking your food, avoid starting with a cold pan. Instead, preheat your cast iron skillet either in the oven or on the stove. If your oven is already preheating for your recipe, set your skillet inside to warm up along with the oven. If you are cooking on your stovetop, allow your skillet to gradually warm up over the burner for about ten minutes. Preheating your skillet allows the temperature to become more uniform across the surface of the pan. This allows for a better surface for evenly cooking your food.
8. Avoid Overheating
Keep in mind that cast iron is a good heat conductor and start low and slow. Avoid using excessive heat. If you notice your pan is smoking, turn down the heat and allow the temperature to cool slightly. Overheating your cast iron skillet not only burns your food but may also warp or destroy the pan itself. When you first begin cooking with cast iron, start with low temperatures and increase the heat as you become more familiar with the heating properties of this cooking vessel.Related: 10 Ways to Ensure Your Nonstick Pan Doesn’t Stick
7. Properly Clean Your Skillet
Clean your cast iron skillet properly to give it a long life. Avoid soaking your skillet or allowing it to remain wet. Sometimes food residue may accumulate on the surface of your pan. If so, Lodge Cast Iron recommends scrubbing by hand with water and a nylon bristle brush. If necessary, you can use a polycarbonate pan scraper to scrape away baked-on food particles. Rinse the pan and dry with a lint-free cloth or towel. To help maintain the seasoning, you can rub a small amount of oil into the pan while it is still warm from washing.
6. Avoid Soap Except in Certain Situations
It is not necessary to clean your cast iron pans with soap. However, you do not need to fear that using soap will cause damage to your skillets or pans. If you find you need a little mild soap to help clean an especially cruddy pan, feel free to use some. Rinse away any soap residue. Once the pan is clean and dry, rub in additional oil to build up the layer of seasoning. Never wash your cast iron pots and pans in the harsh conditions of your dishwasher.
5. Refrain from Using Harsh or Abrasive Chemicals
For the most part, you should be able to keep your cast iron pans beautiful, clean, and functional using water, a nylon brush, a lint-free towel, oil, and paper towels. Stay away from abrasive chemical cleaners that can damage the surface of your skillet. A little baking soda can be useful for scrubbing and deodorizing the surfaces of your cookware. You can also try scrubbing your pans with a sprinkling of kosher salt. For mildly abrasive cleaning power, try using the cut side of a potato and a sprinkling of salt to clean your pan.Related: Tips for Scoring the Perfect Steak for Cooking at Home
4. Deal with Rust
If you have not kept up with seasoning, your pan may become rusty. Never fear, it is possible to restore your skillet to its previous state. Bon Appetit recommends soaking your rusty skillet in a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Keep an eye on the pan as it soaks. The point is to dissolve away the rust without destroying the deeper layers of the pan’s surface. Next, scrub the rust away with soap, water, and a scrub pad. Once you have removed all of the rust, it is time to re-season your pan.
3. Seek Out Tasty Recipes Using Your Skillet
To get the most benefit from your cast iron skillet, seek out tasty recipes. Cooking often with your cast iron cookware helps build up and maintain the seasoning that makes food tasty and helps prevent sticking. You may have heard that you should avoid cooking tomato products in cast iron. The acidity of tomatoes may impart a metallic taste to food. Furthermore, it may damage the seasoning on your pan. However, America’s Taste Kitchen reports that it is possible to cook tasty, acidic dishes in a well-seasoned pan for short periods of time.
2. Use Proper Cooking Utensils
You can enjoy cooking in cast iron with metal, wooden, bamboo, or silicone spoons and spatulas. A stainless steel spatula is helpful for serving a deep-dish pizza, scooping up fried eggs, or scraping juicy bits of food from the bottom of the skillet. You needn’t fear scratching or destroying the surface of your skillet with a metal spatula. Wooden or bamboo utensils are also useful for gentler stirring. Furthermore, silicone spatulas are gentle on your cookware. Avoid purchasing cheap plastic or rubber utensils that can’t stand up to the heat inside your pan.
1. Properly Store Your Cookware
To maintain your cookware, thoroughly dry it with a soft, lint-free towel after washing. Then, after rubbing in a bit of oil, place layers of paper towels between your pans before stacking and storing them away. Take care to store your cast iron cookware in a cupboard away from moisture. If you choose to store your skillet on the stovetop for easy access, be sure to remove it from the area when you are cooking in other vessels. Heat and moisture from the kitchen can transfer to your cast iron items, increasing the risk of rust and damage.Related: 11 Tips for Grilling Perfect Hot Dogs