Everyone knows that cast iron is wonderful, but for many it is a challenge if you have never used it before. This article contains information on how to care for your cast iron skillets or pots, as well as how to restore old ones.
I love to use cast iron when I am cooking or baking, but caring for cast iron pans is different than other cookware you will have in your kitchen.
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Cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned to perform well. Many times, you can find cast iron cook and bake ware that already comes seasoned. But often the seasoning is minimal. So whether your cast iron is brand new or a thrift shop find, here’s what you need to know.
These tips will apply for any cast iron that you use, whether it is a skillet, a griddle or a loaf pan.
If you find an old cast iron skillet at a yard sale or thrift shop and find that it really doesn’t have any seasoning. Or if you have some cast iron that looks dull, with a grayish hue to it, you will need to re-season your cast iron before you can successfully cook with it.
How to deal with Rust on Cast Iron
If your skillet has some rust on it, that is the first thing you will need to address. Seasoning cast iron skillets is what protects your pieces from rusting, and is one of the reasons that a good seasoning is so important.
To remove the rust, scour it off with a stiff, wire brush. If it is really bad, you can use some extremely fine grit sand paper. You will need to get every bit of the rust off of the skillet.
Once your skillet is rust-free, you can properly season your cast iron.
How do You Season Cast Iron?
Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower rack of your oven, to catch any possible drips from the oil on the cast iron.
First, heat your oven to 400 degrees.
Next, you will wash the skillet with warm, soapy water and a scrub brush. This is really the only time you will want to use soap on your cast iron.
Rinse and dry it completely.
Apply a very thin coat of oil all over the skillet – inside, outside and on the handle. You can use coconut oil, lard, or bacon grease.
Whatever kind you choose, it must be a very thin layer. If it is too thick, it will become sticky. That is not at all what you want. The coat of oil should be just enough to make the cast iron look black and wet.
Wipe off any excess oil with a lint-free cloth.
Place the cast iron skillet (or other piece of cookware) upside down on the oven rack above the foil. You will position it upside down, because as the oil heats, it will melt. Any excess oil should drip down to the foil and not pool in the skillet. Pooling will cause patches of sticky “goop” and that is the last thing that you want.
Bake the skillet for 1 hour.
After the hour, turn off the oven and allow the cast iron to cool in place in the oven.
Once your skillet has cooled, inspect it to see that the finish is now black and shiny. Depending upon the condition of your cast iron when you start, you may need to repeat the process.
A properly seasoned cast iron skillet will have a gorgeous, shiny black finish.
How to Care for Cast Iron
When you wash your cast iron, you should only use warm water and a brush. Soap should only be used when you are doing a pre-seasoning wash. It can harm the finish of the seasoning, and undo all of your hard work.
The more you use cast iron skillets, the darker and smoother the seasoning on them becomes, making your cast iron practically non-stick.
If Food Sticks
If food does stick anywhere on the skillet, try rubbing it with some kosher salt and oil. I just use the tips of my fingers in a circular motion, and it takes it right off.
Once the skillet has been cleaned, wipe it dry and remove all of the moisture. Any water left on cast iron is rust just waiting to happen.
After the skillet is dry, I always rub it down with a tiny bit of oil. Just enough to bring back that natural shine.
Store your cast iron in a dry location, away from moisture or steam.
Remember – moisture is the enemy of your cast iron.
A well-cared for cast iron skillet, will last you a life time. You will be able to pass it down from one generation to the next.