Proper Care of a Cast Iron Pan

I love my cast iron cookware. I almost exclusively use cast iron, and have found that it heats more evenly than any other pan in the house. Well seasoned, it has a better non-stick coating than stainless steel, aluminum or copper. Cast Iron can go from the  stove-top directly into the oven. They are also extremely cheap compared to any other cookware. A 12″ pre-seasoned skillet costs $20 and will last you for the rest of eternity.

I find that even a pre-seasoned pan, needs a little TLC before you use it. First of all rinse the pan in hot water (no soap). Dry the pan thoroughly and coat with a generous dollop of oil. Wipe the oil all over the inside and outside of the pan, there should be no puddles. I prefer olive oil or coconut oil, but anything will do. Place the pan in a 350 degree oven and bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and leave the pan inside until cool.

The first few foods that you cook in your new pan, should be cooked in oil. Sauté or fry something. This will add additional layers of oil, and really saturate all of the pores of the pan with oil.

To Clean your pan after cooking. First of all, don’t wait until the pan is completely cold and the food is stuck on and congealed and impossible to remove (if you forget, warm the pan again on the stove-top before trying to clean it). Grab the warm pan and scrub it under hot running water. Again, no soap! I know it feels weird to use no soap, but you don’t want to remove all that seasoning you worked so hard on do you? Scrub with a plain (no soap added) brillo pad, plastic pot scrubbie or wash cloth. I find that plastic bread ties work wonders. I also make scrubbies out of the plastic net bags that onion/potatoes come in, and they are awesome too.

Just fold the bag in half 4-6 times. You should have a tight little square of mesh. Rubberband or tie around the top or middle. Scrub away!

Dry the pan completely. Add a Tbsp of oil to the pan, and coat pan inside and out with oil. I oil my pan after every single use, and it is completely non-stick now. I just made crepes in it yesterday without a problem.

Did I mention that all food cooked in your cast iron pan will have extra iron in it?

Did I mention that a cast iron pan keeps your food warm for ages, because they stay hot for so long?

Did I mention that a cast iron dutch oven makes the most perfect boule of bread in the world?

Did I mention that if you ever want to make superb homemade cornbread, the most tender steak ever, or a killer deep dish pizza you are going to need a cast iron pan?

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20 Comments

  1. Alia said,

    April 3, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    I use cast iron pans too! I love them!

  2. Karen said,

    April 3, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    I have some antique cast iron pots that are over a hundred years old but have never used them.

    • April 3, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      Karen, That is so cool. I saw a giant cast iron kettle at a yard sale 10 years ago, and didn’t buy it. At the time I thought “What am I going to do cook over an open fire?” Now I still wish I had that darn pot…..

      • Karen said,

        April 3, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        I know what you mean…they are getting so hard to find and when you do they are very expensive. We have a 1730’s house with two fireplaces that still have their swing arms in them for cooking and that is where I keep my cast iron.

  3. denlyn3 said,

    April 3, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Thanks for the tips on the care of the pans. I have used them in the past and really should use them more now that I am doing so much more cooking.

  4. Jasmine Pahl said,

    April 3, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    LOVE the cast iron, the textures it creates are unlike any other but it IS finicky. Thanks for the primer on keeping it happy. I plan to make the veggie bag scrubbers at my earliest opportunity!

    • April 3, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      Jasmine, it definately took me a while to get used to cooking in cast iron. The main difference is to be sure to heat the pan thoroughly before you put any food in it. I think maybe that’s why people complain about food sticking…

      • Jasmine Pahl said,

        April 3, 2012 at 10:23 AM

        Ah, great tip! Patience is the key.

      • Storm said,

        May 15, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        Stronger energy! …still getting a “workout after so many years..?

        How does one ensure the pan is heated properly?

  5. Laura said,

    April 3, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Wow, and again I say, WOW! It is just so outrageous that the topics you’ve been writing about lately, I literally have said (to myself….usually silently, but sometimes out loud, so I get stares from the children): Hey, I wonder about …..cast iron pans,…..makeup that won’t make me break out….if anyone REALLY has a good recipe or crackers…..how to reuse my onion bags without going insane (because I have crocheted pot scrubbies, but I REALLY think your rubberband idea is where its at) — so thank you, and so glad to be a follower on your blog. Thank you for reading mine as well! You’re a great writer and are also truly walking the talk on your blog! Major Kudos, Heather!

    • April 3, 2012 at 10:12 AM

      Laura, Thank you so much for the kind words. I really needed those today, so thank you for cheering me up :)

  6. April 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Love your idea for the reusing the produce bags for scrubbies!! We were just looking at one the other day and hubby said “there has to be something we can use this for” and now there is :)

    Where do you get your cast iron? Do you always buy new or do you get them at thrift stores and garage sales too? Do you use one to boil water in as well, or leave that up to a normal pan?

    We love ours, we have three but I know I need more :)

  7. April 3, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    I like reusing stuff too. I usually leave things laying around for a little while trying to come up with a use for them. If I can’t think of anything to use it for, then I throw it out or recycle it.
    I bought my last cast iron skillet at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I got the Emeril brand for $20. I also have a small, flat griddle that I found at a thrift store for $2.50 and 2 dutch ovens that I found at garage sales. My elderly neighbor gave me her “bacon pan” That what she called it. It’s really just a 8″ skillet :)
    I also have a large 3 quart and a small 1 quart heavy duty stainless steel saucepan that I use. And that’s about it…

  8. April 3, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    great post! I love using cast iron and I really benefit from the extra iron. I love your cast iron bread. I def need to try that asap!

  9. April 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    btw- please post the bread recipe :)

  10. April 3, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    I can’t believe I forgot to post the bread recipe! Here you have it:

    http://arealfoodlover.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/overnight-sourdough-bread/

  11. df said,

    April 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    We love our cast iron pots too! This is a great little tutorial and a lovely ode to the wonders of cast iron.

  12. Jennirific said,

    April 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    cast iron is the best! great info here, gotta try the boule!

  13. Kate said,

    January 21, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Hi! Thanks for the great article. :)
    Do you have any recommendations as to where I might find the best cast iron cookware?


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