Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cast Iron Cookware Tips

The best cast iron skillet you can get is the one that is passed down from generations, the older the better.  Over a long period of time, (with proper care), a cast iron skillet will develop a smooth stick free surface that will exceed the performance of any Teflon or non-stick pan on the market.  If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on one of these priceless gems, then follow the care instructions strictly as you do not want to do anything to destroy the seasoning and finish.

For the rest of us, that aren't that lucky, now is a good time to start working on that cast iron skillet so it is ready to be passed down for future generations.

Tips for Purchasing:
When you get your skillet, check to see if it comes pre-seasoned or not.  If so, then you can start cooking with it right away. If not, wash the skillet well, then bake it in the oven @400 for 15 minutes to remove any protective coating.  Let cool in the oven then follow the seasoning process.

You will want to use food grade oil or grease that has a high flash point.  Lard, shortening, or vegetable oil works well.  Cover the entire pan including the bottom and the handle generously.  Wipe all excess grease off and place in a 400deg oven for 1 hour.  Place the pan face down on the top shelf and place a cookie sheet with aluminum foil under the pan to catch any drippings.  Turn the oven off after an hour and leave the pan in the oven until it is cool.

After seasoning, the more you use your pan and coat it with oil, the better the finish will become.  Using your cast iron to fry meat will improve the coating of the skillet.  I recommend frying a pan full of thick sliced bacon.  Not only will you improve the seasoning of the pan, you will also have a pan full of bacon.  Over time the porous surface should get smoother as you wear it down and coat it with oil.

If you destroy or damage the seasoning by accident, just wash the pan thoroughly, and repeat the seasoning process.

Care Instructions:
There are 4 commandments that you must always follow RELIGIOUSLY with cast iron cookware.

#1 - Thou shall NEVER allow soap to contact the surface of the pan.  Never use soap or soapy water to wash the pan.  Soap will get into the porous surface of the pan and can dissolve the oil coating.

#2 - Thou shall NEVER quench a hot cast iron pan in water.  This will change the material properties of the iron and cause it to become brittle and eventually crack.  Let the pan cool down on it's own before you try to wash it.

#3 - Thou shall NEVER clean the pan with steel wool, scouring pad, scrub brush, or any other abrasive cleaner.  Do not try to remove the grease or black coating.  This is a carbonized coating that is completely sanitary and is required to keep your pan seasoned.  Abrasive scrubbers will damage and remove your coating.

#4 - Thou shall NEVER let the cast iron pan sit in water.  This can dissolve and destroy the coating on the pan and lead to rust.

Cleaning Instructions:
To clean the pan, rinse off any excess food with water (no soap).  Take some paper towels, and wipe the surface clean.  Dry the pan thoroughly.  Coat the surface of the pan with cooking oil and wipe all the excess off with some paper towels. 

Tips for Cleaning:
-Try to clean the pan shortly after cooking.  Preventing the food from drying in the pan will make it easier to clean.
-If you have food that is difficult to remove, put a of tablespoon of water in the pan.  Add a tablespoon of table salt to the pan.  Use a paper towel to carefully scrub the food off using the salt to scrub.  While salt is an abrasive, it tends to be easy on the surface and will not scratch the coating.

Cooking Tips:
-Always add a little bit of oil to the pan, unless you are frying bacon.  As the surface of your pan improves, you can reduce the amount of oil to prevent sticking.
-Heat the oil in the skillet before adding food.  This prevents the food from soaking up the oil.
-You can put the cast iron skillet directly in the oven to keep food warm or to cook/bake in.


  1. Also, I've heard that tomatoes and maybe onions if I remember (or maybe it was citrus stuff) shouldn't be made in cast iron.

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