How to Care for Your Cast Iron Skillet

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No homestead is complete without a cast iron skillet! Here’s how to care for yours properly for years of trouble-free cooking.

Cast iron has been used by homesteaders for hundreds of years – and with good reason. It’s durable (enough to sometimes be passed down for generations), reasonably affordable, and versatile. Plus, when properly seasoned, it has amazing nonstick properties – without all the chemical worries of Teflon.

When you buy a cast iron skillet, it will likely come pre-seasoned. Nonetheless, it will likely need further seasoning before it gains that perfect nonstick finish. Despite what you may hear, you likely won’t be able to fry a perfect egg in a cast iron skillet right off the store shelf.

However, you can usually season your cast iron skillet over time simply by using it and taking good care of it. Here are a few tips from Lodge (one of the best-known manufacturers of cast iron cookware) on how to care for your cast iron pots and pans:

  • NEVER put your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. (!!!)
  • Always wash cast iron by hand.
  • Never let it sit or soak in water.
  • Don’t use soap.
  • After rinsing , dry your skillet with a paper towel.
  • Set your skillet over a low burner (or the still-warm burner you cooked on) and rub the inside with a light coating of olive oil or coconut oil. (Or butter or bacon fat.)
  • Use caution when you cook highly acidic foods like tomatoes, because the acid can pit the surface and strip off your seasoning.

And here are a few tips of my own from my experiences caring for my cast iron cookware – and watching my mom care for hers over the past 4 decades:

  • Remove all foods as soon as possible, while your skillet is still hot. Acidic foods should be removed immediately to another dish as soon as they are cooked through – then wash your skillet right away to remove any remaining acids.
  • Wash your skillet promptly after removing food – while it’s still hot. This will make it much easier to wash and dry.
  • The easiest way to wash a cast iron skillet is to scrub it under hot water with a plastic-bristled scrub brush. You can find brushes specifically for cleaning pans, but any brush with stiff plastic bristles will work.
  • Dry the outside of the pan with a towel, and set on a warm stove burner for a few minutes to ensure all moisture evaporates.
  • Once pan is completely dry but still warm, rub the inside with the oil or fat of your choice. I like butter or bacon fat. I often save the paper wrappings from butter and rub the inside of my skillet with these after washing. If frying bacon, I save the greasy paper towels from draining the bacon, and use them to wipe out the skillet afterwards.
  • Store your cast iron somewhere where moisture won’t get dripped on it or trapped inside. Otherwise rust spots may develop.
  • If your skillet does end up with rust spots, you can scrub them off with steel wool, then coat with oil and let sit in a 300-degree oven for about an hour to re-season.

A properly cared for cast iron skillet should last a lifetime – or several – so treat yours well, and it will reward you with many years of healthy non-stick cooking!


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