I almost exclusively cook on cast iron when I’m cooking in a pan. Not 100%, but pretty close. I have more cast iron than I have stainless anyway, and it’s in more common rotation. Most of my cast iron was my grandmothers, possibly her mothers, and I got is from my mother. We have a pan or two from my husbands mother as well, and I have a slew of it from second hand stores and even some new pieces that were gifted to me.
How do I care for all that? It’s so easy. Even the used pieces. When properly cared for, seasoned cast iron is non-stick and super easy to keep up. Used or new, there’s only a few hard rules:
- clean it with a stiff brush or a plastic/nylon scrubber under cool water. Don’t ever use steel wool or a metal brush. You’ll scrub off the seasoning and have to start all over. A well seasoned pan is seasoned for life. Don’t ever use soap. I like to throw some kosher salt in there too, and sometimes I just rub the salt around with a towel (cloth or paper, although paper has the added bonus of being able to be thrown out – normally I’m all cloth towels in the kitchen, but some things just need to be disposable sometimes). After cleaning, apply a thin layer of oil to the pan (I use olive oil), again, a paper towel is awesome for this.
- Before cooking, apply a thin layer of oil to the pan, preheat the pan on low heat. Increase the temp slowly, this is what helps make your pan non-stick. The iron expands and all those little microscopic cracks and fissures seal themselves up. Ooh, kitchen science lesson!
- Never, ever marinate in cast iron, or cook tomato sauce, or anything with high acidity really. It damages the seasoning. We’ve worked too hard for that awesome seasoning.
- If you find your food sticking, rust appearing, or your food tastes too iron-y (it’s a word!), re-season your pan. I’ll add directions to do this a little farther down.
That’s really all it takes to care for cast iron. Salt, paper towels, a little oil, and patience. We make everything from eggs to steaks to chicken to veggies in them.
Need to re-season? No problem! Follow these easy steps:
- Wash your cast iron. Some sites I’ve seen have recommended soap and water at this point. Go for it. Normally I’m all, soap is banned from my cast iron! But we’re re-seasoning, so it’s ok. Give it a good scrub inside and out and dry thoroughly.
- All dry? Coat the inside and outside with olive oil. I just use a paper towel to do this. Not like a dripping wet making a mess on the floor coat, but a thin coating like paint on a wall.
- Now put a pan, or some foil on the bottom of your over, and then put your pan in upside down. Turn it on to 375F for about an hour, and then turn the oven off, but don’t remove the pan. Leave it in there to cool.
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat the previous step 2 – 4 more times, until your pan is shiny again (or shiny for the first time if you’re breaking in a new pan!)
- That’s it!