Caring For Cast Iron

I’m going to apologize right away for the length of my introduction for “Caring for Cast Iron”. If you want to skip ahead to the instructions, feel free. But I must first tell of my obsession and fascination with cast iron.

It started years ago when cast iron was more of a mystery to me than an every day tool. I had heard tale of such a thing as an iron skillet that wouldn’t stick, and how you can’t wash them in soap. I was always intrigued because it sounded like such a high achievement. My grandmothers and great grandmothers were cast iron wielders. Yet, here I was a new wife…learning how to cook and I only had newfangled nonstick cookware. It was nice! But it felt a little like cheating when I had the thought of that cast iron looming over me. I’ve always loved old things, and cast iron fit perfectly with my dream of learning all the skills our ancestors knew. I was given a few Dutch ovens and maybe one little skillet for our wedding showers. I think I might of took one camping once, but without seasoning it… And the bacon stuck and it was horrible.

Fast forward a few years. I’m not sure where the obsession began. I determined to get rid of all the modern cookware and only use cast iron and stainless. My husband started buying me skillets for Valentine’s Day and Christmas. He bought me a brand new one once, but after that he went to antique shops and found old brands that were made to last. Griswold and Sydney were two good ones. I was so excited. We cleaned them up and seasoned them. I had my bean pot that my daddy had given me, a tea kettle, too. Since then, I’ve acquired three more from my Abbott grandparents. (These are heirlooms, and I’ve only cooked out of the bean pot and one skillet.) Now this is all I use! I’ve completely weaned myself off of “non-stick” cookware. This was one of my lifelong goals. My kitchen is pretty well decorated with my cast iron of various sizes. I am just happy looking at them.

So how does one attain such non-stick perfection from a cast iron skillet? I’ll tell you how.

If you buy a cast iron skillet, for example, and it says pre-seasoned, you’re going to want to go ahead and season it anyway. If you have a rusty heirloom, find a husband like mine that can wire-brush the rust off. Or you can work really hard scrubbing with steel wool. Regardless, you will want to wash the skillet with soap and hot water first. After washing, dry with a paper towel and if little bits of black are still coming off, you’ll have to go back to the sink and wash it again. When you dry with the paper towel and it is clean, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Preheat the oven to 325. Place the oven rack in the center. Put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom rack. (Do this before the oven heats up. It gets hot trying to place the foil if you forget.)

While the oven is heating up, drizzle vegetable oil in the skillet. I just drizzle a little bit, and use a paper towel to make sure the oil is rubbed in the skillet, coated evenly. You definitely don’t want the oil running off in your oven (this stinks up/smokes up the house), so just make sure it’s coated well. Also, you will want to rub oil on the underside of the skillet, and the handle, however you can manage without getting vegetable oil all over your hands.

After you finish coating the skillet, place it on the center rack in the oven. Leave it in there for an hour. For some reason, I always season my cast iron at night. So, when the hour is up, I’ll just turn off the oven and leave the skillet in the oven. That way in the morning, it will be cool.

Now it’s ready to use!

Here’s some important things to remember once you’ve started cooking:

-I always heat and oil my skillets/Dutch oven before I start my cooking. For example, cooking cornbread, I’ll put the oil in first and heat it. Or say I’m fixing sautéed green beans. I’ll heat the butter/olive oil first, then add the veggies.

-If you get something stuck while cooking, just pour some water in while it’s still hot, and it’ll come off easier. Or if you’re still in the middle of cooking, adding some liquid like broth or wine will help pull stuck food off. (You can just call it deglazing.)

-After I cook and all the food is served out of the skillet, I’ll go ahead and fill it with hot water.

-Time to do dishes. After everything else is clean, I do my skillet last. I’ll drain the dishwater.

IMPORTANT: Do not use dish soap on your cast iron! It will take the hard work you put into seasoning and wash it right down the drain!

-Hot water and a dish rag will be enough to clean off the leftover food, if there is any. If there are any hard to scrub places, I just dab at the spot with steel wool (or a fingernail), don’t scrub too hard, and the food usually comes right off.

Now the cornbread skillet is a little different. I won’t even use a washcloth on it. I’ll just lightly rinse the crumbs out, if there are any! Sometimes it comes out so clean that I’ll just wipe it with a paper towel.

-To dry the skillet properly, I’ll set it on my woodstove if it’s wintertime. But for those without a hot stove in their living room, the stovetop eye works great.

-Heat it on the eye and when all the little water droplets are gone, I actually use coconut oil spray and spritz it on the skillet. (I cook with coconut oil, so that’s just what I always have. Trader Joe’s has a great coconut oil spray that is my favorite.) Turn off the eye, and let it sit ‘til it cools. I might wipe with a paper towel to make sure the oil is evenly distributed. A few hours later I’ll hang it back up on the wall. This is how I do it. I know other cooks may do it differently. But this is what works for me! Please let me know if you have questions! If you have anymore tips that I forgot, feel free to share!

One comment

  1. This is from Great Aunt Susie. We researched ( or Glen did) about the best oil to season with- he found that flaxseed oil is supposed to be the best. I had used just any oil (and even lard) all my life, but this flaxseed seasoning seems to be better. It make the coating harder- so far , so good. I’ve used it in my cast iron, but we researched it when he got my set of Berndes from Germany that I had been wanting forever!


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