Cast Iron is such a special piece of cookware. If you’re lucky it was passed down by the matriarch of your family and it should be treated as such. It will have years’ worth of seasoning engrained in it. It will invoke memories when cooking, and you’ll continue to make those family recipes in it.
It is unlike any other pan in that it is usually stored in a special place, it is cleaned in a special way, and it is even used for cooking specific dishes.
Cast-iron skillets are durable, versatile, and retain heat very well. It does great in the oven, stovetop, on a grill, and over a fire! I know many of you have ventured into road trips and campers so this is a great tool to invest in for those adventures too!
I’ll be honest, I was kind of forced into the cast iron world. I asked for one for Christmas several years ago because my cooking idol, Pioneer Woman, used one. I tried a few recipes in it but didn’t really find my groove with it so it sat on top of my refrigerator collecting dust. But then, Pampered Chef came out with a cast iron line and being a good consultant I dove into the training on it. Then, I found out how cool it is and how to really use it the correct way. So let’s get into some tips…
Nowadays, a cast iron pan will come pre-seasoned (a nice shiny black finish) by the manufacturer if one hasn’t been passed down to you. And you can just start cooking! If they are a gray finish then they are unseasoned and they need to be seasoned by the user. How do you do that?
Heat the pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp of veg oil over the whole surface and be sure to rub in all oil so finish is not gummy. Let the pan cool completely and repeat until the pan is a dark black.
The more you use your pan the better seasoned it will stay!
After you cook your amazing recipes in your cast iron you’ll need to wash it. And I use that turn lightly because it really is just a hot water bath and scrub. You absolutely should try to avoid using dish soap!
So to clean: First rinse under hot water. Use a stiff nylon or natural brush to gently scrub off any food bits. Definitely try to avoid using soap, Brillo pads, SOS pads, and steel wool. That is way too abrasive and will take the seasoning right off. Cast iron is a non porous surface so it won’t absorb food smells or flavors. But, you might still kind of smell it on the seasoning coat (think onions or fish).
Next, DRY your pan immediately or else rust will form. I made this mistake the first time I cooked with cast iron and let it air dry. Coming back to see little rust spots all over was not ideal. After it is dry set the pan over a medium-low flame to finish evaporating the remaining moisture. Lightly coat the pan with 1/2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil (avoid using animal based fats because it will spoil), and using paper towels keep rubbing the pan with paper towels until no oil residue remains. Let the pan cool and then store. If you still kind of smell your food on the seasoning coat (think onions or fish) you can put your whole pan in the oven for a time to finish cooking off the smell.
Are you still freaking out that you can’t use dish soap? A few drops of dish soap is “ok, occasionally” but it will break down the seasoning so it really needs to be infrequent or else you are going to be spending a lot of time rebuilding your shiny black seasoning. Oh, and no soaking! That will for sure lead to a rusty pan.
Stuck on food or rust? Put your pan over a medium low burner, add ¼ cup of vegetable oil, add 2 tbsp of course kosher salt which acts as an abrasive. The oil and salt will act as a paste. Using a bunch of paper towels held by tongs scrub the pan to loosen any food or rust. Rinse under hot water and the pan should be back to new! If necessary, repeat these steps until the pan is smooth and glossy.
Here are some awesome, classic recipes to start you off on your Cast Iron journey:
Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread
So, what do you LOVE about cast iron? What recipes can you share with ME?
P.S. Have you heard that iron will leech into your food if you cook acidic foods (like tomato sauce) in cast iron? It is partially true. The iron taste will transfer if you are simmering sauce for more than 30 minutes. It will not poison you but will change the taste make-up of the food so definitely avoid long simmering in raw cast iron.