Cooking on a cast iron skillet can sometimes feel like being in an a relationship with a volatile friend. Most of the time the relationship is lovely and wonderful and then suddenly it sours and everything gets ruined. Okay, not everything, but definitely that frittata.
At my sister’s house the cast iron skillets play a role that’s closer to doting elderly aunt. The cast irons are hulking, gleaming things. My sister and her husband don’t have to wipe them down with oil or whisper loving words to them. They just perform like the work horses they are.
But even if we’ve had tempestuous moments in the past, I’m proud to say that lately things with our cast iron skillets have evened out a bit. We’ve seasoned and seasoned again, we still coddle them with good oil-y rub, and one day soon, I swear I’ll be brave enough to fry eggs in them without fear of catastrophe.
Here, a few tips:
Season. Even if your pan says its pre-seasoned, season anyway. Coat that thing with as much oil or vegetable shortening or grease as you can stomach, put it in the oven with a large cooking sheet underneath it, and let it cook at low heat for a good long time. Longer than you think. If you don’t let it cook for long enough you risk a sticky mess. Burn, baby, burn.
Scrub, sans soap. Washing a pan without soap feels kind of creepy until you work really hard to season it, and then you’ll never let a drop touch the thing. Hot water, a little bit of coarse salt and a scrub brush should be all you need to get off any burned bits.
Rub down. The trouble with giving a pan an olive oil rub down is the mess. We don’t keep paper towels in our house, so a disposable option is out. Lately I’ve been using the same rag throughout the week and stowing it in a glass jar in between swipes. Less oily mess in the hamper, less questionably hygienic use of bath tissue..
That towel in a jar is such a good idea—I'm so tired of wasting paper towels on my cast iron.. 🙂
i know it! here's hoping it keeps working in the longterm!
I, too, have a roller coaster relationship with my cast iron pans. I love your idea of keeping a cloth rag in a jar. I do use paper towels but try to limit my consumption of same.
so far, so good!
I have finally reached a point, four years after purchase, where I feel confident that things (probably) won't stick when I cook them in my cast-iron. It's still a tricky business, but I keep chugging forward, confident that one day my skillet will be as trusty as your sister's. Someday!
slow and steady wins the race!
This couldn't have come at a better time, since I too have had quite the volatile relationship with our new cast iron pan over the past few weeks! Thank you for sharing!
re-season! it will change everything!
also learned the hard way to dry them as soon as you've wet them if using water. i've rusted some out by just letting them air dry! drats!
Yes! Definitely. Dry, rub with oil, kiss goodnight.
I LOVE our cast iron skillet,and yet I also HATE it. I think I'm finally getting the hang of caring for it though…hopefully! 🙂
Thanks for the tips! I've resolved to learn how to cook things without setting them on fire, so I need to know how to use stuff like skillets.
Can you recommend a cast iron brand to purchase from? I haven't heard glowing reviews about lodge and am not sure where to turn.
Hi Jamie! I have Lodge pans, but my brother-in-law swears by scouring antique shops for vintage versions which have been seasoned over the long haul and have smoother bottoms!
I've found one of the best ways that I have found to keep our cast iron seasoned is to store it in my oven after oiling it. I live in a tiny space, so it is nice solution as to where to store the pan and I think the slight heat from the pilot light helps the seasoning process.
Such a good tip!
I don't keep paper towels either but have an ancient coffee maker that requires paper filters (eventually to be replaced by something better that will take a permanent filter) so I use the filters for wiping down with oil. But I like your idea ever so much better!
My mother's cast iron skillet is a thing of some serious beauty. It's at least 35-40 years old and cooks everything PERFECTLY, which probably makes sense when you consider that she uses it for two meals a day at least.
Sounds just right.
I feel the same way!
If the pan is still hot from cooking most of the time a quick rinse with water and scraping with a metal spatual will clean it just fine, otherwise I put some water in it to boil, then scrape and oil down.
Also if it's hot enough i just add oil and kind of shake it around the pan.
I got all my cast iron pans from garage sales, and use them 1-2 times daily. It took me a while to fall in love but the more you use it the more you learn HOW to use it, and the more you love it.
Yes, exactly the right tips. Couldn't agree more.
Another tip for the season step: put 2-3 sliced raw potatos with skin in the pan, 1 tbsp. corse salt and as much sunfloweroil, that the potatos are covered. Fry the potatos in the pan over 20-30 minutes, they burn and get black, but that's alright. Pour it away. Clean the pan with warm water and oil it. Done.
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