Caring for and restoring cast iron may seem intimidating, but fear not. Cast iron is easy to care for and if done properly, can last for years.
If you aren't cooking with cast iron, you should be! For many years, I thought cast iron was something you only used when camping, but I was so wrong! If cleaned and cared for correctly, cast iron can be the best investment you make for yourself when cooking at home!
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Cast iron cookware is the star in our kitchen. We have an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I cook with at least a couple times a week, and then we also have a cast iron skillet that gets used nearly as much.
I will admit, a couple years ago, I was intimidated by my skillet. I had never used cast iron, and from what I heard, it was a pretty finicky piece of equipment in the kitchen. At that time, I was all about convenience--if I couldn’t throw it in the dishwasher, it wasn’t going to get used (just like clothes that are dry clean only, not in my closet!).
But luckily, I live in the age of technology and had the answers to my cast iron concerns with a simple google search. Since those initial searches, I’ve been perfecting the art of cast iron care and I feel like an expert of sorts. Let me share my knowledge with you.
*Disclaimer: through my research I have learned there are many ways to care for cast iron. As with anything in life, please find what serves you best! This is just a guide and suggestions that I’ve found helpful in my cast iron care.
Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron
Do you want cookware that you can transfer from the stove top to the oven without concern of affecting the integrity of your skillet or pan? Then cast iron is for you. Do you want something that you can use over an open fire and you don’t need to worry about the skillet melting? Then you want cast iron.
Cast iron pots and pans have many benefits including:
- Nearly Indestructible
Cast iron that is properly cared for can last decades. Even cast iron that hasn’t been used for years, or that has even rusted can be restored to exceptional quality and used for years and years.
- Low cost investment
When I bought my skillet in 2017, it cost me a whopping $30. Since then, the cost of cast iron skillets have increased, but in the link I provided above to my Lodge cast iron skillet (same link can be found here), the price has doubled, HOWEVER, I use this skillet to cook everything and because I care for it, it shows no sign of wear. I have friends who have their grandparent’s cast iron skillet; it is over 40 years old, and it still works amazing. If $60 is all it takes to have a skillet that lasts a lifetime, it’s definitely worth it!
- Maintains heat
Once a cast iron skillet has been heated, it stays hot. Iron is a great conductor of energy, and can maintain its heat for quite a significant amount of time.
- Chemical free
Unlike other non-stick pots and pans that use chemicals to create their stick-free surface, cast iron gets its non-stick capabilities from the combination of oil or “seasoning” and the cast iron melding together with heat.
- Can be used on many cook surfaces
I love using my cast iron on my stove. I also love using my cast iron in my stove, or transferring the cast iron from the stove top to the oven. One of my favorite ways to cook a steak is by pan searing it in cast iron and finishing it in the oven.
Another great way to use your cast iron is on a grill or over an open fire which is why cast iron has been associated with camping for a long time.
How to Clean Cast Iron
Many people are intimidated by cast iron because the process of cleaning and caring for cast iron cookware is different from your average cleaning process. But once you get the hang of it, and develop your way of caring for your cast iron that fits you, it’s really quite easy to care for.
First Time Washing: When I first purchased my cast iron, I gave it a nice wash with hot water, soap, and a bristle brush. I completely dried my skillet, and actually put it on the stove on high to make sure all water is evaporated. I then use vegetable oil to coat the entire skillet in a thin coat of oil (pour about two tablespoons into the skillet, and use a paper towel to spread all over the inside, outside, handle and bottom of the skillet), and then place in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees to season for the first time.
Cleaning After Cooking: After each time I cook with my skillet, I wait until the skillet cools just slightly, then I use a scraper like this to scrape out any extra food. I wipe the skillet down with a paper towel then store it.
Cleaning After a Messy Meal or When my Skillet has Cooled: Sometimes I don’t get my cast iron skillet cleaned before it cools, and so then I will go a different route to clean it. If the skillet is cool, I will scrape the food out with my scraper, and then I will use hot water, a lot of salt and a soft bristle brush to clean out my skillet. I wipe it down to dry, then place it on a burner on the stove on high to make sure all the water is evaporated. I’ll re-season the skillet then with some vegetable oil and make sure the oil is spread over the entire skillet, then place it in the oven at 350 degrees for 60 minutes to season and lock in the non-stick capabilities.
Yes, the the care of cast iron takes a little more than just throwing in the dishwasher or washing down with soap and water, but for how low the investment is, how long a skillet lasts and its versatility, I will continue to care for my cast iron for years to come!
Looking for recipes that work well in cast iron? Check out my chicken, pea and pesto pasta recipe.
Want more affordable recipes? Try these: