How to Care for Your Cast Iron Pans
Season Your Cast Iron Before Using It
Before you use your cast iron pan, you need to properly season it. This basically gives it a non-stick surface and it’s the beauty of the cast iron!
There are wonderful, good quality cast iron pans that come pre-seasoned, and I highly recommend them. My favorite brand of pre-seasoned cast iron is Lodge. I have a Lodge skillet and it’s a workhorse!
You’ll want to season your cast iron at least twice a year, but it’s easy after the first time. Sometimes, I’ll season mine again lightly after use. To season my pan, I use a paper towel and vegetable or canola oil. (There is a great debate about oils and which to use. Apparently, flaxseed oil is very popular because it supposedly leaves the hardest shell of seasoning. I have always used the vegetable oil with no difficulty. My mamaw used straight up lard, but I never have this at my house.)
So, to season the pan, dampen the paper towel with the vegetable oil and rub all over the pan with it, inside and out. (Pro Tip: Do not use too much oil or your pan will be very sticky. Trust me, I’ve done it.)
Once you oil the pan or skillet, place it in a 350-degree oven upside down (you can line your oven rack with foil to save yourself from drips), and let it sit in there for an hour. Then, turn off the oven and let the pan cool inside it.
How to Clean the Cast Iron Pan After Use
Don’t use soapy water on your pan. Why? It strips away your hard work of seasoning.
You’ll find just plain water can clean out the pan. You can use a nylon bristle brush to help scrub it out. I also really like Dobie pads for everything. It’s imperative to ensure the pan is DRY so it doesn’t rust! (One way I dry out my pan after use is to place it on a hot burner until all the water evaporates off.)
Resurrect an Old Rusted Cast Iron Pan
You can actually resurrect an old rusty cast iron skillet. So, if you see one at a yard sale or estate sale, don’t shy away from it. It’s easy to renew.
First, use a steel wool pad and gently sand away all the rust with the help of some soap and water. After the rust is gone, wash it again with soap and water. (I KNOW I just said earlier not to use soap and water, but this is the ONLY time you’ll use it! You don’t have any seasoning to strip away if there is rust in it!)
Then, you want to season the pan as I discussed earlier. (No more soap after this because it will strip your seasoning.)
Storing your Cast Iron Pan
Simply store your cast iron pan in a cool dry place, free from moisture. I store mine stacked on top of each other with a paper towel to separate them. The paper towels basically keep the pans for scratching or damaging each other. I have 5 different pans, mostly skillets of different sizes, a cast iron grill pan, and a decorative pan to make mini cakes or bread in.
Want to get into using your cast iron pan right away? Try my cast iron skillet cornbread! Your cornbread will have the absolute best crust you have ever tried.
You can also make amazing steaks in a cast iron pan. Just sear the steaks in the cast iron, then finish them off to the temperature you desire in the oven!
I hope this encourages you to own and use a cast iron pan! Don’t be fearful of them, as they are super simple to use and clean.