Cleaning, Seasoning, and Cooking with Cast Iron Cookware

I love cast iron. You can spend a fortune on all-clad cookware that probably won’t work as well or last as long as a cheap cast iron skillet. I got my skillet at Dick’s Sporting goods of all places.

I was talking to my friend the other day and he was talking about how he gingerly cares for his cast iron cookware. He was telling me some of the problems he was having with his new cast iron pans. I’ve been using cast iron cookware for many years now and thought I would share with everyone some of my tips for cast iron cooking and seasoning

Cleaning

It is always best to clean the cast iron when it is hot.

To clean your hot pan I use just plain hot water and a plain sponge . If your pan is nice and hot you won’t need to apply very much pressure to clean it off. Never try to clean a room temperature pan.
If you have let food cake on your pan for days, as I sometimes do… it is no problem at all to clean it off. Just fill the bottom of the pan with water and bring it to a boil for a minute or two, then dump the water and clean it immediately.

Dry off your pan with a towel as soon as you are done cleaning it. Put your pan back on the burner on a very low heat for a minute or two to ensure that it is 100% dry.

If you haven’t been cooking fatty foods on your pans you might need to apply a bit of oil, lard, or bacon grease at this point to the pan to maintain the seasoning. Just put a dab in the pan and spread it around to coat the pan. Now just heat it up on very low heat until the grease gets to the smoke point and then remove it from the heat. Let the pan cool down and then just wipe off the excess grease and store it away.

If you want to be safe you can do this every time, however the key times to do it are when you are cooking with high acid products such as tomatoes or vinegar. If you just cooked a pound of bacon you probably don’t need to add any more lard to the pan!

Seasoning is something that gets better over time. Cast iron cookware is one of the few consumer items that really gets much better with age. When your children inherit your cast iron cookware it will be really humming!

Seasoning and Re-Seasoning

Occasionally you may end up wrecking the seasoning on a pan by accident or maybe you got a new pan off craigslist that needs some help. I’ve done this twice before by accident. I have left pans on the burner unattended and all of the seasoning has burnt off. Unlike an aluminum pan that would have been ruined, my cast iron pan just needed to be re-seasoned.

  • Heat up the oven to 500 degrees
  • Coat the pan in lard or grease such as bacon grease
  • Put the pan in the oven upside down on top of something such as some foil
  • Remove from heat 30 minutes

There are other ways to re-season the pan, but as long as you have access to a stove this is the method that seems to work best.

After you season your pan, plan to cook something greasy like bacon in it initially and this will help to reinforce your seasoning.

If your cooking stuff, such as hash browns or eggs, and it is constantly sticking to the pan then you need to re-season your pan.

Cooking

I, unfortunately, have an electric range. The trick to success with cast iron pans on an electric range is to preheat them slowly. I keep the heat at a medium to low heat until the entire pan is warmed and then I can raise it from there. No matter what type of heat you are using you should make sure that your pan is up to temperature before cooking, it is going to take longer to evenly heat up your cast iron cookware than it would your steel or aluminum cookware.

Removing Rust

My grill’s cast iron grates tend to get rusty here and there. The first winter I had that grill my grill cover had a leak over the winter and when I pulled the cover off in the spring the grates were 100% rusty. Luckily knocking out rust is pretty easy to do.

Just put your cast iron in your oven and set it to “self clean” cycle. Once they have completed this cycle just wipe the rust off with a bit of hot water and a steel scouring pad. It will wipe right off. Be sure to do this while it is still hot, and be careful not to burn yourself.

If you come across some old cast iron cookware that you want to restore this method will work well for that.

Once your cast iron has cooled to room temperature coat it down in lard and season it as per the instructions above.

Misc tip

Avoid those burnt hands! The handles can get quite hot while cooking and sometimes we forget about it. Be sure to have handle covers for all of your various skillets.

These are available online or even at big box stores

Did I get it correct? Let me know in the comments.

Author: Nick-LaDieu

Webmaster of SaveOurSkills.com. Budding skill enthusiast and modern survivalist. When nick isn't plotting his next project he is probably running with his dogs, riding his mountain bike, or fiddling with his home theater.