Cast iron skillets are the most durable and versatile cookware you can own. If you care for them properly, cast iron skillets can last for generations! They can go from the stovetop to the oven. They can sear steaks, fry eggs, bake bread and so much more. If you've just inherited your grandmother's cast iron skillet or you purchased a new one, there's a few things you'll need to know about cooking with it and caring for it so it will last you a lifetime.
The key to keeping your cast iron skillet in good shape is seasoning it. This creates a natural nonstick coating on the pan. If your skillet is a bit rusty, follow these steps to get it working like new again.
- Using steel wool, hot water and dish soap, scrub the entire surface of the pan down to the base layer. Scrub the sides, the handle and the bottom as well. Give it a good rinse and dry it thoroughly with a towel.
- Next, place the skillet in a preheated oven or stovetop to get rid of any excess moisture. This step is crucial to prevent rust.
- Once it is cool enough to handle, drizzle some canola or flaxseed oil into the skillet and rub it all over the pan with a paper towel. It should have a nice even coat, but not too much as this will make the pan sticky.
- Preheat the oven to 450-500 F (the hottest it will go). Place the skillet upside-down in the oven. After one hour, turn off the oven and let the skillet cool in there.
This process (seasoning) will give your skillet a glossy nonstick coating. If the skillet was in really rough shape when you first got it, it's best to repeat this process twice. For routine maintenance, season your skillet at least twice a year.
Always preheat your skillet on low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes before adding anything to it. Carefully hover your hand over the skillet to check to see if it's warm enough.
Once it's hot, add oil to the pan, swirl it around then add the food. Resist the urge to move the food around. To get a nice sear, you'll want to leave it in place for a few minutes. When it's ready to be flipped, the food will easily release.
Once you're finished cooking, remove the skillet from heat. When it's cool enough to handle but still warm, give the skillet a good rinse with hot water. You can use a drop of dish soap for stubborn messes, or you can scrub it using kosher salt and a scrub brush. Dry the skillet with a towel.
Completely dry the skillet on the stovetop or in the oven. While the skillet is still warm, rub a thin layer of cooking oil all over the pan. Heat the pan on the stovetop or in the oven until the oil reaches its smoking point.