Cast iron pans can be a great addition to your kitchen cookware if taken care of right. Cast iron skillets cook food slowly and evenly, and have a natural non-stick surface if they are seasoned correctly.
Cast iron holds its heat well, and it’s non-stick surface makes it ideal for frying foods. Cast-iron is also great for preparing long-cooking foods like soups and stews.
Because cast iron rusts relatively easily, preparations need to be taken to keep it rust-free and to extend the life of the pan. If you buy a cast iron skillet new, you will need to season it. Season the pan yourself, even if it has been labeled “preseasoned”. Then you can be sure it has been done right, and you won’t ruin your dinner.
To season the pan, first you need to clean it thoroughly. For both new and old skillets, you will need to scrub well with steel wool, in hot soapy water. New pans may have a non stick coating added to it that will need to be scrubbed off. If it is an old pan, that you got at a yard sale, or maybe from your grandmother, check the pan closely for cracks or nicks. If it is cracked, don’t use it. It won’t cook and heat your food right.
After the cast iron skillet is thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed, you can begin the seasoning process. You can use unsalted, melted shortening, or vegetable oil. Olive oil should be avoided, as it can impart its flavor to the pan, and thus to your food. A mild vegetable oil, like canola or safflower should be fine to use. Rub on a thin layer of the oil evenly on the sides and bottom of the pan.
Preheat your oven to 325 to 350 degrees. Set the skillet in the center of the oven when it’s done preheating, and leave in the oven to cure for two hours. After the two hours is up, carefully wipe off the excess oil.Take care not to burn yourself! Next, rinse the pan, and let it dry on a stove burner set on low heat.
To care for cast iron cookware, wipe with a damp cloth or a paper towel after each time you cook with it. You should dry your pans immediately, to prevent them from rusting. For charred or stuck on foods, you can scour the pan with dry, coarse salt. If your pan is rusted, or if you need to remove caked-on food, you can scrub it in soapy water. Any time you scrub the pan, you will need to reseason it again.
In order to keep your cast iron cookware free of moisture, you will need to store it properly. Store in a dry area, with the lid off the skillet . If you stack cast iron pans, place a paper towel between each pan to allow a little bit of air circulation, and the paper towel will also absorb any moisture, and keep it away from your pan.