For years I resisted owning a cast iron skillet. Though pretty much every cooking site, book and magazine would at some point all but INSIST on the fact that no respectable kitchen would be caught dead without one, I held out. It just seemed like a LOT of work to care for and maintain, yet another item that needed to be hand washed, and seriously? How much of a difference could it possibly make?
A big one, it turns out.
My mom gave me hers a few years ago and I decided to give it one more try. And now I’m hooked. SO hooked that I bought a little one to make fried eggs and small batches of hash browns.
And while yes, you do need to prep the pan before using for the first time – and then occasionally after that – I promise you it’s not hard OR time consuming. And totally, totally worth it.
Here’s what you do:
1. Before using your pan for the first time, wash it thoroughly with soap and warm water, using a nylon sponge (avoid steel wool or anything overly abrasive). This will be the only time you use soap on your skillet, as it can break down the coating you’re about to season it with. Thoroughly dry the skillet, either with a dish towel or over a low flame.
2. Next, coat the entire skillet (inside and out) with a thin coating of vegetable oil, and place in a preheated 325 degree oven – upside down – for an hour. Let completely cool in the oven before removing.
That’s it! You’ll know it’s time to re-season the pan when the surface is matte and no longer shiny, and/or food begins to stick to the surface.
Good, regular care will also help maintain your pan’s surface, keeping it non-stick and rust-free:
1. Let the pan cool to warm before cleaning. Scrub with hot water and your nylon sponge to remove any stuck-on food – don’t let the pan sit in water for an extended period of time, as this will cause rusting. For truly stubborn bits, scrub with a paste made from kosher salt and a bit of water (this really works!).
2. Place the pan over a low flame for 5 minutes to dry. You can coat the pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil if desired, but I don’t find this step necessary.
How about you? Do you have a cast iron skillet – or two? Any care tips you’d like to share? What’s your fave kitchen tool or utensil?