How to care for cast iron pans is a question I get asked often.
It’s all the hype in the homesteading circles… everyone is cooking with cast iron pans! And you are kind of wondering if you should be cooking with them too?
But there is one small problem, you’re unsure exactly how to care for cast iron pans.
Cast iron cookware is so fun to cook with and once you learn the proper caring techniques it really isn’t much more added work.
Why I like to cook with cast iron pans.
There are four reasons that I like to cook with cast iron pans.
- Cast iron is so versatile. I love how you can cook on the stove and then stick the whole dish right into the oven because it is oven safe.
- It is heavy duty. They are strong enough to stand the test of any big homesteading kitchen project! With the proper care of course.
- A well-seasoned skillet or pan is nonstick. Keeping your cast iron in tip-top shape will make for a better cooking experience with nonstick pans.
- Lastly and most importantly, cast iron skillets and pans are timeless. If you properly care for your cast iron, you can have it for the rest of your life, your kids’ life, and even your grandkids’ life. They never get worn out and you never have to buy another pan again! That’s a huge long term savings.
Four things to never do with your cast iron:
Cast iron takes some special care to keep them working their best. But there are some things you should know not to do with them before we get started.
- Do not soak your cast iron in water. If you have stuck-on food, it’s time to re-season it. The best way is to re-season your pan BEFORE your food starts sticking. However, if you didn’t get around to it (don’t worry, happens to all of us!) and food is sticking to your pan, during clean up simply put a little water in the pan. Put the pan back on the stove and heat it up to a boil. Then gently scrape it off with a spatula. It will come right off and you will have a clean cast iron pan once again. Now it’s time to re-season it!
- Do not air dry your cast iron. You will get rust spots if you allow it to air dry. Instead, pat dry and re-heat it on the stove. See video for full instructions.
- Try not to use soapy water to wash. The soap can damage the seasoning. I just clean with plain water. If a little mild dish soap gets on the pan it isn’t the end of the world, but the main thing is to try not to use soap on your pans or skillets.
- Never use steel wool or a rough scrubber. This will break down the seasoning faster, which will lead to a non-stick pan if you don’t keep up on the seasoning. If you are needing some extra scrubbing power, try using a little salt on the pan and a soft scrubber. That helps get stuck on foods off as well.
Now that you know the things you don’t want to do on your cast iron, the caring part is easy! Below are my easy steps I do every time I use my pans.
How to care for cast iron pans after each use.
- After cooking with my cast iron pan, I wash in hot water. If I used it to fry something with hot oil, I sometimes simply just wipe it clean. See the tip above if you have stuck on foods.
- Place the the pan back on the stove and turn it on to medium heat. Heat until it is a completely dry pan all the way through.
- Rub pan down with a little olive oil, flaxseed oil, or avocado oil on a clean paper towel. You don’t want the pan dripping with oil, just a light layer will do. Keep your hot pan on the stove to cool down naturally before putting it away.
How to properly season cast iron.
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If you are buying a brand new cast iron pan, it will already come pre-seasoned. So you won’t have to worry about seasoning it before your first use. I love to go antique shopping and see if I can find old cast iron pans but I also love to use the Lodge brand of cast iron for new pans.
If you find a rusty cast iron pan at an antique store and it is a good brand, it can be saved! Some of my favorites have been a vintage cast-iron skillet.
Always check if the pan is warped before purchasing. Even the rustiest pan can be brought back to life but if it is warped it can’t be changed. Before purchasing an old pan place it on the ground and see if it is stable. It should not rock back and forth. If it does, then the bottom has warped and you don’t want it.
Don’t get scared by the older pans. With a little elbow grease you can get an amazing cast iron pan back into wonderful cooking shape!
Whether it’s an old pan or new cast-iron pan you need to make sure every year you are giving it the protective layer it needs to stay non-stick. It’s a good idea to put it on your calendar every year so you don’t forget to do it!
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Lightly rub your cast iron pan down with a little bit of coconut oil or any cooking oil of choice. You do not want it to pool up, so it is just a light layer inside of the pan. Make sure to get the sides of your pan. Wipe out any excess oil. I feel coconut oil is the best oil for the seasoning job. I usually use avocado oil when I am rubbing down my pans after each use.
- Place pan upside down on the top shelf of your pre-heated oven. Stick a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper on the bottom shelf under the pan to catch any drippings.
- Set your timer for 1 hour. After the 1 hour mark, turn your oven off and let it come down naturally with the pan still in the oven.
- If you have bought an older pan that needs to build up it’s layer of seasoning, repeat this process until it is non-stick.
If you stick with seasoning your cast iron every year and properly care for it after each use, you will have wonderful pans to cook with that require little care needed after every use.
But let’s talk about how to cook with your cast iron.
How to cook with your cast iron.
When you are cooking with cast iron you want to make sure not to skimp on the healthy fat you’re cooking with. Whether that be butter, lard, tallow, or cooking oil make sure you are using a good amount to coat the bottom of your pan.
One question I get asked is “I know cast iron is non-stick, but what about scrambled eggs? Mine still always stick.”
I used to say the same thing, until I learned how to properly care for my pans and how to cook with them. Now my eggs don’t even stick! When they do, I know it’s time to get them into the oven for another seasoning.
A few tips to get your eggs to not stick:
- Make sure to use a lot of healthy fat in your pan. I love to cook scrambled eggs in my own rendered lard or tallow. Here is a video on how I render my own lard at home, you can use this same method to render down tallow.
- Make sure your fat is heated up thoroughly before pouring your eggs in. I usually let it melt completely and then wait a minute or two before pouring my eggs in.
- Once you pour your eggs in resist the urge to stir them for at least 2 minutes. Let the bottom get firm for a minute before using a wooden spoon to stir them around. I promise it helps!
There you have it…My best tips and tricks to cooking with cast iron and caring for it!
Cast iron isn’t scary and it is so fun to cook with once you get in the rhythm. The most important thing to remember is whether you are cooking with cast iron or not, making food for your family is a labor of love and you will be building relationships every time you put that meal on the table to enjoy with the people you love.