Dear Home-Ec 101,
I got this set of cast iron pans last year for my birthday and I know that you have to do something with them before you can use them. I “googled” it but I find soooo many different things I don’t even know where to start.
I figured you ladies would be a good place to start.
The Cast Iron N00b
As you all know, I am no cook- Mr. Ivy is a fantastic chef, so he does all the cooking and I do all the cleaning up. When Mr. Ivy and I first started living together, he brought with him his cast iron skillet that had been seasoned for years. Now I, being no cook, took one look at that crusty old thing and thought, “Eww.” So I set to cleaning it, scoured the absolute snot out of it, and got all the black “funk” off of the pan. I was pretty proud of myself. I dried it and put it in the cabinet.
When Mr. Ivy next decided to cook with his beloved cast iron skillet, he got a surprise. “Um, Ivy? Could you come here for a sec,” he said. I trotted into the kitchen and he was holding his cast iron skillet with the look of a destroyed man. “What did you do to my cast iron skillet?”
“I washed it,” I told him. “Doesn’t it look nice now?”
He then explained that that black crustiness was NOT funk, it was seasoning. And it made his pan nonstick, made food taste fabulous, and solved world poverty all at once. Well, I didn’t know.
So, yes. I know how to season and care for cast iron cookware. And I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. The crust is a GOOD thing. Don’t scrub it off.
Seasoning goes like this. First, wash your cast iron cookware carefully with soap and water. New cast iron usually comes with a protective coating like wax, so you will want to scour all that off. Then dry your pan thoroughly and get the oven to preheating at about 350 degrees.
Then (and make absolutely sure that your pan is completely dry) just coat the pan with a very thin layer of oil that is high in saturated fats. Mr. Ivy thinks lard is the very best thing to use, but lard really grosses me out. If you’re like me, you can also use [edited by Heather] bacon grease or vegetable oil in a pinch.
Then put your pan upside down on a baking sheet to catch any drips in your preheated oven for about an hour. You can then turn the oven off, open the door a bit, and let it cool down. Then your skillet will be ready to use.
To clean your cast iron cookware, wash it in hot water. Some people say it is okay to use soap, some people say absolutely not. I will occasionally use a bit of soap to get any stuck on food bits, but I don’t do this regularly. Don’t ever let your pan sit with water in it- that will ruin your seasoning and you’ll have to start all over again. I always just try to get the pan clean as soon as it’s cool enough to touch. Make sure the water is really hot- leftover grease in your pan can become rancid and that’s not a good thing.
Never, ever, ever put your cast iron cookware in the dishwasher. Again, it’ll ruin the seasoning. If it does find its way into the dishwasher, scrub it well and then start the seasoning process all over again. It takes years to get the absolute perfect seasoning for your cast iron cookware, so try to avoid that.