How to Properly Season and Care for Cast Iron Skillets
Cast iron skillets have long been favored with home cooks but one of the biggest reasons that people stop using cast-iron skillets is because they fail to properly season the skillet. Seasoning cast-iron is essential to the care of a cast-iron skillet. The purpose of seasoning a cast-iron skillet is to protect it from rusting and to help in the aid of proper cooking.
Seasoning versus Pre-Seasoned
When you buy a brand new cast-iron skillet it will more than likely have a very nice sheen to it. A lot of cast-iron skillets now come pre-seasoned which ensures great cooking results from the start. Cast-iron skillets can also be picked up from second hand stores, garage sales or flea-markets. A lot of times those cast-iron skillets will need to be seasoned.
Seasoning a New Skillet
Seasoning a cast-iron skillet involves rubbing the skillet down with a high smoke point oil like vegetable or coconut oil, and then baking it at a very high temperature. With most new cast-iron skillets, you generally can skip this since the cast-iron has already been seasoned for you. If you have an unseasoned cast-iron skillet here are the steps that you will need to follow.
1. Wash the cast-iron skillet with hot, soapy water.
2. Rinse the skillet and dry thoroughly.
3. If the skillet has rust on it, then you will need to remove the rust. I have had success rubbing salt over the rust spots to remove them. After removing the rust spots, wash the skillet again with hot, soapy water and then rinse, and dry very well.
4. Once you have removed any signs of rust and have a clean skillet, you will need to rub a light layer of oil over the entire skillet. Again, I use coconut oil because it has a high smoking point but do not use olive oil or butter. If you use vegetable oil, then that is also a good choice. Rub the oil over the entire pan until it has a light sheen to it.
5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place your skillet upside down on the middle rack. Allow the pan to cook for 2.5 hours. Then, turn the oven off and allow the skillet to cool while in the oven.
6. Remove cast-iron skillet from the oven, and wipe it down. You know have a ready to use seasoned skillet
How to Care for Cast Iron Skillets
1. Never wash seasoned cast iron skillets with soapy water. The soap breaks down the protective seasoning and you will have to re-season the skillet again.
2. If you have a hard to remove spot on the skillet, make a scrubbing paste of water and salt to remove it. Use a brush to scrub the skillet until the spot is removed.
3. Never leave the cast-iron skillet in submerged water.
4. Always wash the skillet in hot water and then immediately rinse and dry. To ensure that all moisture is removed from the skillet, I place mine on a warm burner just briefly to completely dry.
5. Allow the skillet to cool, then take a tablespoon of oil and rub it all over the skillet until it has the nice sheen again.
Cooking With Cast Iron
1. When your pan is brand new avoid using acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar and lemon juice. The acidic food will break down the seasoning of your pan. If you choose to cook with acidic foods then you will need to season your skillet again.
2. Use your cast-iron skillet and use it a lot. You can cook such a wide variety of foods and you will find that the more you use it, the better it gets. Nothing will stick to the surface and you can go from frying eggs in the morning to making cast-iron skillet brownies, cornbread or crispy sweet potatoes for dinner and dessert.
Storing Cast-Iron Skillets
1. The skillets need good circulation so that they stay free of moisture. This helps to ensure that the skillet stays free of rust and that it will be clean when you are ready to use it again.
2. If the cast-iron skillet has a lid, then you will need to store them apart. Again, this ensures that they stay free of moisture.
3. You can store cast iron skillets on your stove, and in the stove but always remember to remove them before you do any cooking or backing in the oven. I recently hung mine in the pantry with these gorgeous hand forged hooks and nails from Axe and Anvil. Not only is this beautiful but it is very functioning. I can easily grab the pan that I need and get busy cooking!