Everything you need to know about how to use a cast iron skillet. From how to season cast iron, to cooking with it, tips for cleaning, and everything in between. This is my favorite kitchen tool and with proper care, it will be yours as well for many years.
Cast iron has been my skillet of choice for many years now. There are only two things that get better with age in the kitchen.
One is cast iron and the other is homemade sourdough starter!
I seasoned my skillets when I first bought them years ago and haven’t had to repeat the process since. With proper care, cast iron will last forever.
It is a kitchen essential and so worth learning how to use. I’m telling you, cast iron cooking is where it’s at.
From breakfast to dessert, and every meal in between, cast iron is my absolute favorite way to cook so many recipes. They can easily go from stove top to baking, making them an overall winner when it comes to versatility.
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Benefits of Cast Iron
Reason #1, of course, is it doesn’t have all the bad stuff. Nonstick pans are coated with a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid.
Not only does it leech into the food when cooked at high temperatures, but also produces toxic fumes in the air. Not to be overly dramatic, but you need to get that stuff out of your house ASAP.
Although the health concerns with nonstick was what drew me to using cast iron in the first place, the ease and beauty with which they cook kept me coming back for more.
A well seasoned pan is wonderfully non-stick and with proper care it will stay that way. Even if you make something a little sticky, it usually doesn’t take too much work to get it non-stick again.
A perfectly fried egg, potatoes so crispy you can hear the crunch, a carmelized sear on a roast to seal in all those delicious juices… I mean, if you aren’t cooking with cast iron, is it even cooking?
Give me that 20 pound skillet that gets better with use every. single. time. If I go on vacation, and the condo has a flimsy nonstick and a plastic spatula, I cook like I have one hand. Total handicap.
Last For Generations
It is nearly impossible to break a cast iron skillet. Sure it may need to be re-seasoned, but otherwise they will last nearly forever and can even be passed down from generation to generation.
Cast iron is where it’s at, my friends.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cast Iron
Can you use cast iron on a flat top stove?
Cast iron can scratch a glass-top stove.
There is also concern that a hot cast iron pan could cause the cold glass top to shatter, because the skillet holds so much heat. Cast iron is extremely heavy, so if it is dropped on the glass-top it might break.
All that aside, I used to cook with cast iron on a glass stove top daily in our old house, and did for many years. I never had a problem.
No one reported a problem. So, although technically cast iron on a glass cook top is a no-no, you will likely suffer no consequence, should you decide to be a rebel like me and all my social media friends.
How to Season Cast Iron
- Scrub cast iron with hot soapy water to get off any rust, if there is any. A stainless steel scrubber is very handy for this.
- Dry well with a towel.
- Lightly coat the cast iron with coconut oil.
- Cover the bottom, top, handle, and every part of the skillet with the oil.
- Wipe off the excess oil with a tea towel.
- Place it upside down in a 450 degree oven for an hour.
- Repeat until it has a black shiny luster, if necessary.
You can watch me go through this process with a couple of thrift shop skillets in the video below.
Best oil to season cast iron:
You want to choose an oil that has a high smoke point. Coconut, avocado, and lard (if using frequently) are the healthiest options, but almost any cooking oil will work.
You can also use this homemade cast iron seasoning recipe found here.
How to Cook with Cast Iron
The biggest key to successful cast iron cooking is preheating. Never drop food into a cold cast iron skillet. It will stick. It is also important to flip, and stir, as little as possible.
- Preheat skillet. See above. This is a crucial step.
- Add a little bit of fat whether it be butter, oil, lard or tallow, etc.
- Add your food and cook. That simple.
- Then follow the how to clean cast iron directions below.
Watch me cook over-easy eggs in the “Everything You Need to Know About Cast Iron” video at the end of this blog post, to see how cast iron can truly be nonstick.
Best foods to cook in cast iron
- Foods that are cooked in fat, or have a decent fat content in them, are excellent for cast iron cooking.
- Bread items: like pancakes, English muffins, cinnamon rolls, pizza, donuts
- Meats: like this creamy chicken and mushroom pasta, garlic butter pork chops, round steak.
- Sautéed veggies
- Stir fry
- Fried eggs
- Fried potatoes
- Desserts: cobblers like blueberry, cherry, pumpkin, and so much more.
- French toast casserole
- Skillets: chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, sourdough skillets, etc.
- Foods that need to be steamed or boiled are not the best choice. I still like to make steamed carrots, broccoli, and green beans in my stainless steel pots with a lid. Also, I prefer stainless steel for soups and stews.
There is a bit of a learning curve to cast iron cooking, but once you get the hang of it you’ll never go back! I promise.
How to clean a cast iron skillet
Cast iron is naturally nonstick when seasoned properly. If nothing is sticking to the pan, you can simply wipe it out until the next use.
If something gets really stuck on, remove it with a little water and a stainless steel scrubber. Use a tea towel to wipe off any excess water. The pan should be completely dry before putting it away.
Since I use my cast iron skillets so frequently, they sit out on my stove at all times. Because of this, I don’t find it necessary to thoroughly clean them unless something is stuck on.
The only reason I ever have to clean them out is if I cook something like ground beef or chicken. Some parts of the meat get stuck on the pan. Also, if I make cheesy eggs, or pizza, the cheese likes to stick.
When I make sourdough pancakes, or English muffins, little bits of batter get stuck on the outside edges, since the edges couldn’t get close enough to the heat source to be preheated. I am able to wipe the bits of batter off with a dry tea towel, without a proper washing.
Two rules of cleaning cast iron:
The two rules of cleaning cast iron are:
- Don’t use soap.
- Make sure every part of is dried thoroughly.
To note: you should never put cast iron in a dishwasher or allow it to sit in the sink because rust can develop and rust is bad. If your pan does get rusty, it can usually be salvaged with a lot of elbow grease and re-seasoning.
I never put my cast iron skillets directly on my quartz countertops. There always seems to be just a little bit of water, either on the skillet or the counter, and rust spots show up almost instantly.
Everything You Need to Know About Cast Iron Video
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My Cast Iron Skillet (Lodge Brand 12″)
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