Caring For Your Cast-Iron Skillet
Updated: Oct 19, 2020
You season and reseason for a reason.
A cast iron skillet is a staple in any good cook’s home. Half workhorse and half badge of honor, it’s a classic piece that’s just as home over a campfire as it is in a five-star kitchen. If you’ve just bought or been gifted your first cast-iron skillet, congratulations are in order!
The cast-iron skillet is, arguably, the most valuable pan in your kitchen. It can cook a whole chicken to perfection. Or hold cinnamon rolls slick with icing. It can perfectly caramelize onions and brown mushrooms. Chefs love cast iron’s durability and its ability to evenly retain heat. And a new wave of makers are fueling the revival with truly beautiful skillets. But we admit cast iron comes with questions (and maybe a trace of anxiety): How do I clean my pan? Will using soap disrupt the seasoning? Wait, what even is seasoning? Fret not. We’ll walk you through everything that there is to know about taking care of and cooking with the one of the most incredibly durable and unusually delicate cooking implement in your kitchen.
If you are just peeling the sticker off that new Lodge skillet or you found one at a thrift store the very first thing you should do is wash the skillet. This washing will be slightly different than daily upkeep. Wash it in warm, soapy water, and dry it immediately with a soft cloth. Avoid harsh detergents and scrubbers so you don’t disrupt the coating.
Before you jump into a lifelong relationship with a cast-iron pan, you've got to season it first. The “season” on your cast iron skillet is what makes your cast iron skillet nonstick. Here’s the short and simple take: Cast iron “seasoning” is the process that occurs when multiple layers of oil bake into the skillet, creating a rust-resistant and nonstick surface. Many new skillets come with a factory seasoning on them, but if you bought yours used, chances are high that you’ll want to create a hardier seasoning by cleaning up the pan and re-seasoning it.
Each time you cook with cast iron, a few burnt, crusty food bits inevitably seem to stick to the pan. If you don’t scrub it clean between uses, those bits will fossilize under future layers of seasoning, creating an irregular surface that will never become truly nonstick—the opposite of what you want. Wash your pan with hot water and a drop of dish soap (yes, it’s okay to use soap!) while it’s still warm, taking care not to let it soak in water. Wipe down the pan, then set it over a low flame for a few minutes to fully dry. Rub all over with a very light coat of neutral oil before storing, just like you would after seasoning it. These steps are crucial for keeping your pan in fighting form against Public Enemy No. 1: rust. But if you ever do spot rust, don’t stress! Use an old toothbrush dipped in distilled vinegar to scrub it off, let it dry, then rub in a drop of oil. Make a regular habit of cleaning your cast iron and you’ll have a companion for life.
Instructions on how to season a cast-Iron skillet:
Supplies you will need:
1. Dish soap
2. Sponge or stiff brush
3. Clean, dry cloths or paper towels
4. Vegetable oil or shortening (or other oil of your choice
5. Aluminum foil
1. Gather your supplies and then preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Wash the skillet with warm, soapy water and a sponge or stiff brush. Cast iron should not normally be washed with soap, but it’s fine here since the pan is about to be seasoned.
3. Rinse and thoroughly dry the skillet with a clean, dry cloth or paper towels.
4. Pour a little vegetable oil or melted shortening into the skillet. A tablespoon or two is plenty. Vegetable oil and shortening are the most commonly recommended oils used for seasoning, but according to Lodge, you can use any oil of your choice.
5. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to rub the coat around the entire skillet.
6. Don’t forget the outside and bottom of the skillet. You want a thin coat of oil around the entire piece.
7. Place the skillet upside down on the oven’s center rack. Place a sheet of aluminum foil below the rack to catch any drips. Bake for an hour.
8. Turn off the heat and allow to the skillet to cool completely before removing from oven. Once it’s cooled down, you’re good to go!