Care of Cast Iron Skillets and...

    • Moderator
    • 1980 posts
    February 16, 2011 2:31 AM GMT
    ...other cast iron cooking implements like griddles and Dutch ovens and so on.

    Okey-dokey, for those who are fans of cast iron skillets (those big, black, heavy objects as opposed to aluminum or copper or stainless steel, which all have their place and usage) and how to maintain them, this should cause some commotion and the baring of strong and deeply held feelings. I've gotten into arguments with other cooks about this that have provoked more intense emotion than discussions of politics or religion or gender issues ever could.<lol>

    Personally I love cooking in cast iron. Yes, it's heavy and takes a lot of TLC, but to me nothing works quite so well for heat distribution without hot spots and a well seasoned skillet is a joy and a pleasure to use. As non-stick as any Teflonskillet no matter what it's constructed of.

    So, first of all I am NOT an adherent of the Water Must Never Touch Cast Iron school. Soap, detergent, etc must NEVER touch a well seasoned pan, but hot water and a soapless scrubber is okay. I use hot water from the tap to clean my skillets and griddles if they really need it, but I never, ever use soap. Never.

    For me, the best way to clean a cast iron skillet that has somethng burned on, which can happen to any of us, is to first wipe out as much as you can with paper towels then pour a couple of table spoons of cooking oil in the skillet and add a nice handful of coarse salt. Kosher salt works great. Using a paper towel or a cloth towel, diligently scrub away any burned spots. It may take a bit of elbow grease. Once everything is nice and clean wipe all the oil and salt out of the skillet. You will be left with a nice clean skillet that has a nice coating of oil on it.

    So, girls and guys, does anyone else have any tips about how to take care of a cast iron skillet? BTW, as you may have noticed, this doesn't mention the seasoning and breaking in of a brand new skillet or other cast iron cookware.

    Hugs...Joni Mari
    • Moderator
    • 1980 posts
    February 17, 2011 2:55 AM GMT
    Thanks, Rose, that's a very good tip. Myself, I still avoid the soap part of it, but perhaps should have mentioned that once everything is scrubbed nice and clean, like you, I do add some oil to the pan and heat it up and use a papertowel to spread the oil around. The heat will kill any germs or anything that may be stuck on the pan and the oil fills the pores in the metal and keeps things from sticking. It's like a kind of spray on coating only it gets better and better as the skillet ages.

    I'm glad to find there's another fan of cast iron school of cooking.

    Hugs...Joni Mari
  • February 16, 2011 5:45 PM GMT
    about 50 years ago I watched Fanny Craddock - original television cooking queen - hold up her black iron frying pan and say it had never seen soap and water.
    the theory is fine but if coooking something that leaves a mess then cleaning is necessary and I always wash my pan in with the dishes and then dry it with a paper towel then put it on a high gas flame until it is very hot and then drip in a spoonful or so of any oil, wipe it all around and take all the excess to just leave a shine of oil and let it get hot again and then wipe again and then let it cool and it will not allow food to stick.

    • 16 posts
    February 17, 2011 4:24 AM GMT
    I'm Bobbi and I have a wonderful collection of cast iron. Every size pan from 3 inch to 15 inch. Muffin pans, Pancake balls, Swedish pancake pan grills, flat Irons Fajita pans and more. I only cook in Cast, Stainless Copper and ceramics. No aluminum or teflon or such for me.

    I always clean my Cast with a natural brush and hot water. I take the pan when I am done cooking, (while it is still very hot and I put it under a hot stream of water so as not to crack or ruin the temper and scrup with the natural brush until clean. I then set the pan back on the flame and heat it untill all of the water from washing evaporates. then I pour a teaspoon or so of extra vergin Olive Oil in the pan and wipe the excess off. Let it cool and pop it on the shelf. I have had some pans for thirty years and they are the smoothest non stick pans I own.

    the curing is a long process and you have to work at ti but I have recovered pans from thrift stores that have been left in the rain and rusted as well as one that was used for an ashtray. Patience is the ticket.

    I love my Iron
  • February 17, 2011 10:00 AM GMT
    Are you people insane? I've got a Teflon coated frying pan, bought for a miserly 10 quid from a local supermarket, nothing ever sticks to it, to clean it I throw it in the dish washer and forget it, I can't believe you waste your time with these pre-historic cast iron pans.

    Life's too short.

    • 746 posts
    February 18, 2011 4:22 PM GMT
    Oil, oil, oil....oil is the key! Works on iron and woks equally well...teflons OK, but I too prefer the old school iron! My wok is soooo seasoned it is totally gross and disgusting to those who do not understand...they say "you cook in THAT"???? (smile) Just wipe, rinse and coat with oil...hmmmm.....think I'm gonna toss in some broccoli, shrimp, and snow peas into the wok for lunch! Will be served a noon EST...c'mon by and share with me!

    Traci xoxoxo
    • Moderator
    • 1980 posts
    February 18, 2011 4:38 PM GMT
    Hi Girls-

    I have Teflon skillets and pans also, some I've had for ages as well as a very nice set that my sweety got me for Christmas and I do appreciate the convenience. As Becca pointed out, all you need is a swish and a wipe or just put them in the dishwasher. But I am a huge fan of cast iron cookware despite the extra TLC involved which isn't all that much really. Personally I think it has better heat distribution than anything else unless you get into high end multi-layered copper clad cookware.
    • 746 posts
    February 18, 2011 4:45 PM GMT
    I never place teflon pans in the dishwasher...not sure why, but a wipe down and rinse with hot, soapy water followed by a cooling rinse of the soapy water seems to do the trick for me...with two sinks, I share the soapy water with all the dishes in one sink and the cold rinse with the other sink...uses lot less water than a D/W cycle!

    • Moderator
    • 1017 posts
    February 18, 2011 4:54 PM GMT
    Hi all,

    I clean my cast iron pieces pretty much as Rose does. I never worry about putting them under the faucet as long as they are completely dried immediately after.

    I don't use oil to season them, though. I apply a very thin layer of Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening over the entire cleaned cooking surface. I then place the cast iron into a preheated 200F oven till it's completely dry and the shortening has melted into the surface. After a few uses, it's as non-stick as teflon.

    My favorite cookware, though, bar none, is hard anodized. Midway in weight between non-stick aluminum and cast iron, it has great heat coverage and retention. Cleanup is totally easy, just wipe clean with a damp cloth. (They have even come out with hard anodized cookware that is dishwasher safe lately.)

    Interesting to see how everyone else does it (or doesn't)

    • Moderator
    • 1980 posts
    February 18, 2011 5:11 PM GMT
    @Traci, I am with you on the dishwashing thing. It's only me and my wife, so we really don't generate that many dirty dishes. Handwashing works fine for me and as you pointed out it actually takes less energy. Of course I clean as I go when I'm cooking. There's nothing worse than a huge pile of pots and pans to wash, so I do them as I go along.

    @Melody, hmm, I have never tried the Crisco trick but it totally sounds like it would work just fine. And actually a little less expensive than using cooking oil. I think, anyway.<lol> I have a can of Crisco that dates back to when King Tut was around, time to put it to use. Does that stuff ever go bad? I am not familiar with hard anodized cookware but it sounds totally cool. I'm going mall crawling later, there's a great place called The Cook's Stop...and I think I will.

    Thanks to all of you for taking the time to post your thoughts and ideas.
    • Moderator
    • 1017 posts
    February 18, 2011 5:36 PM GMT
    Hi Joni Mari,

    I hand wash all my cooking stuff, too, but mostly because my dishwasher died a few years ago. I'm going to redo the kitchen (new range and oven and paint over the pasta sauce splatter) some day and I'll replace it then.

    I think using shortening was from the directions on my first cast iron pot from Lodge (the largest manufacturer of cast iron in America). I bought a small container of it then (must have been during the Carter presidency) and I'm still using the same one today, still about 2/3 left, but then I don't bake.

    • 16 posts
    February 18, 2011 7:22 PM GMT
    I don't like to use Teflon because it emits a poisonous gas if overheated and with dogs and a kid running all around when I am cooking as well as other distractions I sometimes overheat a pan. I like Hard anodized aluminum but if you scratch it then you have raw aluminum oxides in your food and that has been linked to Alzheimer's. So for me it is cast and stainless wich both add Iron oxides to your food which is good for you. Yes I have to scrub my stainless and cure my Cast Iron, but I am always conscious of the health aspsects as well. That is why I only use Olive oil to cure my cast. Liquid vegetable ois are okay but Crisco is a saturated fat and is not very good for you. I don't expect everyone to think like I do but these are my reasons for the choises the I have made. I also love to camp and cast iron is great for setting in the coals of a camp fire to cook in. I hava a cast iron wok that i do stirfries in when camping, very good stuff.
    • Moderator
    • 1017 posts
    February 18, 2011 7:50 PM GMT
    Hi Bobbi,

    I agree with you about Teflon burning and and flaking can be a potential health hazard. Cheap teflon pans are easy to burn or scratch with metal utensils. The better quality ones, much less so.

    I am very rough on my pots and pans and I've yet to scratch any of my hard anodized. They even pass the "dog test". My dogs get to lick out most of my pans after the food is removed and they've cooled. (I know some of you are going "eeouh, yuck!" but they are my family, they enjoy it and everything is cleaned afterward in hot soapy water before using again.) They are not gentle and while I never let them at teflon coated pans, they've never phased the hard anodized.

    Along the same lines, I doubt if you could really get much aluminum from them, the anodizing process hardens the alloy to at least twice the strength of steel, the whole point.

    The layer of Crisco is so thin and baked into the cast iron, I doubt that a lifetime of cooking would allow any saturated fat into your system.

    Not to argue with you, just my take.

  • February 18, 2011 8:02 PM GMT
    One thing I like about the cast iron is that it gets uniformly hot while some of the lighter aluminiums and stainless get hot spots or cold centres due to the usual big gas burner having a 3-4inch centre disk with the flames projecting outside of that so the centre of the pans can stay cold. Iron warms through and cooks more evenly.

    some years ago I was in a kitchen and the hostess was trying to wok some veg and just refused to believe me when I said that the big heatless centre of the gas ring and the steep sides of the wok meant that the oil and food never got to cooking temp.
    I have cast iron wok and set it offcentre at first so the centre gets really hot and cooks the food properly and then I centre it over the burner and get the sides hot to crisp the veg and meats.

    Chinese cooks have big burners that their woks sit directly in so the centre gets very hot and cooks th efood quickly and thoroughly.
    • Moderator
    • 1017 posts
    February 19, 2011 5:41 PM GMT
    I found and OCRed the Lodge instructions that came with one of my cast iron skillets:


    Season Cookware For Great American Flavor
    (Seasoning prevents rust and keeps food from sticking.)

    1. Warm cookware and peel off label.

    2. Wash, rinse and dry thoroughly. Use mild, soapy water
    (NEVER an abrasive detergent) and a stiff brush.

    3. Grease cookware with a thin coating of solid vegetable shortening.
    Do not use salted fat (margarine or butter). Warm utensil and then
    spread shortening over entire surface with cloth or paper towel. Be certain
    that the entire surface of the utensil, including all corners, has been
    coated thoroughly.

    4. Place utensil in oven and heat to 300-350 for 30-60 minutes. Remove
    from oven while warm, pour out excess grease 'and wipe with paper towel.
    This completes the seasoning process.

    5. Each time the utensil is used, coat the entire cooking surface with a thin
    coat of solid vegetable shortening, wipe with paper towel and store.

    6. Care For Your Cast Iron Cookware

    Wash with mild dishwashing liquid. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Never scour or
    use a dishwasher. You may wish to use a plastic bun to remove stubborn food

    We suggest you cook food with little water content the first few times you use
    your cast iron. Avoid cooking acidic foods, e.g. tomatoes, unless combined with
    other foods. Uncover hot foods when you remove
    from heat (steam may remove protective coating).
    Cast iron cookware will turn black with use. The pores
    of the iron will be sealed, providing a durable coating that
    helps to prevent sticking.

    Rust, metallic taste or discolored foods are signs of improper
    or inadequate seasoning or may result from cooking acidic foods. If
    this occurs, wash thoroughly and reseason.

    Since cast iron heats evenly, you will not need to use extremely high
    cooking temperatures. Best results are obtained with medium to
    medium-high setting on range or in oven. Do not overheat or leave empty
    utensil on burner or in heated oven. Never place utensil on an already heated

    CAUTION-When using any utensil larger than the burner on your stove, we
    recommend that you preheat the utensil in your oven, then slowly bring the utensil
    up to cooking temperature. Intense or uneven heating may cause utensil to
    warp or crack.
    When storing, always store with tops or lids off. Store in warm, dry place. You
    may want to place a paper towel inside utensil to absorb any moisture.

    With proper care and seasoning your Lodge Cast Iron Cookware will cook the
    Great American Flavors best. We can certainly claim, "The older it gets, the better
    it is."

    • Moderator
    • 1017 posts
    April 25, 2012 6:58 PM BST
    A basic comparison of the common cooking materials with pros and cons:|htmlws-main-nb|dl15|sec3_lnk3%26pLid%3D154753

    Hopefully useful to someone...
  • April 25, 2012 7:29 PM BST

    Lodge Cookware was on the How Its Made series last week and they actually season them in the factory by sandblasting after taking any rough edges off then heating very hot, spraying with veg oil and then baking again...said they are then nonstick for ever. but probly only till something messy stick and needs washing off? This is a shortened version of the prog and the spraying at about .43 is the veg oil as the skillets head into the hot tunnel.

    This post was edited by Former Member at April 25, 2012 7:30 PM BST
    • Moderator
    • 1017 posts
    April 25, 2012 7:54 PM BST
    I have lots of Lodge cast iron cookware and I always season them when new as the instructions I posted suggest.
    I'll reseason them when they start having food stick to them. Some never need it, others, depending on what I've cooked and what utensils I've used, seem to need it occasionally.
    Of course, any hint of rust needs a good cleaning and reseasoning.
    • 2 posts
    February 20, 2013 2:54 PM GMT

    When Cast Iron is properly seasoned, the clean-up only requires a wipe of a paper towel.  Ifg you're favorite cooking type strips out the seasoning then you have problems.


    I use only Cast Iron unless I'm cooking a dish like veal picatta that strips the pan, then it's stainless steel.