Cast Iron Skillet 101: Benefits, How to Season & More
Cast Iron Skillets: Everything You Need to Know
There’s a reason every seasoned chef has at least one well-seasoned cast iron skillet in their culinary toolkit, but what makes this cookware such a great addition to your kitchen? From the right way to season and wash it to its various functions, let’s iron out the benefits of this must-have cooking instrument.
Why Should I Buy Cast Iron?
Useful on the stovetop, in the oven, over a campfire or on a grill, cast iron can be used just about anywhere. The material heats low and slow and maintains a constant and high temperature for as long as you need it to, making it great for edge-to-edge, even cooking.
You might have noticed how porous cast iron is. The microscopic holes that cover your pan are meant to be filled with cooking oil – this is what’s commonly known as “seasoning.” The oil adds flavor and as well as prolongs the life of the cast iron. When taken care of properly, cast iron cookware can easily last decades
How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
The term “seasoning” actually refers to a layer of carbonized oil that sits on the cast iron and gives it a natural, non-stick cooking surface. The more you use your skillet, the thicker this layer of oil becomes, transforming your pan into an accessory you’ll be relying on for years. Even pre-seasoned cast iron, which comes with a degree of seasoning on it, can benefit from a home seasoning.
It might seem intimidating, but learning how to season cast iron is simple, and the tasty results make it worthwhile. Here’s a step-by-step guide to prepping your new piece:
- Preheat your oven to 350-400°F.
- Using a cloth or paper towel, apply a thin layer of cooking oil to the surface of your cast iron. Any cooking oil or fat can be used for seasoning cast iron.
- Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any excess oil drippings. On the center rack, place your cookware upside down so it drips into the tray below. Bake for 1 hour.
- Let your skillet cool in the oven. Repeat these steps until your pan is dark black, shiny and smooth to the touch.
Types of Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware goes beyond your standard skillet. Here are a few different styles you might consider adding to your collection, and how to best use them:
- Cast Iron Skillet: With its great heat retention and distribution, this kitchen staple is a versatile workhorse. Grab a single pan or pick up a whole cooking set.
- Cast Iron Grill/Griddle: Use this large, flat version to make pancakes, eggs, chicken or steak.
- Cast Iron Grill Pan: Great for cooking smaller portions, the grill pan does everything a griddle can do, and it takes up less space.
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven: Ideal for maintaining an even and low temperature for prolonged periods, this single appliance can replace your slow cooker, pressure cooker, stock pot, loaf pan and deep fryer.
How to Clean Cast Iron
Some people might be under the impression that cast iron is high maintenance, but it’s surprisingly easy to care for! Let’s go over how to wash a cast iron skillet to increase its longevity.
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t ever want your skillet to soak in water, which might mean leaving it on the counter (dirty) until dinner is over. To wash it, simply scrub it clean using a stiff brush and hot water. For stubborn, caked-on food, pour in a bit of coarse salt and scrub with a kitchen towel before cleaning with hot water. You’ll want to avoid using soap unless you’re about to re-season your pan. Once washed, immediately towel-dry your cast iron to prevent rusting. If your pan still feels damp, place it over low heat to dry completely.