Learning how to use cast iron can be a great way to cut down on any unwanted chemicals such as teflon in the kitchen. It’s also a great way to introduce iron into yours and your children’s diets just from cooking with it! So much so that it’s one of the things that inspired me to start the hashtag #NutritionStartsEarly; it’s a double entendre for both as children and in the morning… so a breakfast cooked in cast iron is a good one 😉 I adore cooking with cast iron and literally use at least one piece of it every single day. The problem is that most people are scared of it or don’t know how to use cast iron. But it’s SO easy and I will take you through the basics of cast iron 101 from using to cleaning and seasoning.
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Whether you have antique cast iron like Griswold or something new like Lodge or Lava, there is no real difference in how you use and maintain it. I personally prefer using the older type because it’s such a buttery smooth texture, but I am also very much in love with my Lava griddle/grill combo. If you are buying used or antique, you will definitely want to go ahead and clean it before seasoning it yourself. So that’s where I will start.
How to Clean Cast Iron with pictures
Because cast iron is so porous, you do not want to use anything like soap. Soap can really ruin a good piece of cast iron. Maybe this is why many people shy away from it. It’s not really that it’s hard to clean, but we just live in a society that doesn’t know how to clean without soap.
So whether you are cleaning in general or you need to clean rust off of cast iron, there is no real difference (other than elbow grease) in how you go about doing this. In fact, my husband turned on the burner he thought was for the tea kettle one morning and let one of my skillets get so burned, charred, and rusted that it looked awful. However, I got it looking as good as new in no time.
(All of this is pictures above)
First, if there are any flakes or anything in the pot/pan, wipe those out with running water and a black or dark wash cloth.
Next, get some coarse salt. and sprinkle it all over the area you are going to clean. Using a a coarse sponge or brush and running warm water, scrub the rust or dirty area. I personally use scotch natural fiber sponges because they are gentler on my cast iron and on the environment.
Finally, rinse and look where you might need to repeat before seasoning.
How to season Cast iron in the oven
After your cast iron is cleaned, it needs to be seasoned. This is what give it the non-stick factor. And of course, we all want that, especially without the added chemicals. SO how do you do it? Really easy…
Take a dark towel or wash cloth and an oil of your choice. (I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil). You will pour in a liberal about of oil and spread it all around, up the sides, over the handle, on the bottom, etc.. This makes the entire thing non-stick… which is what we want. If there is a wooden handle, most of the time it can be unscrewed (and should be done before you start seasoning).
I always put on a little more oil than the pan can really handle and let it sit for a bit so that it can seep into the porous parts of the skillet.
While you are working on this, your oven should be preheating to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
After you are done and your oven is ready, you can place each piece upside down inside of the oven. Some people prefer the center rack, but I do mine all at once to save time and be more efficient and have not seen a difference one way or another. You may also want to have a piece of foil in the bottom of your oven to catch any drips, but solely up to you.
Let them “bake” for one hour. Note: Your house might stink a bit and even get smoky from seasoning them and that’s normal. But of course, always make sure there are no fires 😉
Finally, when should you re-season your cast iron? The answer is simple. When food starts to stick. If you want to do it more than this, more power to you!
Any more questions about cast iron? Leave me a comment!
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!