once i was talking to a doctor about cooking and he said to me, “being a chef must be like being a doctor, everyone has questions for you.” and, you know, he is right. in my profession i am consistently asked questions about food, cooking, and equipment.
so i decided to answer some of those questions here. if you have any questions, please send them to:
i think one of the most frequent questions i am asked is, “what do I do with my cast iron skillet.” below i explain how to season an old skillet, and how to take care of a well seasoned skillet.
Caring for your Cast Iron
Folklore says that every bride should receive a cast iron skillet and a rolling pin to guarantee a successful marriage. They say she can use them not only to feed her family, but also to keep them in line.
In my house, my cast iron skillets and dutch oven just about the most frequently used cookware. They are heavy-duty, they heat quickly and evenly, they are oven safe, and they are a cinch to clean if seasoned properly.
Proper seasoning of a cast iron seems to be mind boggling in this day and age – a truly lost art, but an easy one. If this knowledge had successfully been passed down, you wouldn’t find so many rusted cast iron skillets at thrift stores. (luckily, my dad successfully passed down this information to me…thanks pops).
If your cast iron skillet is shoved in the back of your pantry or high on a shelf collecting dust – pull it out, get it down, or retrieve it from its hiding place. Whether its dusty, sticky, or rusty – all it needs is a thorough scrubbing with a metal scrub pad (I use the stainless steel scrubbers that you can find at restaurant supply stores, but any coarse metal scrub pads without soap will do). Using a lot of elbow grease, and a tiny touch of soap if needed, scrub the pan (inside and out) until the rust and grease are gone. (if you need extra grit – you can add a little salt to the pan)
Once your pan is thoroughly scrubbed, dry it by placing it on a burner. Let the pan cool down and rub the outside and the inside generously with cooking oil (corn or vegetable), and pour enough oil in the pan to cover the bottom. Place pan in 500 degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn oven to 200 degrees for 3 hours, then turn the heat off. Leave pan in the oven until it cools (or overnight), then remove it and pour off excess oil.
Voila – a well seasoned cast iron skillet.
Now comes the tricky part: keeping it well seasoned. Generally I find cast irons easier to clean once they have cooled, so they are usually the last dish I do. Using the same type of steel scrubber you used to season your pan, scrub it with hot water and nothing else – if your pan is well seasoned everything should slip right off. Do not use soap, soap will undo your seasoning and make everything stick to your pan. Do not leave your pan soaking, soaking your cast iron also undo the seasoning and will eventually rust it.
A cast iron skillet is like every other tool in your house, if it is properly taken care of it will do its good well.