How To Season, Clean And Care For A Cast Iron Skillet Like A Pro

It'll reward you with great dishes.

In today's world of fast-paced living and uber convenience, cooking with a cast iron skillet seems like an antiquated notion. We have nonstick pans we can throw in the dishwasher, so why would we ever bother with a skillet that can't be washed with soap and has to be dried over heat immediately after cleaning? Well, here's why:

skillet browniePhoto credit: Victoria Pearson via Getty

Oh, and also this:
cast iron skillet
Photo credit: thirschfeld/Food52

The cast iron skillet might require more thought than today's pre-coated pans, but it also offers a lot more reward in the form of beautifully seared steaks, crisp cornbreads and the ease of moving dishes from the stove to the oven without a second thought. In other words, we think you should give cast iron a chance. Because try as you might, you'll never be able to get the same results in a nonstick pan.

Just like with anything new, learning the ins and outs feels daunting and overwhelming in the beginning. Let us assure you that there is nothing complicated about the cast iron skillet. You just need to first know what you're getting yourself into. And we're going to help you with that right here, right now. First things first...

Season It.
Before cooking, cast iron needs to be seasoned. Seasoning a pan is easy -- just rub it down with oil and bake it for an hour. This process creates a natural type of "non stick" layer on the pan and can be done as many times as necessary throughout the cast iron's life (which is eternal).
After the first washing never, ever put soap on it.
It's good to wash your cast iron with soap when you first get it. But after that, keep the soap away from your pan because it'll wash off the cast iron's much-needed layer of seasoning. Instead use a hard-bristle brush -- Lodge makes some -- to clean the cast iron with water. Or, for really tough spots, use coarse salt to scrub it clean.
Don't ever leave it to soak in water.
Soaking is a great technique for so many other dishes, but when it comes to cast iron skillets it means bad things: RUST.
Dry it right away.
After washing cast iron, dry it over heat on the stove. (Just don't forget to turn off the burner once it's done.)
Keep metal far away from it.
Bill Ruhsam/Flickr
Metal can damage the cast iron, breaking down the seasoning and causing it to flake. Instead, use wood or silicon kitchen tools.
Re-season it as needed.
If at any point you need to soap your pan -- and it removes some of that slick seasoning -- or if general misuse has taken away its beautiful sheen, just give your cast iron another good seasoning. You can never have too much seasoning.
Fry, sear and cook in it as much as possible.
That's how cast irons maintain their lovely seasoning best.
Reheat pizza in it.
Like we said, it's safe in the oven.
Bake a cake in it.
Chiot's Run/Flickr
And make the best cornbread you've ever tasted.
To serve along with a great big bowl of chili.
That's all part of seasoning your cast iron.
And being rewarded for your cast iron mastery.

See? Not so hard after all.

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