Cleaning and Seasoning Cast Iron Skillets
I love cooking with cast iron. It’s a lot healthier than cooking with aluminum, T-Fal, teflon and other manufactured products. If you learn how to season them properly cast iron can work really well for you. I love baking in it, especially cornbread. I fry Fried Potatoes in cast iron skillets several times a week! I also have a Chicken Parmesan dish that uses a cast iron skillet to melt the cheese over top of the chicken. Cast iron is a little heavy to use, but the outcome is wonderful.
My cast iron skillets are somewhere in the attic. I’ve hunted through all the boxes a few times and still can’t find them. I know they made the trip from Cedar Hill when we moved last year but I still can’t put my hands on them. So because I wanted to make a recipe that requires a cast iron skillet I went hunting for some at thrift shops this past week. I found a large 12 inch, a 9 or 10 inch and a Dutch oven with a lid. I also bought a Lodge cast iron skillet to see what I thought of it.
I found my cast iron skillets last year (2013). They were hiding in the back of some cabinets where I keep a lot of extra cooking gadgets and cookware. So, now I have double the cast iron cookware that I need. But I love the stuff and won’t get rid of it!
Cast iron skillets are great for baking breads, cakes, cookies, or for frying and sauteeing meat, veggies, eggs, pancakes – almost anything!
My thrift shop finds.
The Dutch oven had rust (mostly inside the lid) which I started cleaning with Kosher salt and a scrubbing sponge, but it didn’t come out until I used steel wool. After scrubbing up all the pans, I applied a coat of Crisco shortening inside and out and placed them in the oven upside down with a cookie sheet to catch all the drips so I didn’t start any fires!
You can see the rack on the bottom catching drips. The lid to the Dutch oven is on the left, and I actually went ahead and reseasoned the Lodge skillet even though you’re not supposed to have to do this.
Here’s a view of the pots cooling after baking in the oven for 1 hour with Crisco shortening (I put inside and outside).
This was after seasoning 1 time. I am probably going to season some of the pans a couple of times to get a really nice and smooth finish on the inside.
Here are a few tips.
TIPS FOR CLEANING AND SEASONING CAST IRON SKILLETS
1) Don’t soak cast iron skillets in water like you would aluminum. Rinse out with hot or warm water and towel dry immediately. If you leave any water on the skillet it may rust.
2) Most websites tell you not to use soapy water on your skillets. I will tell you my mom always did and it never bothered hers. But she kept her pans well seasoned. They were slick on the bottom surface and she didn’t allow them to get yucky with corrosion and goop all over the outside like you see on some of the old pans just out of someone’s attic. Nor did she ever allow her pans to rust. It is probably a good motto to leave off the soapy water unless you’re a really experienced cook with cast iron. I wash my pans quickly in soapy water, rinse, and dry immediately. You can then add a about a teaspoon of oil to the skillet and wipe the entire inside surface with a paper towel. Allow the pan to sit out a little bit before putting away.
3) If you can’t get stuff off the back or sides of the skillet they can be soaked in a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar for a very short period of time. You will probably have to reseason them anyway if they have gotten into that kind of condition.
4) The best way to clean them after use is with a wash cloth and Kosher or coarse salt. If there is rust or sediment in the pan you can use steel wool pads.
5) To season a pan once it has been cleaned, using a paper towel, coat the pan with a thin layer of oil (or lard if you have it). I coat mine inside and outside. Then lay them face down on the oven rack with aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to collect any drips. Laying them face down protects the pans from pooling the oil into certain spots. Bake in your oven about 1 hour at 350-400. You may need to regrease/reseason and reheat the pan again a couple more times to get a good finish especially if it has not been well cared for.
6) Take care of your cast iron and it will take care of you. Keep it well seasoned and food doesn’t stick. It’s also much healthier than cooking with aluminum or teflon.
I found my old corn pone pans in the garage. After cleaning off the rust I reseasoned them by applying a coat of oil with a paper towel.
Now I’ve coated the back side too.
I had to redo one of my old skillets while I was at it because the surface was sticking.