How to Season and Care For Cast Iron Skillets
Looking for a non-stick frying pan that you know you will be able to fry the perfect over easy egg? You can’t beat a cast iron skillet, or any cast iron cookware for that matter. “What?” you ask. It’s true. With a properly seasoned and cared for cast iron skillet you will be able to fry anything in it with all the confidence you get from current non-stick cookware on the market today.
In this article I will show you how to wash your skillet, how to season your skillet so it will remain non-stick, and in general how to take care of the skillets that have been in the family for years but are probably stuffed in the back of your cabinets to make way for the non-stick cookware on the market today. I will also show you the benefits of cooking with cast iron. And don’t forget to check out our top picks for the best cast iron skillets here.
Sit back and enjoy. If you are like me, cooking websites might make you hungry. The sooner you have your skillet seasoned, the sooner you can make those wonderful eggs!
Cast Iron Skillets
In my opinion, nothing cooks like a good old-fashioned cast iron skillet vs stainless steel skillets. My great aunt even made her homemade butterscotch for her pies in her cast iron skillet. Fried chicken tastes better when fried in cast iron. When properly seasoned, your cast iron skillet will even make perfect fried eggs (of course some of that perfection is in the handling of just the right spatula.)
Washing Cast Iron Cookware
If you have not used your cast iron for awhile, it might be a little (or a lot) rusty. Even if you have been using your cast iron recently, it may not be seasoned properly. If you have cooked things like gravy or other items that will soak up the previous seasoning, you may still need to follow these washing instructions.
For the initial washing of your cast iron cookware, whether it is old or brand new, wash in warm soapy water. If there is rust or stuck food, for this washing you may use a copper scrubber to clean it. Even if all the rust does not come out right away with this washing, that is okay. It will be cleaned out with the seasoning procedure.
One time many years ago I read a story about a woman who put her cast iron skillets into the fireplace and burned off all the old crusted grease and food that accumulated over the years of use. She left the cookware in the flames until the flames died down and the iron was reddish in color. I have not personally tried this method. If you choose to try it, make sure to allow the iron to cool sufficiently before trying to remove from the fire.
How to Season Cast Iron Cookware
After you have thoroughly washed your cookware it is time to season it. This takes time to do so you can stop periodically and let the cookware cool in between steps. The more your cookware has been neglected, the longer this process will take.
You will need to make sure you have plenty of paper towels available for this process.
You will also need to stay close to your stove while seasoning your cookware so you don’t let a fire get started.
To begin, place your cookware on a burner and turn the heat on high. Make sure the burner is the proper size for the cookware. Allow the cookware to heat up until you can feel the heat on your hand when you hold your hand above the pan.
Next, pour enough vegetable oil into the pan to cover the bottom of the pan completely. You will need to watch the pan carefully from here on so the oil does not get so hot that it catches on fire. Once you see oil is getting hot, remove the pan from the burner and set aside on a cool burner until the oil is cooled enough to not burn your hands.
Once the oil has cooled, fold some paper towels thickly and rub the oil around the entire inside of the cookware. You will see that the paper towels have become discolored as they pick up the rust and other residue from years of use. Throw the used paper towels away and set the pan back on the burner to heat up again. If you previously wiped out all the excess oil, add some more. (During these cool down periods you may walk away and do other things to come back to the seasoning later.)
When the oil has reheated, again set the pan aside on a cool burner for awhile. Repeat the process of wiping out the pan with the paper towels. Each time you repeat this process of wiping out the inside of the pan with the paper towels you will see that they come out cleaner. Continue to repeat the heating and cooling process until the paper towels come out clean except for the oil itself.
Allow the pan to cool completely and wipe the entire pan inside and outside with a clean paper towel to make sure the entire pan has been coated with a thin covering of the oil. Doing this on the outside of the pan helps prevent it from rusting while it is not in use.
At this point, your skillet is seasoned. The heating of the pan allows the iron to expand and the oil soaks into it. When the pan cools, the oil is trapped into the iron and this gives your pan a non-stick finish as well as prevents it from further rusting.
Rust, by the way, is the byproduct of iron being oxidized when it comes into contact with the oxygen in the air. It will not hurt you. But it is unappealing. Wiping the rust out with the paper towels helps get as much of it out of the pan as possible even after washing.
A side note: Even when you have seasoned your cast iron cookware in this manner, if you have not consistently used it, you may need to do a quick seasoning again before each use. All this entails is to quickly heat up the pan with the oil and wipe it out once with the paper towels. You can go ahead and cook with it immediately after this.