I have cast iron skillets of all sizes and a cast iron Dutch Oven. They are indispensible for chefs who enjoy outdoor cooking on the grill, campfire cooking, and cooking in the kitchen. Over the years, I have collected a number of tips from friends, relatives, and through personal experience with cast iron cooking.
Here is a list of tips that should be helpful to the cast iron novice and maybe some new ones for seasoned cast iron chefs.
1) Before using your cast iron skillet or cookware for the first time, you want to season it. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Before using your cast iron skillet for the first time, you want to coat it with oil (vegetable, olive, etc.) and place upside down in a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Put a cookie sheet or aluminum foil under it in the oven to catch any drippings. Bake in the oven for one hour, then cut the oven off and allow the skillet to cool down to room temperature. This is easy to do if you leave it there overnight. Periodically, you may want to “re-season” your cast iron skillet or cookware using this same method.
2) Another important thing to remember is to always clean your skillet in hot water and NOT use soap. If you have food stuck on the skillet, which is not uncommon there are three ways to clean your cast iron skillet. The first is to try to remove any food or grease with a stiff plastic brush and hot water. If this doesn’t work, you can try burning it off in a campfire or grill by putting it directly on the coals. The third is find a larger skillet or pan that the cast iron skillet will fit into and boil it in water. If you use the second or third methods, you will need to re-season your cast iron as noted in the first tip.
3) Never let your cast iron skillet or cookware “air dry”. You want to make sure that you thoroughly dry it with a towel. Any moisture left on cast iron can cause rust.
4) If your cast iron cookware ever does get rust spots; and it probably will. You want to remember to scour the rusty areas with steel wool removing all rust. After scouring, you will need to wash and re-season.
5) I think one of the most important things to do with your cast iron skillet is to remember to coat it with oil after each use/cleaning. I apply it by hand and prefer olive oil.
6) When cooking with cast iron, you always want to preheat your cast iron skillet before putting your food into in. This promotes browning.
7) One of the most wonderful things about cast iron skillets and other cookware is that you easily transfer it from the grill or stove top to the oven. This is very useful when you want to keep your food warm.
8) Another benefit of cooking with cast iron is that it heats food very evenly and allows for precise control of cooking temperatures.
9) I have had instances of “black flecks” coming off of my cast iron skillet while cooking or afterwards. If this happens, just clean your skillet and re-season. This is not that uncommon.
10) Finally when storing your cast iron skillet or cookware, you always want to store them with the lids off or with the lids ajar. This is to keep moisture from building up and causing rust. I sometimes put a paper towel or two inside my cast iron Dutch Oven to absorb any moisture.
If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, you should really consider getting one. They are relatively inexpensive, and you can often find them in thrift stores and flea markets. I use them on the grill, on the stove, and in the oven. There is nothing as good as cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet!