Carrie's Tips for Seasoning & Care of Cast-Iron Skillet
From Carrie Morey's hot little suppers cookbook
- • A cast- iron skillet
- • A delicious recipe
Do not be afraid of a cast-iron skillet unless someone is threatening to hit you over the head with it! The directions always say don’t do this, don’t do that, but the reality is that you cannot screw it up other than by putting it in the dishwasher. Even if your cast iron rusts or you find yourself having to scrub it for some reason, you can always bring it back to life.
Seasoning an Unseasoned Cast Iron Skillet:
These days, most cast-iron skillets, including the Lodge brand, are sold already seasoned, but some come unseasoned. The unseasoned ones are steel-gray rather than black. To season a brand-new skillet or other cast-iron implement for the first time, first wash it out with soap and water and dry it with a cloth. Put it in a 200°F oven for a minute or two just to be sure all of the water has evaporated from its surface. Raise the oven temperature to 350°F. Rub olive oil (or any kind of oil) over the entire piece—inside and out and the handle as well. Put a baking sheet or aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drips, then put the coated piece upside down on a rack above. Let it stay in the oven for an hour. Turn off the oven but let the skillet stay in the oven for a while to dry out and cool. It may smell smoky.
Avoid washing and scrubbing seasoned cast iron with soap and never let it near the dishwasher. But cleaning it is even easier than using the dishwasher. Simply wipe out the cast iron and dry it. I may be alone on this, but I do not like cooking eggs in the skillet. Every now and then I find my husband in the kitchen frying an egg in one, which annoys me to no end. For some reason the eggy film sticks, and I end up having to use soap and water rather than a baby wipe. Not a happy cook when that happens!
If you do get something stuck on your cast iron that won’t come off, first try putting ¼ inch of water in the pan, bring it to a boil, and gently scrape up the bits as the water boils, as if deglazing the pan. If that doesn’t work, use kosher salt as an abrasive to rub it off. And if that doesn’t work, use a scrub brush and a little soap. Do what it takes and then you can re-season it.
Re-Season Your Cast Iron Skillet:
To re-season cast iron after having to use soap or because of rust, first remove any rust with steel wool or a brush, rinse it with water, and dry it with a cloth. Make sure the cast iron is completely dry by putting it in a 200°F oven for a minute or two. Coat the cast iron with olive oil and rub the inside with kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Put a baking sheet or aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drips. Put the cast iron back in the 200°F oven for an hour or so.
Storing Your Cast Iron Skillet:
Store cast iron without a lid on it. Moisture is what causes problems. When I don’t leave my skillets on the stove, I keep them in the oven. • If you find an old rusty cast-iron piece at a garage sale, get it. Remove the rust and re-season. Better yet, if you inherit a cast-iron piece, love it and use it. Cast iron is like Southern family jewelry—it should be passed down through the generations along with all the stories about the family members who used it. • Use any utensils you want with the cast iron— metal spoons, wooden spoons, a whisk, whatever. This is not a fussy surface. I would never use a pan that doesn’t have multiple purposes. Who has the time to remember what goes with what, or the room to store specialty implements? I keep all my utensils on my counter and my skillets on the stove and use them interchangeably. As long as you regularly use your cast iron, you will rarely need to re-season. If it’s been a while since you’ve used yours and you want to freshen it a little but you don’t need to re-season, sauté some garlic and chopped onions in it to get it back into shape. Do be warned that the smell will inevitably create a craving for something savory and delicious.
Find these tips and more in my cookbook