I have two Teflon pans that I have used for years. But I’ve decided that I want to walk away from Teflon’s non-stick convenience, due to potential danger of the chemicals that make up the non-stick coating.
But that’s just me. You can certainly continue on with your Teflon. I might be completely paranoid, but I was also inspired by the change when I found two cast iron skillets in my basement that my grandmother gave me a few years ago when she was cleaning out her farm house.
She had no use for them any more and she was happy that I was willing to take them.
I had every intent to clean and start using the skillets when she gave them to me, but instead I stuck them in the basement closet and totally forgot I had the pans.
Until recently, when I was flipping through a Cooking Light magazine and I saw a recipe for skillet brownies. Yes, please!
So I pulled the pans out of exile and started researching the ins and outs of cast iron cooking.
The Benefits of Cast Iron Skillets:
- A well seasoned skillet is stick free.
- They can go from stove top to oven.
- They are very durable if properly cared for.
- They are fairly inexpensive, especially if your nanny is giving hers away–lol!
Cast iron skillets have a whole community devoted to their collection, use, and care. I found a Facebook page of gung-ho cast iron collectors. I have no interest in collecting, but I did turn to this community to get me started in cast iron cooking. I sent them some pictures of my skillets and they were delighted for me that I had acquired such nice pieces.
However, my skillets needed some care and the group led me to an informative article on how to restore, clean, and season a cast iron skillet.
But as I continued my research, I found conflicting opinions on the restoration. Some suggested a lye bath or oven cleaner to remove the old gunk. um…no thank you.
I’ll send the skillets back to my basement as I have no desire to mess with chemicals for a skillet. That’s why I’m leaving Teflon. I don’t want pans that need to be pampered. It’s a pan, not a pet. But because they were my grandmother’s skillets I do want to use them.
I decided on a simpler method to restore the skillets: a Vinegar Bath.
- I filled my kitchen sink with equal parts water and white vinegar and soaked the pan for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, I poured kosher salt on the pan and scrubbed with a brush and a Scrub Daddy. I also used steel wool to remove the tougher rust spots. This worked well, but again, my skillets weren’t that rusty. If needed, I would have repeated the process.
- I then rinsed and dried the pan and it was ready to season.
How to season a cast iron pan:
- I coated the entire pan with Crisco. There are many opinions on what to use to initially season the pan, but I read from many sources that regular Crisco works fine.
- Then, I placed the pan upside down on the middle shelf in a 350 degree oven. I placed a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom shelf to catch any Crisco dripping off the pan. My husband was not too happy with the smell of the kitchen. Baking Crisco doesn’t smell very pleasant.
- After an hour, I turned the oven off and let the pan cool in the oven.
- When I removed the pan, it had a black shiny patina and it was ready to use, so I browned some ground turkey to make tacos.
General after-use cleaning for your cast iron pan:
We eat lots of eggs for breakfast, so I have been using the pan often. The skillet isn’t hard to clean, but I can’t stick it in the dishwasher either and it does take some extra steps.
- After use and the pan has cooled slightly, I sprinkle some course salt in the pan and scrub with my Scrub Daddy under hot water. Then I dry with a clean towel and stick in the oven at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes. I let the pan cool slightly and lightly coat with Crisco. And that’s it!
If I don’t have time to do this step of cleaning, I just let the pan sit on the stove until I can get to it later, but it really doesn’t need more than a quick wipe down. I am storing the skillets in the drawer underneath my oven, but Andrea, The Greenbacks Gal, told me that she uses her pan so much that she just keeps it on her stove top.
I’ve created a Cast Iron Skillet Pinterest board (of course) for recipes that I’d like to try. So far, I’ve just made eggs and browned taco meat and sausage, but there are so many possibilities. I can’t wait to make skillet corn bread…and a big giant cookie…and pie…and pizza…really it’s endless.
Do you cook with cast iron? Do you have any advice or tips on the care and seasoning of your skillets. Also, please share your favorite cast iron recipe in the comments.
Kevin Thomas says
For seasoning, I favor baking 5 ultra thin coatings of flax oil onto the pan at 500 degrees. It creates a beautiful and very strong coating. You’re actually supposed to be able to wash the pans with soap this way but I haven’t risked it. My favorite thing to cook on my cast iron pan are crepes. The evenness of the heat is a big help with that. I also use it a lot for toasting nuts.
Kevin – I have heard that flax oil is good for seasoning. I just have bought it yet, but I think I will when I’m out of Crisco. Thanks for the tips and for taking the time to comment!
I have 2 cast iron skillets and leave them on my stove top all the time. After the first seasoning all I do for clean up is as follows. I scrub with a copper or silver scour pad, ( can buy at dollar store for cheap) and put it on the gas burner on high until dry. Every 3 days or so you can pour a little oil in when its hot and rub it all over the hot pan with a paper towel or napkin. This keeps the shine and non stick. Be careful when you do this not to burn yourself. You can wait until it’s cool but works best on the hot skillet, because it protects the seasoning. I don’t use soap because it can weaken the season and I figure all the germs are killed when it is hot enough for all the water to evaporate. I keep old sour cream containers and store my scour pad in one. It gets gross after awhile and then I just throw it away. Don’t worry I recycle pretty much everything else, this is just something that i justify in my own mind because the container gets all rusty and I don’t want to deal with it. I do feel guilty whenever I do though and so I think that I will try the salt trick, I had never heard of that. I hated the thought of cleaning a maintaining cast iron skillets when I got married. My husband showed me this easy way to clean them and I would NEVER go back to something else.
Thanks, Donna, for your tips. I found the salt trick from several sources and it seems to work well. And like you, I don’t think I’ll go back either.
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup says
LOVE my cast iron skillets!
I use my cast iron for everything except tomato based sauces. I use bacon grease to season mine and I’ve never had a problem with them. I switched after being told I was anemic. My doctor told me the best way to fix it was to use cast iron. I then went on craigslist food forum and got a wealth of information from the people there. The best part is that no one in my family is anemic any more.
that’s interesting about the cast iron helping with anemia. I’m glad you shared that. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Check out http://www.luckyironfish.com/ for info on anemia and cast iron. A little lemon juice added to what you’re cooking helps release the iron.
whWhy don;t you use them with tomato based sauces?y not
Because acid (think tomatoes) breaks down the seasoning on your pan. If you use it for acidic sauces, be prepare to need to re season.
Martha Nethers says
When I wash my cast iron skillet I put it on the stove burner until it is dry, that way you know it is completely dry and won’t rust. Then, while the pan is still screaming hot I put a bit of cooking oil and wipe it around with a folded paper towel so as to not burn my hand yet add to the seasoning of the pan.
Thanks for sharing your tip, Martha! I have been doing this method too. It’s so easy.
I recently bought myself a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid that doubles as a skillet (so cool!). I made the mistake of cooking meat in a sugar based sauce at a very high temperature in the oven and I ended up getting solidified charcoal in the pot that took me DAYS to get out. It was literally solid rock. After chipping away and doing several baking soda and vinegar soaks I finally managed to get it clean. But the coating was in severe dismay. I re seasoned my pot by applying oil and baking it, but now I find that is VERY sticky all over. Has anyone had this problem? Do you know what to do to fix it?
Sophi – I’m sorry that happened. I do not know how to fix other than what you’ve tried, but I can suggest if you are on Facebook to reach out to this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/griswold/
It’s a group of diehard cast iron fans and collectors and I bet someone in that group could help you out. Let me know how you make out.
I had this problem with mine too, I found that using bacon grease made the stickiness go away. I don’t know why it works, but oil just seemed to make it stickier every time I tried. Also, whenever I get the sticky mess, I boil some water in the sticky pan, then I clean it with a scrubby, bacon grease and salt.
Thank you, Michelle, for chiming in with your tips! That’s good to know about bacon grease. I need to remember to keep it the next time I make bacon.
Throw it in a bonfire . It will clean all the curd off the skillet. After fire is out and skillet cooled, get it out of the ashes(the next day). Then just reseason.
That’s an interesting technique, Wendy! Thanks for commenting.
Careful when burning them out. It works great but the older cast is thinner and can warp in to high if heat.
Sprinkle salt in the pan while it’s cool, cut a lemon in half and squeeze it in the pan and use the lemon itself has a scruber. Rinse well, Put the pan on medium heat. Coat with oil and let dry. It should be fine . I cook everything in cast iron. Tomato sauces , cinnamon rolls, fish etc. If you use salt and lemon you will keep the cast iron from taste transfer each time. Never use high heat. Cast iron holds heat for hours, high heat will warp the iron after so long. You can even get to a boil on med high. I’m a collector . I’ve restored cast iron for 20 yrs. Hope this helps.????
Thanks for the tips, Lily. I will try the lemon. But I didn’t think you could cook tomato sauces in cast iron?? Maybe well seasoned pans though??
I do everything in my cast iron pans! Love how non-stick they are, and how they cook. I too am an old Teflon user, slowly phasing that out and in with the cast iron.
Love this guide, Kristia. I can’t wait to buy my cast iron skillet. Pinned
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Have you ever tried a chainmail scrubber on your cast iron? These are great for getting off all the unwanted gunk! Good price, and won’t need to be replaced for years to come. So, it’s also an eco-friendly option!
I love cast iron! I love the fact that using cast iron skillets infuses food with iron. They are great for pancakes!
I have never tried pancakes in my cast iron pan. That’s a good excuse to have pancakes this weekend. Thanks, Shell, for stopping by!
I have used Cast Iron pots, pans, griddles, grates, and skillets for at least the last 50 years. Cast Iron and the lore and fable is many times older than that. I have successfully cleaned the with everything from sand to toilet bowl cleaner. My personal favorite and best liked to date is a abrasive finished surface both inside and out. Let me explain….I am a toolmaker and I build injection molds. They normally are finished to a very high polished point to eliminate sticking and give a very smooth finished product, I applied this to the cast iron pans and skillets I own. Walla, shiny polished skillets and pans. I season mine with any normal cooking oil or grease.at 500deg. for about 19–15 minutes. If you careful in handling you can use them straight from the oven or let them cool first. Now some folk criticize me for “ruining the pans”. Not so! Some one before me left the Iron rusty and dirty and that needed to be removed before cooking in them. The polish was just my added touch. They seem no different cooking with than any other piece of store bought seasoned cast iron. But here is a quick time saver. Pam. yes that spray cooking coating. My Mom told me to try it on my waffle maker (cast iron 100+ year old). That piece of Iron was ALLWAYS a problem. The first waffle always stuck to it ensuing about a half hour clean off till the next one. The pam(or store brand) spray has nearly totally eliminated that. Normal clean up for me is soap and water and a scrubby. I don’t get worked up about scrubbing off the seasoning, but I do about drying…a towel to get most moisture off then a little heat to guarantee a thoroughly dry pan. By far I prefer a clean(anyway you like getting there) seasoned pan to cook in…….Gotta go I smell the bacon starting to cook now…… .
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your tips, John! Enjoy that bacon!
What is the best cast iron skillet brand to buy??
I have no idea, Susan. My cast iron was my grandmother’s. Try googling, or maybe check Consumer Reports.
About 18 years ago I got sickand tired of spending 2 to 3 hundred dollars on non stick pans, that only lasted a few years. I then found carbon steel and cast Iron that could be re-seasoned at will, rather than being throne out, and at only 20 to 30 dollars each. I have several of each and have never looked back. (Saved a load of money). I do have 1 8inch nonstick pan for. omlets and Salmon, and a couple of large Stainless Steel pans for Tomato based recipes and risoto.
I’ve not replaced any of them, and the youngest is about 15 years old…..jout like good Scotch!!!