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Bring Your Cast Iron Skillet Back to Life

Bring Your Cast Iron Skillet Back to Life

Many of us have countertops full of modern-day kitchen gadgets. With a quick glance, you’ll catalog blenders, mixers, electric tea kettles and countertop grills. However, as I scan my own kitchen, one low-tech cooking mainstay always catches my eye first: the cast iron skillet my mom passed down to me.

In this age of gastronomic toys, cast iron cookware still rules. The wonders of this affordable pot and pan material are many, but cast-iron has two qualities that make it peerless: it can withstand high heat, making it perfect for searing and frying; and its heavy weight traps and maintains temperatures, which is ideal for braising. Properly cured and maintained, cast iron also can develop a wonderful nonstick surface, but you must follow a few simple rules.

The Cure

Step 1

You’ll need:

  • A scouring pad or wire brush
  • Natural dish soap (Or try baking soda using this tip)

The best cast iron skillets and dutch ovens come from mom or grandma, but if you are in the market to buy new, follow these guidelines to make your cast iron shopping spree a success. New cast iron cookware comes with a coating, either shellac or wax, that you must remove before curing. A scouring pad or wire brush and warm water with a little dishwashing soap will get the job done. After the coating is removed, you should never again let soap touch the iron. Let’s repeat that. Do not use soap on seasoned cast iron. The cure (seasoning) is based on grease, and soap’s job is to remove grease. So if you wash your iron with soap, you’ll destroy the very effect you are aiming for.

Step 2

You’ll need:

  • Vegetable oil

Cover the pan’s surface, inside and out, with a liberal coating of vegetable oil. Put the pan in a cool oven. Turn the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The pan should remain in the oven during preheat, then an additional 30 minutes. For extra insurance (against burns, too), let the pan cool inside the oven once you’ve turned it off.

Care and Feeding for Your Skillet

Here is cast iron maintenance in a nutshell. For many more tips on cast iron care, cleaning and seasoning, check out this great article all about cast-iron.

Clean gently. Properly treated, your pan will never be bright and shiny. Over-scrubbing ruins the cooking surface. Gently remove food particles with a scouring pad, then rinse with water. Soaking it could remove its protective surface. Always dry immediately. Never clean cast-iron in the dishwasher.

Keep it dry. Cast-iron’s nonstick surface can be damaged by frequent exposure to water. Even making soup a few times can remove the coating. The best practice is to cook with dry ingredients or fry between liquid cooking. If you lose your coating, re-season the pot following the directions above. Try these mouth-watering cast-iron skillet recipes to be cooking like a pro.

Cool down slowly. Never hasten the cooling process by exposing a hot pan to cool water. It can damage or crack the surface.

Watch it improve with age. Chefs and foodies often brag about their decades-old or inherited cast iron pans. Thrift shops and garage sales are often good sources for similar vintage finds. If it’s a little rusty, here are tips for removing the rust before you re-season.

Related Care2 articles:

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Shelley Stonebrook

Shelley Stonebrook is an Associate Editor at Mother Earth News—North America’s most popular magazine about sustainable, self-reliant living—where she works on exciting projects such as Organic Gardening content and the Vegetable Garden Planner. Shelley is particularly interested in organic gardening, small-scale, local food production, waste reduction, food preservation and cooking. In her spare time, she posts in her personal blog, The Rowdy Radish.


+ add your own
11:33AM PST on Jan 9, 2014

I love mine... thank you for the info!!
In addition, because of the weight they are good for "exercise routine" in the kitchen...

3:59PM PDT on Apr 17, 2013

Love my cast iron skillets. Cornbread is always made in them. So good.

12:10PM PDT on Apr 17, 2013

I remember there was an old Country & Western song entitled "Keep that Skillet good and greasy!" so they knew what they were talking about even then.

12:15PM PDT on Apr 16, 2013


4:58AM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

My granny had one!

12:19PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013


9:01AM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

Thank you for info.

8:58AM PDT on Apr 6, 2013

Thank you for info.

12:59PM PDT on Apr 3, 2013


12:51PM PDT on Apr 3, 2013

that corn bread looks really yummy

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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