Cast Iron Care

by Katie Faulkner

Cast iron cookware is an enduring symbol of the South. This is largely because cast iron has grown to be appreciated for the versatile workhorse that it is. From gourmet dishes like crispy pan-roasted chicken to the simple goodness of crumbly, crunchy cornbread, cast iron can cook it all. With an extremely high heat emission and durability, cast iron is built to last. Check out our care guide to revive a rusted heirloom or give your already well-seasoned cast iron the beautiful long life it deserves.
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1/ Scrub

To restore an heirloom pan with rust: warm soapy water and an abrasive scrubbing pad or steel wool can be used to remove all rust spots.

For a well-seasoned pan with food stuck to it: use coarse salt and a bristle brush to scrub food remnants off. In toughest cases, simmer a little water in the pan to loosen up stuck debris, then scrub.

2/ Rinse

Thoroughly rinse off all food particles, and especially all soap if any was used.

3/ Dry

Dry completely with a paper towel or lint-free dish towel; place on stove top and cook off any remaining water. This is one of the most important steps, as lingering water causes rust, and rust is the enemy of your ironware.

4/ Season

Apply a very thin layer of oil to every surface of the pan (bottom, interior sides, exterior, underside, handle). At this point, if your pan already has a sufficient seasoning, use a paper towel to wipe off any remaining oil and move on to storage.

If you’re restoring an heirloom pan or re-seasoning a new one, place the oiled cast iron into a 350 – 400° oven, upside down on the top rack. (Be sure to line the bottom rack with aluminum foil to catch drips.) Cook for at least 1 hour. Let cool, and repeat the seasoning process until a thin, smooth, dark glossy coat appears.

5/ Store

After applying a very thin protective layer of oil with a paper towel, wipe off excess oil and hang or place your cast iron pan in a cool, dry place.

6/ Cook & Repeat Often

Nothing maintains a healthy seasoning on a pan like cooking with it often. The more you cook in your cast iron, the stronger and better its seasoning will be. 

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Truth Be Told: Scrubbing & Soap Are OK!

Seasoning occurs when oil is heated past its smoking point to cause a chemical bond to the metal’s surface. “Seasoning” is actually polymerized oil. Because of this molecular-level bonding, common myths such as “never scrub your cast iron” and “never use soap” are actually irrelevant. It’s completely fine to scrub and use soap! Just be sure to dry completely to avoid rust and reapply a protective layer of oil before storing.

Did You Know?

  • When choosing the best oil type to season your pan, experts now say that flaxseed oil is ideal due to its high smoking point and ability to form one of the hardest bonds. If you don’t like flaxseed, opt for neutrally flavored, plant-based oils like vegetable, shortening, or canola. While it is still fine to season with animal-based oils like lard, if you don’t use your cookware often enough, the oil can turn rancid.
  • Cast iron actually heats very unevenly. But because of its high heat emission abilities, its searing, frying, and thorough cooking results are nearly unparalleled in any other cookware.

Tips

To keep your pan as non-stick as possible, keep your coat of seasoning well maintained, preheat your pan properly before every cooking session, and clean off all food debris when finished.

If the seasoning on your pan appears too thick or sticky, it likely wasn’t heated enough. Repeat the oven-baking process under the “4/Season” section until the oil has completely polymerized and is no
longer sticky.

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