I recently decided that it’s time for me to start collecting cast iron cookware. I wanted to get some for my survival stash, just in case I ever need to cook over an open fire. Also, after reading the benefits of using cast iron, compared to the dangers of using the non-stick pots and pans that I’ve been using for years, I decided to start making the switch. As I began looking around I quickly discovered how expensive the stuff is!
I searched Craigslist and Goodwill for cast iron pots and pans, but still I found that they were too expensive even those places (in my mind anyways). So, I began asking around. I spread the word among family that I was looking for cast iron stuff. To my luck my Mother-in-Law happened to have some extra pans stored in her basement that she was kind enough to let me have. I also asked for cookware for Christmas, and was blessed to receive a beautiful cast iron Bread Pan.
So, now that I had the stuff I wasn’t sure exactly what to do with it. I was a little intimidated trying out the frying pans, as they were not seasoned (even a little rusty) and I had no idea how to go about seasoning them. And I also heard that you aren’t supposed to wash them with soap and water, and I didn’t know how to properly sanitize them after use.
I was anxious to use my cookware, so I did some reading and asking around, and here is what I’ve learned:
- You can buy pre-seasoned cookware, but you still have to season it occasionally.
- After cooking, use a stiff brush to clean the food off. You can boil water in the pan to help loosen stuck on food. Using soap is not recommended.
- Do not put in dishwasher.
- Towel dry immediately and completely. While it’s still warm, apply a very light coating of oil (or shortening) to the inside of the pot or pan.
- Do not let it air dry, this can cause it to rust.
- Store in a cool, dry place. You can store it inside your oven, just make sure to take it out before pre-heating.
- You need to re-season if your cast iron gets rusty, if food is sticking to it, or if it loses it’s shine and turns a dull, gray color.
- Wash with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush, until all the gunk is cleaned off.
- Rinse and dry completely.
- Apply a very thin, even coating of melted vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware (inside and out).
- Cover the bottom rack of the oven with aluminum foil (to catch drippings)
- Preheat oven to 350-400*.
- Place cookware upside down on top rack of oven.
- Bake for at least an hour, then turn the oven off and let it cool in the oven.
- Store in a cool, dry place.
**Important note: DO NOT put your pan in the oven if it has wooden handles!
In my case, I do have some cast iron pans with wooden handles. So how do I season them??
- If you can, remove the wooden handle before placing in oven (fortunately for me I discovered that mine do come off).
If you can’t remove the handle:
- Follow the same cleaning method as above in the re-seasoning section, but only grease the inside of the pan. Do not grease the outside.
- Instead of putting it in the oven, set it on the stove top over Med-High heat and watch carefully.
If you have NEW cast iron cookware it may have a wax coating that will need to be removed before you use it.
Place your cast iron upside down in your home oven. Use a cookie sheet under your cast iron to catch any wax drippings. Set oven to about 300* to melt off wax coating. When burning off the wax on your cookware, the wax may smoke. Watch it carefully. When smoking stops, your cast iron is ready for seasoning. Remove from heat source and let cool. Wash and dry thoroughly with hot water to eliminate any deposits.
Next follow steps in the Re-Seasoning section. Your cookware will be beautifully seasoned, and ready to cook on!
When I started using my pans, I constantly forgot that the handle was hot, and kept grabbing it. I told my friend Ms. Addy about my problem, and the next time I saw her she gave me some handle covers for cast iron pans, made by Lodge. They just slip onto the handle and protect your hands from burns. I LOVE them!! That was so sweet of her to give them to me!
Now I realize that this all sounds like so much to do, but really it isn’t that hard. Once the cookware has been seasoned it will last a long time as long as you care for it properly. Just wash and dry it right away, and grease it lightly before storing again. It’s really that simple.
Now that I have some, I love them. And I feel so much better feeding my family from the cast iron pans instead of the non-sticks!