How To Clean And Care For A Cast Iron Pan (Or How I Learned To Love Cast Iron)

Loving Cast Iron

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be able to write about my success with a cast iron pan. Because for many years I was not successful.

How many? Twenty years- and I wish I were joking.

I aquired my cast iron pan shortly after Brian and I were married- I think it came from his grandma, or maybe a thrift store, but it had definitely been used. I didn’t grow up using cast iron, but I had heard people tell me all the reasons they loved their pans (naturally non-stick, lasts more than a lifetime, heats evenly and so on), so I was was looking forward to trying it in my new household.

And try I did. But everything stuck- eggs, meat, you name it (I know now that when we scrubbed the dickens out of it to get all the stuck things off we were just perpetrating the cycle). Then I’d shove it to the back of the cupboard and bring it out again, until it got permanently relegated to our little vintage trailer. Perfect for vintage cast iron, right? Plus, there were only a few days each summer that I had to use it- and invariably curse it.

However, about a year ago when my third set of non-stick skillets started peeling, I realized I didn’t want to keep buying new pans every few years, so I needed to figure this cast iron pan thing out. By this time it was rusty, but thanks to the Internet (not around during my first attempts), I found out how to re-season the pan fairly easily. I can’t find the exact steps I followed, but it was similar to this technique at wikiHow.

And what I read over and over again was to use this to season the pan:

Not canola or a vegetable oil as I had always tried, but bacon grease (lard or coconut oil could also be used). This was important in order not to get that sticky coating that comes from using the industrial vegetable oils that have only been around for 60 years (and we know cast iron’s been around a lot longer than that!). Or that awful “old oil” smell. And I have found that I don’t get that smell when I use a bit of bacon grease.

I admit I was wary- would all the food cooked in it have a bacon flavor? Would it smell like bacon when I heated it up? It did a bit when I was re-seasoning it, but I’ve found that it doesn’t have an overt bacon smell and certainly doesn’t impart it noticeably to the food. And this probably is attributed to the fact that I use very little grease on the pan to maintain the seasoning- less than 1/8 of a teaspoon?- and use only the clear part of the grease (which is, in fact, like rendered lard).

I ended up doing two rounds in the oven to re-season my pan and started to cook with it, but only things that were greasy like bacon, or I didn’t need to worry about sticking, like sauteed mushrooms. I’ve been using it more and more over the last three months, but had put off the ultimate test:

Scrambled eggs.

Until last weekend when I took the plunge and decided my pan was ready for the challenge.

And all I can say is I’m glad there wasn’t a video camera around as I was jumping up and down in front of the stove saying “they’re not sticking!” over and over again. As if I was the only one to discover this.

While there are bits of egg and cheese stuck to the pan in places, it’s not much and I had no problems cooking and serving the eggs. What didn’t happen was that layer of egg you can get in regular pans.

So I’d like to share with you that if you’re like me and have had trouble with cast iron or think it’s too much work, they really can become your favorite pan with just a bit of your time and attention.

These are the easy steps I take to clean and care for the pan after every use:

1. Use a plastic scrubber to remove any stuck bits. Some use coarse salt, but that would be wasting something in my frugal world. *smile*

2. Wash the pan with hot water only (no soap). Yes, it’s OK- it is getting clean, I promise. I use the scrubber side of my sponge and haven’t found that it takes the seasoning off, like some sites warn against. Your call.

3. Dry the pan thoroughly on the stove. Heat it for just a minute or so on medium heat (not high and don’t walk away).

 

 

4. Remove the pan from the burner and turn it off. Using a rag (or paper towel) grab a smear of bacon grease and rub it all over the inside of the warm pan.

I have not been adding it to the outside of the pan after the initial re-seasoning, as it doesn’t seem to need more.

5. Set back on the burner- turned off, but still warm- and let the pan cool there before putting away.

I do these steps every time I use it to keep a nice gleam on the pan that tells me it’s seasoned enough to meet all my non-stick needs.

And I’m (finally!) never buying non-stick pans again.

Though I am looking for a nice big 12-in cast iron skillet, which should help keep my arm muscles in good shape as I age…

Have you ever had issues with cast iron (tell me I’m not alone!)? Do you use it or want to use it? What are your cast iron stories!

-Jami

This is linked to Real Food Wednesday and Prairie Story’s Recipe Swap, Frugal Fridays @ Life As Mom and Finer Things Friday.

 

Comments

  1. My only issue is they’re so heavy (my 12″ anyway), but my handsome husband cleans it, so I’m lucky!!

  2. My dear husband purchased cast iron pot last month. He was determined to “season” it for me. He promptly covered it in oil and put it in the warm oven. We soon had a smoke filled house that drove us to open the windows in the 34 degree weather. It was a funny disaster. He is still looking to get his pot started right and I will have him look at your entry today for some tips. I think it was the vegetable oil he used. Thanks for the info.

  3. I have a family member that doesn’t eat pork, so bacon grease is out for me, but I find that solid vegetable shortening (like Crisco) works well–and doesn’t give that “old oil” smell that vegetable oil gives.

    I love my iron skillet, but not just on top of the stove–it makes the best cornbread, and is great for baking biscuits, too.

    • I have been trying to love my cast iron skillet but I am still having issues. Two days ago I cooked hamburgers and cleaned the pan in much the same way you recommend. Then today I used it for scrambled eggs and noticed a brownish tinge to the eggs, not like I had browned them but like some of the hamburger was still lingering in the pan. Sometimes I will get black flecks on the eggs or the smell of old food when I cook with the skillet. I use coconut oil or bacon grease as needed. I would appreciate your thoughts.

      • Hmmm, it seems you need to clean it (gently) a bit more, Beth. Do you have one of those square, plastic scrapers? I don’t even know where you buy them – mine came with a pizza stone from Pampered Chef years ago, ha! Anyway, it’s the BEST thing to get all the surface debris off the pan without losing the seasoning. Some people also recommend salt – rubbing it with a cloth or paper towel, though I haven’t tried it myself. The pan should look smooth and shiny when it’s clean and reseasoned with fat. Sure hope this helps some!!

  4. And pot roast, and fried chicken, and chili, and steak (if you don’t want to heat up the grill. and pineapple upside-down cake! Cast iron is wonderful. There’s a reason it’s been around so long :-)

  5. Wow – what a timely post. I was just given a 12″ skillet for Christmas this year and I’m in the process of seasoning it. I’m currently battling rust underneath. I know we’ll get it since I managed to season a griddle a few years ago.

    We are totally into whole food and non-chemical cooking, so cast iron just makes sense for us. In fact, I’m saving for a 15″ skillet right now.

    We also have a dutch oven that has rust, but that is a little heavy for even me!

    Thanks for this post – I’m looking forward to getting my cast iron collection underway.

  6. thanks for sharing the tips…we love our cast iron skillet. it does take a bit to get accustomed to seasoning / cooking / cleaning with it but it’s so worth it. we don’t use teflon or non-stick pans anymore…don’t like that chemical stuff coming off into our food.

    we use coconut oil for our cooking- a much healthier alternative to lard, vegetable or canola oils. you can find it at most grocery stores that have a health food section…or online.

    what’s for dinner, now i’m hungry?!
    judi

  7. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Mmm- you all have the best suggestions for what to cook in it- and yes, Charlene, I totally forgot to mention cornbread and baking with it- like Dutch Babies- is the best!

    And thanks, Judi, for reminding me of coconut oil (I’m going to add it into the post!). I do have it, but it’s so expensive I use it only “where it counts.” :-) But it would be a good substitute for those that don’t eat pork (or are vegetarians).

  8. I bought one many years ago but got so frustrated with it (the same egg issues as you) that I gave it to Goodwill. Now I wish I had hung on to it. Thanks for the great tips. I may have to give the cast iron skillet another go.
    I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven and LOVE it!

  9. they make the best fried tators and onions…yummmmmmy

  10. We are trying to switch over to the natural/whole foods/organic way of life. I really do not like the chemicals in the non stick pans. I don’t have cast iron yet but I have been saving up my swagbucks for Amazon cards to buy a few pieces. When I looked before some of the pieces were part of the 4 for 3 promotion, can’t beat that! I also love that the regular Lodge (not enameled) are made in the USA. Thank you for the tips! They will come in handy when I get my pans. :)

  11. I have started using my cast iron skillet a lot more lately. I also love my dutch oven and use it all the time. Thanks for the tips…I may use it more AND it will save me some money because my next step was to break down and buy All Clad.

  12. I love my cast iron pan too! I use it every day! It came from my husband’s grandmother. I love that we have a family heirloom that we are not going to ruin by using.

    Gina

  13. I tend to use lard to season mine or shortening in a pinch. Love doing fried chicken in it and my favorite is my griddle for pancakes. Quite frankly, the best pancakes you’ll ever have are those made on a cast iron griddle. You get this yummy crust that is to die for! Course, here in the South, we consider cast iron pans a family heirloom and a staple in the kitchen. :)

  14. Agreeing with Southbel above about pancakes in a cast iron skillet. Nothing like it! Also, cornbread just belongs in a cast iron skillet. It’s just wrong not to cook it that way. :) And yes, cast iron is handed down from generation to generation down here.

    When we bought our house years ago, I found a rusted cast iron skillet in the back of a low cupboard and jumped for joy! It’s my most used pan. And once we scored a cast iron scone/wedge pan at a dirty santa christmas party that we couldn’t believe no one wanted! (shaking head)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Wondering if you put your skillet face up or face down in the oven. I have seen instructions for both ways and not sure which is correct. I guess it takes a couple of times to get the seasoning. I followed directions of Lodge cast iron site with Crisco shortening but it didn’t come out well. I’ll try bacon grease next as I have a jar of solid bacon grease in the fridge.

  16. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Southbel & Becky- I wish I could use my thrift store cast iron griddle I rehabilitated a few months ago in the house, but our stove is electric and it discolors the stove top in between the burners. I’m looking forward to using it camping, though.

    Anonymous- I don’t think it matters if it’s face up or down- I think I did it face up. Mine was old, so it had some seasoning already and I did the oven seasoning twice, so I would think a brand new one (that wasn’t preseasoned) would take a few more times. THEN I cooked a lot of greasy things in it before trying the eggs. :-) Don’t give up!

  17. This is so timely. I inherited a cast iron skillet from my grandmother. And I do like using it.I recently noticed that it appears I have scrubbed off some of the black part by using the scrubber side of the sponge. I have not seasoned it after each use but have not used soap. Should I work on seasoning it again and after each use? Thanks for your insight! (I haven’t done any Internet searching yet and then saw this post.)

  18. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Shannon- Lucky you! My grandmother’s pans were all aluminum. :-(

    If the food is not sticking for you, then I would not worry about the oven re-seasoning- try using the grease after each use and see if that works. If not, then do the seasoning in the oven.

    And, yes, definitely rub it down after each use and dry it on the stove- that’s what it needs to keep it’s lovely patina!

  19. Jami – This is a *fabulous* post!

    I can’t even tell you how much trouble I’ve had with my cast iron. I really want to be able to cook well in it – eggs, etc – but I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Even my bacon stuck when I cooked it in my cast iron. *sigh*

    So I’ll definitely try your bacon grease trick! And every good southern cook has a jar in her cabinet anyway, right?! ;) (I’m in NC)

    Super informative. Thanks! Stumbled it :)

    -Lauren

  20. I don’t use my cast iron regularly, but saw your post and pulled out my 4 skillets washed them and seasoned them with the bacon grease. 3 of my 4 handles feel sticky. Is this from using oil previously? Also, 2 have some kind of layered gunk on them (a thin film) that I can’t get off. Ideas anyone?

  21. Here’s a tip for cleaning your pan. When your food is done cooking transfer it quickly to a plate, and run your super hot pan under water. This will de-glaze the pan and you won’t have to scrub at all usually. Unless you’re cooking something like eggs and cheese. Anything else will just melt away.

    • Just make sure it is HOT water so you don’t warp the pan. I have even done this after serving dinner. I put the rest of the food in a jar and fridge it. The I turn on the hot tap water, grab my kitchen nylon scrub brush and scrub my pan. When it rinses clear, I put it on the burner and turn it on for a minute until water is evaporating. Then turn off the heat and grab either my refrigerated bacon grease (that I filtered through a paper towel or coffee filter) or coconut oil and give the pan a very thin wipe, just enough to make it a little shiny, but not glossy.

      I do this with ALL of my cast iron, including Dutch ovens, flat pan, pancake griddles and all 6 of my skillets.

  22. I love mine. But I only use it camping. Last year I found liners for my dutch oven. Makes camp lasagna cleanup a breeze!

  23. GREAT post!! I am all about the cast iron cookware :)

    Blessings!
    Gail

  24. Bass Pro Shops has great deals on “pre-seasoned” (But you probably want to bacon grease it as well) cast iron cookware in all shapes and sizes. So much less expensive than something like Williams-Sonoma, and they have tons of it!

    Definitely check them out.

  25. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Lauren- Kindred spirit! Keep trying- and thanks for the Stumble!!

    Amy- Great tip- the power of water to loosen things should never be underestimated. :-)

    Rose- Wow, 4 pans? What a great stash! My handles aren’t sticky, but I also don’t spend time seasoning them. My first guess would be that it’s old residue and to try and scrub the handles (doesn’t matter how hard, ’cause the seasoning isn’t important there) to get it off, then just lightly grease them in order to keep rust at bay. After that, I leave them be unless I notice rust.

    As for any kind of gunk, you probably need to go at those areas pretty firmly with a scrubber- even a bit of soap there- with the idea that you’re going to have to completely reseason them in the oven when the gunk is removed. Once they are completely clean, do the oven reseason, and then start using- first with greasy foods and working your way up to foods like eggs once you’ve got a good coating going on.

  26. This is fabulous! We inherited a cast iron skillet from my husband’s father. My husband uses it more than I do. I am so glad to have this to refer to when cleaning…those eggs from yesterday sure did stick! LOL

    Gotta agree with some of the comments…cornbread in the skillet is to die for!

  27. Here from Feels Like Home-
    This post made me grin. My Grandmother would have LOVED you. I’ll never forget the day she found out a neighbor was using dish soap to clean her iron skillets- for YEARS she talked about how she wanted to go save the pans from the neighbors. ha!
    I have my Grandmother’s skillets now and I really only use them to make cornbread. I don’t eat bacon so I don’t know what the substitute to use is!

  28. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Calliope- Try coconut oil- I’ve heard others have good results with that as well!

  29. Anonymous says:

    The idea that cast iron heats evenly is actually false. For stovetop use, aluminum is better.
    Also, it’s okay to use soap.

    You can remove old seasoning by sticking your skillet right on top of a hot bed of coals on a campfire or in your fireplace overnight. When it cools, it’ll be a flat gray color. New seasoning will eventually turn it black.

    Check this great link: http://www.cookingissues.com/2010/02/16/heavy-metal-the-science-of-cast-iron-cooking/

  30. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Anonymous- Hmmm, I appreciate your take- I cooked with my grandmother’s nice aluminum pans for years and didn’t notice it was that superior. The health concerns eventually convinced me to part with it. You are right that it conducts heat well, and I believe that they use aluminum-wrapped bottoms on quality stainless steel pans (which I have and love for regular pots).

    Good tip on removing old seasoning. I aim for that nice black finish of a seasoned pan. :-)

  31. Anonymous says:

    I guess saying “aluminum is better” is a bit of a reach, but I prefer a quality aluminum skillet for anything where temp control is important, since iron takes so long to respond.

  32. I have cast iron that has been passed down through the generations, as well as a few I purchased myself. When I first moved out of my parents home, I thought I would be more modern by using non-stick, but it became clear to me that I didn’t know how to care for it’s tender surface.

    Caring for Cast Iron isn’t all that difficult if you’re using them on a daily basis like I do. Heck, I use just olive oil to top dress the pans before putting them away. They don’t develop the sticky stuff because they don’t sit around long enough to develop problems.

  33. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Karlie- Thanks for the recommendation about using olive oil! I’m glad to know it doesn’t get sticky (probably because it’s not an industrial oil!) so people who don’t want to use animal products can try this as well as coconut oil.

  34. It took me quite a few years to get used to cast iron too, but now it’s all I use. I have very old ones that I found at thrift stores, and they have a nice smooth interior, as opposed to the new ones that are bumpy and rough. I also clean them in plain hot water, with the scrubby side of a blue scrubby sponge, drying them with the soft side of the same sponge, and directly putting them away. The rumors are true! Once you adjust to using cast iron, nothing sticks, and you will never have to buy another frying pan.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Fabulous Info!You all just inspired me to tackle my three :) thrift store cast-iron pans – A large as well as a quite small round pan – both Lodge brand AND a square cast-iron grill pan with the raised/ rippled surface that gives those wonderful markings on steaks the name on the bottom is Levco – I’ve owned these pans for at least 10 years, but the fact is I’ve barely ever used the round ones, and I only pulled out the grill pan for those once-in-a-while good steaks (which actually always stuck to my improperly cared-for pan). Consequently, the round ones -particularily the little one which had been hanging on a nail in the garage – were both rusted, and the square one sitting in the bottom drawer of my oven was sticky, and full of gunk beteen the grooves! I’ve only ever cleaned it with water, but rubbed with vegetable oil in the past, but now all three have been scrubbed, scraped, dried and LIGHTLY rubbed with bacon fat and are now warmed and seasoning – as I type this – in my oven! Gotta go bake something and not waste that oen heat, and then figure out what to make for supper in my freshly seasoned large round pan! PS – I solemly swear not to make steak in the square grill pan AGAIN until I have used it NUMEROUS times to cook bacon etc.

  36. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Anonymous- Yahoo! Glad to have inspired you to get those great pans out of the cupboard. :-) I’d love to have one of those grill pans one day…hey, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything and let all these pans hit the thrift stores so I’d have a chance to find them… :-)

  37. Anonymous says:

    I love all of my cast iron pots and pans! One trick I found for cleaning them is to use coffee grounds. The grounds provide all the scrubbing I need but still have the residual oils that are kind to my pots, it’s a little messy though.

  38. ladykate92456 says:

    You can also season your cast in a BBQ or smoker. That’s how the kids dad does it. We have Several pots and pans that are used on a regular basis.

    I have acquired some from estate sales, yard sales and been given them from family members.

    Ebay is an excellent place to get some of the older pieces.I found an old two burner griddle used for warming tortillas on ebay for next to nothing.

    I am a bit of a cast fanatic and have been collecting for quite a few years. I have a pan for poaching eggs, an old cast fish scalier, dutch ovens, fry pans, corn bread molds…etc

    Once you get use to cooking in or on cast, it becomes habit to season them. Not to mention, you get your daily dose of iron from cooking in them. :)

  39. The Blaisdell's says:

    I had problems with a film of really sticky icky gunk….yeah I used veggie oil to fry something up. I put water in the pan and boiled it till it came off. Then I re-seasoned the pan and it was fine.

  40. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Anonymous- Oh, coffee grounds is a much better idea than salt in my book for scouring- using something you’re going to throw away anyway. :-)

    LadyKate- I’ve never thought to use it on the BBQ! I’ve heard that some old cast pieces are valued in the hundreds of dollars, so I bet your collection is worth something (other than cooking, that is!). How fun.

  41. My parents’ cast iron pans are over 70 years old, but they’re still using them, so I had to break down and buy my own. I have a Lodge Logic, which I love. I also have a huge one a friend gave me recently, which she found at a yard sale.

    My favorite one, though, is my Aebleskiver pan from Aunt Else’s. It has never stuck.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Love cast iron! Try making stuffed crust pizza in it!! Wonderful :)

  43. Anonymous says:

    i have them on my kithen wall my grandma old ones if i find them in thrift store i buy them if there bad when you get them old caked on stuff spay oven cleaner on them put in plastic bag then set out in the sun most will come off then reseason them in bacon fat keep the bacon fat in the frig last forever corn bread turn ot good in them

  44. Yes, I remember them from growing up in he country!

  45. Anonymous says:

    You really need a print button on your blog, especially if you’re going to write how-to’s.

  46. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Anonymous- Thanks for the suggestion- I searched how to add a Print Friendly button and turns out it was really easy! Hope you enjoy. :-)

  47. I am so thankful for your suggestions, but I have another question for you. Can cast iron be used on ceramic top stoves? I have seen a couple of posts saying it can and other that say not to. HELP! I have a couple cast iron pieces that I would love to use. Hubby uses the square 10″ pan on the gas grill for preparing bacon and eggs. Works great.

    • Faith Davis says:

      I have used them on ceramic and have never had a problem. Just make sure that you don’t push them across, because if there is anything on the stove top you can scratch the surface. If the pan is bigger then the burner you may get a ring around the burner, just sprinkle baking soda and spray some vinegar on it and use a scrubbie to clean it off.

      • Don’t use vinegar. It’s acidic by nature and will cause pits and or weaken cast iron. Baking soda and vinegar react and they both essentially lose their active properties and or will weaken them, it’s good to create a safe gaseous mixture for clogged drains. Although, baking soda will always remain a good scrubber :-) Vinegar can also leave a taste around which you may not want.

        Baking soda and water are the best however, my co-worker who was a professional chef and head chef for a decade just uses a scrubber and hot water for home use.

        You won’t need to season it either since the oils left over will take care of it.

        Remember cast iron is porous, you don’t want it absorbing “icky”, also being Muslim I don’t have bacon grease lying around to slather on but the above mentions by Jami are awesome especially for vegetarians which my wife flip flops between. However fatty fat fat beef gets the job done :-)

  48. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Vicky T- Hmm, good question. I don’t really know, however, since I’ve never owned a ceramic cooktop. I did find this ehow article saying you could use certain types:

    http://www.ehow.com/facts_7767988_can-cast-iron-ceramic-cooktop.html

    And also there was a comment from a person that I loved (since we’re all about imperfection here!):

    “I have a Dacor smoothtop and have successfully used cast iron and le Creuset for years. I have some scratches but so what? It’s a stove, not a museum piece.”

    If I were you, I’d use them and just be careful. Hope that helps!

  49. I have used mine on my ceramic stovetop. Just dont slide the pan around. I have no scratches or discoloration on my top, and I also tend to cook with a lower heat setting when using my glass pots or the cast iron. I really do need to start using my cast iron more tho.
    {url}http://stitchthisdesigns.blogspot.com/{/url}

  50. I love my cast iron. I started with a chicken fryer and went crazy from there. Most are from yard sales and thrift stores, or family. Some are older than I am. My daughter say’s she wants my cast iron when I die. She’s going to have to wait a long time (I hope).

    P.S. To an anonymous post. Don’t use oven cleaner in your pans. You are putting toxic chimicals in it. Burn the gunk off it your BBQ or in a self cleaning oven. Then wash, dry and reseason.

  51. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Thank you, Tammy, for more info about using it on a smooth cooktop!

    Verna- I wish I could find some at Thrift stores- there are none to be found in the last year I’ve been looking. Ha! I think everyone is loving them now. :-)

    Good point, too about the oven cleaner!!

  52. I’m really enjoying exploring your site,(following too as long as I don’t get distracted before I exit) I’m typing one handed so I’ll make it brief…can’t wait to finally use a cast iron skillet without cursing…perfect timing, found you just when I needed you.

  53. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Thank you, Karajeanne! I was so in your spot not long ago, and I’m totally in love with cast iron now- I’ve got a dutch oven, a bigger frying pan and am thinking about loaf pans now. Hope this helps you find a way to love yours, too!

  54. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says:

    Chrissy- What a great tip- thanks, I’ll remember that! And that comal sounds wonderful- guess I need to add another pan to my “wish list.” ;-)

  55. I love my cast iron skillet- I need to dig out my dutch oven and start using it too. I also have a comal (which is a round flat skillet) and I using it for making tortillas, which I read is what its for and its so awesome, but also for cheese quesadillas and the like….
    Anyway, the key to making eggs not stick at all… like not even the tiny bit of gunk that you had left in the picture above is to make sure it is fully heated up all the way before putting the eggs in. It works every. single. time. And also works in stainless steel to a lesser extent.

  56. I’m still using the one I got as a wedding gift in the 60s. It was one of my mother’s that she passed down to me. Cooks the absolute best corn bread in the world. Plus, as someone else noted, makes a great pineapple upside down cake. Easy cleanup..

  57. Anonymous says:

    When you season the pan what temp is the oven on and how long?

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says:

      The link to Wiki explains- they use a 275 degree oven for 2 hours after coating it with bacon grease. I think my oven was at 300 degrees, actually- but not sure what difference that would make, if any. :-)

      -Jami

  58. Anonymous says:

    I’ve seen a tutorial that suggests using flax seed oil – the food grade oil, not the linseed oil used in woodworking. Here’s a link:
    http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/

  59. Anonymous says:

    Love cast iron I have a Dutch oven that I got for Christmas, a 15in and a 10in skillet and a set of waffle irons. All except the waffle iron were easy to season and to keep seasoned. Once I get it seasoned correctly I’m sure it will make wonderful waffles. I grew up cooking and cleaning cast iron so I knew how to handle it since I was young. My mom had a flat round skillet that she used to make biscuits on I wish I had inherited her pans but I had to aquire my own my older sister has an large collection of cast iron pieces most she found in a house she moved into. Lucky girl.

    • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says:

      Wow, waffle irons? I’ve never heard of that! I’ve been eying cast iron loaf pans for bread, though. And, yes, your sister totally lucked out. :-)

  60. Anonymous says:

    When you are using the charcoal grill outside and are finished cooking the food you can put a greased cast iron pan in the grill close it up and let the coals burn out naturally ( no smoked out house ) when done take an oily rag and wipe again . I used Olive oil seasoning a skillet and griddle (both 12 in round Lodge Cast Iron) and to oil it after washing and never had eggs or anything else stick … yea i made cornbread in the skillet and it didn’t stick either if i greased the skillet in butter before putting in the batter

  61. Well my grandpa always threw the skillets in the burn barrel when he burned trash. Cleaned off all the buildup. Brother law BIG cast iron collector uses Lyme dip.too caustic for me, put in the self cleaning oven cycle and be ready with the Cisco when they get done as the rust happens quickly

  62. Old is better than new in my opinion. My newer lodge pan eats very unevenly

  63. Anonymous says:

    I, too, have just begun using cast iron over the past year and LOVE it! I’m constantly on the look-out for more to buy at garage sales or thrift shops. I will share one thing that has worked wonderfully for me in cleaning my cast iron skillets (I read the tip somewhere on line and it’s been great). When I’m ready to clean my skillet, I fill it about 1/2 way up with water, heat it on the oven until it comes to a full boil, then I turn it down and let it simmer for about another 5 minutes while I’m doing dishes. I, then, remove it from the stove and pour out the water and scrub it with my hard bristled brush that was recommended for cleaning cast iron (I bought my on Amazon.com). I have to tell you that almost all of the time (regardless of what I’ve cooked in it), the stuff that had been stuck to the pan comes right out with very little scrubbing. If someone didn’t want to waste the water and electricity that that process takes every time, he/she might at least give this option a try after cooking the really messy/sticky stuff. Just an idea. Thanks for the great post!

  64. I’m giddy over my new Lodge bread pans from their store in GA! My husband was working in GA and I called to find out their hours… it turned out that the very nice guy Garrett stayed open a little late just so my husband could make it in time (traffic held him up and he got there just as they should have closed). I got two loaf pans and a large griddle and 8″ skillet. The griddle and skillet were seconds and a steal! The pans were a bit more, but they are smaller sized than the enameled stoneware I have and I am finding I LOVE them. Lodge still has their factory in TN and has 3 outlet stores in the south. I love supporting an American company and am quickly falling in love with all things cast iron!

  65. Anonymous says:

    Bac’n dripp’ns were used quite a lot in the old days, but there was another secret of the old days that has been lost…bee’s wax. Yup, BEE’s WAX! It works better than anything I have used…and I’ve tried them all.

  66. I had some trouble at first but now love cooking with it. My favorite thing to cook? French toast. I turn on my broiler, and warm my cast iron pan, put my thick bread (preferable that I let sit out for a couple of hours to become stale) into my batter (egg, vanilla, a little maple syrup, pinch of salt, dash of milk and sprinkle of cinnamon), allowing it to rest a little on both sides then place them into my cast iron pan in the oven. I wait until the toast is golden, then flip. Serve with fruit and syrup. Yum!

    Thanks for all the great info and great recipes in the comments. I can’t wait to try some more recipes.

  67. We absolutely love our cast iron pans – especially the very shallow ones to fry eggs, pancakes and French toast – it’s easy flipping that way. Many times, I don’t even have to rinse with water . . . simply wipe out with a paper towel. We don’t add extra oil afterwards. I guess it’s just perfectly seasoned. : )

    • Thanks, Lisa, for that link – I found it very interesting and if I could afford $17 for a small bottle of flaxseed oil to season my pan, I would do it. But since the bacon grease is free and it works great, I’ll just keep doing what works for me. :)

  68. I just got my first set of cast iron skillets for my bridal shower and just used them for the first time today. They say preseasoned but the food still stuck to it. Any ideas or tips on what to do

    • You can try cooking only items that won’t stick (bacon, saute onions, burgers, etc.) for awhile before attempting something that is prone to sticking (like my eggs…). Remember to wipe out only if scrubbing isn’t needed and if it is, don’t use soap, just water. Liberally season with bacon grease or coconut oil. If that doesn’t work, I’d reseason in the oven. Have fun, Hope!

  69. LisaRose says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I have loved reading the stories of how everyone came to have their cast iron. I’m fortunate to have the ones my great-grandmother cooked in for decades. They are nicely seasoned, as you can imagine. :-) I am curious, though. How often do you re-season your pans?

    • I haven’t needed to re-season. I think the only time you’d have to do that is if the seasoning came off and things started sticking again. Which I think would only happen if you scrubbed it with soap a lot. :) Taking care to season with the bacon grease/coconut oil after each use keeps them in great shape!

  70. Okay, so my brand new Lodge Logic 12″ cast iron skillet came nubbly. I mean there’s bumps and crannies all over the surface and yours is completely smooth. I thought it was seasoned but after trying to cook bacon and having it stick, reread the package and it doesn’t mention this at all. So finally, I put it in the oven with crisco and it was a bit better. There are still discolored bits and bumpy parts. I’m not doing this right! Also, I used olive oil and omgosh! SO STICKY. How do I get this nasty sticky feeling off of my cast iron and make it smooth? Help..

    • I haven’t had experience with that, Jasi, but if seasoning it in the oven helped some, I’d keep doing it until you get a surface you like. It should not be sticking with bacon – goodness, that isn’t right, is it? If olive oil made it sticky, I can only think the pan got too hot and olive oil doesn’t do well at super hot temps – stick to coconut oil, lard, or bacon fat then. I’ve never had those get sticky at all. Hope that helps some!

  71. Wow–Can’t believe how many comments! LOL!!!!

    But–one thing you should ALL be doing is PREHEAT THOSE PANS!!!! This gets the old seasoning in shape for new oil to be added and fill in all those micro grooves that are what makes food stick! There are few things–other than maybe warming a tortilla or such–that don’t need SOME oil to cook (even in a non-stick!!!) and cast iron has more little grooves and spots than other material by it’s nature. Don’t put it on HIGH and wander off; just use a low or medium flame to get to temp and THEN add your oil.

    For eggs–most people do NOT add enough oil or bacon grease–we cook in at least a 1/4″ pool of oil and trust me–nothing will stick! You can just re-cycle it into your container anyways! IF you did not just fry the bacon use a bunch. heat the skillet first. and when you add your ROOM TEMP EGGS then let them set for a few secs and then spoon some hot fat over the top of them–helps them set and not break. Turn ONCE unless you don’t like them turned. This gives them that crispy lacy edge but the middles will be as done as you want them to be—you will see what they are doing and take them out a few secs BEFORE they get the way you want them–they will keep cooking for a few secs.

    For seasoning a waffle or ridged pan–melt the oil or grease FIRST and then use a PASTRY BRUSH (I love the silicone ones) to get in every nook and cranny.

    When you finish cooking get the food out and add HOT water to your pan–NEVER add cold water to ANY hot pan as it WILL warp them–and there is no fixing that. We always have a hot kettle of tea water handy for this but hot tap is fine as long as it is HOT. You don’t need to fill over the line left by the food and you don’t have to boil right then==you can go eat and chances are most of the debris will be off by the time you are done.

    The reason you do the “Upside down” method is to avoid any “puddle” of oil making a thicker coat on one spot if your pan is at all uneven or your oven is! USe an old sheet pan or a foil lined pan under–and a rack if you have one–even the rack from your broiler pan is OK. This way any excess oil also drains off.

    For serious cases of old rusty and icky pans an old timer gave me the treatment he uses for the serious collections he collects and sells (quite nicely I might add!) He makes a heavy LYE solution and lets them sit in there until ALL of the gunk inside and out comes off–this can take a few days and you want to make SURE no one goes near them who doesn’t know what you are doing—under lock and key in the shed maybe. I have heard of the grill and self cleaner method but I would worry about warpage. I also had someone who claimed they used a power grinder but—sounds a bit harsh to me!

    And–some iron just seems to NEVER season properly. I duuno why but suspect it is lower quality and that it has too big grooves and micro surface issues and the oil can’t “bridge” those gaps to make one solid surface. I had a “corn dodger” pan and have currently a muffin pan I have this issue with–the muffin pan I can line but the dodger pan I gave away to someone who wanted it as decor. I have thought tho of trying the muffin pan as a Yorkshire Pudding pan to see if that heavy grease (beef drippings) will help! Maybe its not a muffin pan after all!

    I have several cast iron skillets–one was my great great grandmothers!–and a comal (which I LOVE) a ridged griddle that I have to have some one else get off the pot rack it is so heavy!–the cute muffin pan and many Le Crueset pieces (and similar European brands) and I go-to those for all cooking needing even heat or oven use–for the “fast boil” pasta etc the OLD Revere Ware or Farberware is STILL the best—and when I find extra pieces at yard sales I sell them quite nicely!

  72. Thank you for the inspiration to get my cast iron out of the cabinet and back on the stove. I adore your blog!
    Angie in Tennessee

  73. I have a cast irón pot rusting away in the garage. I Hope i can
    Still save it!!! Thanks!

  74. Love this post! I haven’t quite gotten comfortable with my cast iron pans. I received them as presents new so they came with the Lodge seasoning on them. Mine aren’t smooth like yours, they’re a little bumpy. So, I can’t use paper towels on them because they shred it and I end up with white puffs all over my pans. When I tried seasoning with bacon grease, they ended up with a thick layer of grime even after having them in the oven upside down for a couple hours. I’ve got rust in one – trying the wiki how vinegar/water soak now. And my dutch oven one is just sticky and always has been. I’ve scrubbed it and never been able to get the stickiness off. I’ve re-seasoned it after scrubbing and it’s still sticky. I so want to use them everyday but am losing my patience! Coconut oil seems to keep a nicer finish on them and they do heat evenly… those about my only positives so far :(

    • Oh, that’s too bad, April! I haven’t had experience with a bumpy surface, so I’m not sure how to car for that. :( Maybe find a thrift store one to use and compare?

  75. I’m finally ready to dive into the world of Cast Iron and have put a few pieces on my Christmas list. I will definitely be bookmarking this page for all of the wonderful tips. I do have one question though… What recipe is everyone using to make the cornbread??? ;)

  76. THAAAAAAAANK YOU!!!! I am one of those who heard how great they were, bought them, got frustrated and put them in the back of the pantry. This post gives me new hope!! Again…. THANK YOU!!!!!! :)

  77. My pans have a crust on the bottom. How can I get it off?

    • Try scouring with salt, Pat, and a plastic scraper. You’ll need to re-season in the oven afterwards, but it should be good then!

      • First let me say I enjoyed your blog and all the comments associated with cast iron pan woes! We too have turfed out many a non-stick pan over the years. We have several cast iron frying pans, all sizes, as well as pots and griddles which I love. I was raised in a home where cast iron, that had been handed down from my Grandmother, was used daily. I, (and eventually my husband, who loves nothing more than a sink full of hot soapy water to wash dishes, and my cast iron pans! in), learned how to clean stuck on food by putting just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan; then sprinkle salt, regular table salt will do, liberally in the bottom; put the pan on the burner to heat up the water and “cook” the coating to loosen it from the bottom. You can use a spatula or scraper to loosen the food as it warms on the burner; scrape residue out and clean any remaining residue before seasoning according to the tips you, (Jami), gave and your pan is good as new! I hope this option helps and I look forward to learning/sharing more through your blog! :D

  78. I just starting using a cast iron skillet and every time I clean it and re-season it with oil, the paper towel is gray and ashy looking. I can’t get it to come clean. Is that normal? Do you have any suggestions?

    • That is normal, Rachel – it’s not dirty, that’s the iron (and what causes the food cooked in it to be a good source of iron in our diet!) and also some of the seasoning – you don’t want to rub it all off as that’s what gives the ‘non-stick’ surface. :)

      • Thank you for the quick reply, I really appreciate it! I really enjoy your blog, it’s full of great information – thanks for your hard work on it!

  79. I grew up with cast iron and never had any trouble!! I (big mistake) gave all my cast iron to a friend years ago!! I bought two lodge pre-seasoned skillets because I wanted them for searing steaks. I followed instr and have the biggest burned on mess!! I ended up using the self cleaning in my oven last week and have been seasoning them all day!! The first time I took them out of the oven they had large bumps all over!! They weren’t smooth to start with but not anywhere as bumpy as they are now!! I used crisco and wiped off any extra to make sure the coating wasn’t to thick!! Going to use for steaks tonight!! Any ready planning to self clean them again then try coconut oil!!

  80. paul legrand says:

    Hi,

    Do you need to clean the cast iron pan immediately after cooking? Or i can enjoy my meal first.

    Also i do not have hot water tap.

    • I usually dump some water in the pan before sitting down to eat, Paul – the heat from cooking works with the water to start loosening the bits of food and when it’s time to clean, it comes out easier. And for the hot water, I don’t mean a special tap, just the normal hot water that comes from your faucet. :)

      • paul legrand says:

        Hi, thanks for the tip.

        I am in Bangkok. I think you guys have two taps on with hot water and one with cold water.

        I only have cold water faucet. I can always boil water to clean the cast iron pan. But that is like kind of inconvenient.

  81. Hi. I have a question. I had stored my iron pan without usage for a year . I had it coated with olive oil. When i pull it out it had a strange smell to it and some oil was gathered at the bottom. i tried to clean it but it was a mess i ruined all my cleaning sponges the oil became very thick and dark. i soaped it , rinsed it and made a soup in it. Now i used a cup to pour the soup from pot to the plate when i looked at the cup it was stained with that oil i was trying to get off from the iron cast it had funny smell, the soup had funny taste and smell. i ate a bowl of soup still alive what do i do? thinking about discarding the rest of the soup. can i restore my iron cast pot to a better condition?

    • Sounds like the olive oil had gone rancid, Mayan. You’re right – it won’t kill you, but is not good for you either – I might get rid of the soup. :( Your pan should be as good as new after reasoning it in the oven – I think I have a link in this post to the steps I took to re-season my pan, just follow those steps and you’ll be enjoying your pan again!

  82. Deglazing will also get the old flavor out of the pan as well as clean it. Buy a carbon block at the restaurant supply store, the kind they clean grills with, use it to make the surface uniform (a new pan has cast pocks or machine lines in it) as the seasoning builds up. Be patient this may take a year or so, it did for my Ikea cast iron grill I use on the BBQ. My mother will not use water on cast iron, she only wipes it out with a paper towel. Been doing that for 70+ years after inheriting them from my grandmother. Those pans are pushing 100 and have never seen wash water, including the cast iron camping dutch oven (the one with legs and a flat top with a lip to hold hot coals) that my grandfather made fudge in. Grease will burn and cake on the exterior, then sluff off. Perfectly normal. Use any schmalz (rendered animal fat). We use both bacon schmalz and goose schmaltz (we are German and a Christmas Goose is always in order) to cook with and to grease the pan after use.

  83. Crystal says:

    I found a “corn dodger” pan in my mamaw’s garage after she passed away and I can not get all of the rust out of the little “kernels”. Anyone have any ideas? I thought about sandblasting it.

  84. Anonymous says:

    Once pan is seasoned, you do not have to use water to clean it in many instances. I use olive oil for my cooking, don’t let it burn. After cooking scrambled eggs, put a bit of olive oil in pan to wet the surfaces, use little spatula or paper towel – I use spatula to rub paper towel around not my fingers. After that, if anything still sticks, I may put a bit of hot water, but never leave it soaking with water in it unless it’s one that is older than your grandmother and has been seasoned for that many years. Lodge makes great new cast iron and paying more for american made that is quality pays off when you want to keep it and use for a long time.

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