So you’ve bought a new cast iron pan, and are revved up and ready to cook, but hold it right there! You didn’t spend a small fortune on this pan so you could ruin it on your first meal.
Cast iron cookware requires some tender love and care, so I’m going to share the secrets of seasoning and treating what will be your favorite kitchen addition.
Getting Started with Cast Iron Cookware
Before you start using your cast iron cookware, there are a few things to consider.
1. Grease That Skillet
The most important thing to do with your cast iron cookware is to season it. Seasoning basically refers to using fat (such as coconut oil, lard or tallow) to add a natural, protective coating to cast iron pots and pans to prevent rusting and allow for non-stick cooking. The fat is heated on the pan, a process called polymerization, to add that protective coating. It can take several layers of seasoning to season a pan, but once it’s properly seasoned cast iron pans are similar to non-stick cookware.
2. Cook with Healthy Fats
Once a pan has been seasoned, it usually doesn’t need to be seasoned again – as long as a generous amount of fat is used to cook the food. This adds flavor and healthy fats (such as coconut oil, lard, tallow or ghee) to skillet dishes, and keeps the cast iron surface smooth and non-stick – similar to Teflon (but without the toxic chemicals).
Avoid cooking with vegetable oils, such as canola, cottonseed, soybean, grapeseed, and rapeseed oils. These oils are highly refined and processed, increase inflammation in the body, and can cause a number of health issues.
3. Don’t Wash, Rinse
After each use, rinse the cast iron pan with water and use a metal scrubber to get rid of excess food. Then let air dry. Do NOT use soapy water to clean the pan. Soap will remove that protective coating. The pan should have a slight greasy feel to it. In a pinch, it’s fine to way spot wash the handle and bottom of pan with a little soap. Just be sure none gets into the cooking area of the pan.
If the pan is washed with soapy water, just season it again. And if a pan has rust, wash with soap water and use a metal scrubber. Then season the pan to add that protective coating. Keep reading to learn how to season a pan.
4. Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron
Unless you got a cast iron skilled from your grandmother, chances are the cast iron cookware you’re using has been pre-seasoned. Cast iron cookware manufacturers do this to save you time from having to season a pan on your own. The only problem is that the oil typically used by manufacturers to season cast iron cookware is soybean oil – which is one of the worst cooking oils available.
You can remove the pre-seasoned oil by using a metal scrubber and some soapy water and kosher salt (along with a little muscle) to remove the pre-seasoned coating. This might take a few scrubs back and forth, again and again, to remove the coating. Once it’s gone, season the pan with a healthy fat.
5. Avoid Cooking Acidic Foods
Acid and cast iron cookware do not mix well. Acidic foods will actually absorb the color and taste of your cast iron pots and pans. Think about it, do you want the taste of metal in your tomato sauce? Use stainless steel cookware instead for acidic foods, like tomatoes
How to Season Cast Iron Cookware
Ready to season your cast iron skillet or pan? Here’s a quick tutorial on how you can do it.
What You’ll Need
1. Scrub, Scrub, Scrub
Pour half a cup of kosher salt into your cookware and scrub with paper towel. Cast iron cookware is extremely porous, so the kosher salt with help to remove any dust or impurities that have become lodged in the metal.
Once you’ve scrubbed your cookware inside and out, wash it with hot water and dish soap. Now, preheat your oven to 400ºF so it’s ready for step 3.
Very important – Dry your cast iron cookware very well! You do not want the pot or pan to have any leftover moisture on it when you begin the next step.
2. Oil Up
Add 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil to a pan or paper towel and cover it in a thick layer of oil.
3. Turn Up the Heat
After the pan is slathered in oil, place it on your oven at 450ºF for 30 minutes, or until the surface is significantly darker than before. If your oven starts to smoke don’t worry, just have a towel ready to clear the smoke from your fire alarm.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your pan is completely black (usually takes about 3 or 4 oil layers and heating sessions). In between each process, make sure that you give your cookware a chance to cool down to room temperature before covering it with oil again.
After that, you’ll have a perfectly seasoned cast iron pot, pan or skillet. Enjoy cooking your next meal!
Where to Get Kitchen Pantry Essentials
I get my other kitchen pantry supplies like sea salt, black pepper, spices, coconut oil, and other essentials either on Amazon or my local health food store usually. But then I got a Thrive membership. If you don’t already have one – it’s awesome! It’s like Whole Foods meets Costco. Bob’s Red Mill baking soda, for instance, is about $3 at my local health food store and $6 on Amazon. But it’s only $2.03 (YES!) on Thrive Market. Great deal right? And the raw honey?! Don’t even get me started how much that costs at the health food store. But on Thrive Market it’s just $5.45 for a 10.5 oz jar of raw honey.
Sign up for a Thrive Market membership and get an extra 20% off your first 3 orders!
p.s. Looking for tips to transition to a real food or healthy gluten-free lifestyle? Check out my free Real Food Guide email course and e-book.