Properly handling a cast iron skillet is one of many classic American cooking techniques. For many years, all pans were made of cast iron, but they fell out of fashion when readymade nonstick pans took over the kitchen. However, cast iron skillets have benefits that there more modern counterparts lack. Cast iron skillets not only retain heat better, but also reduce risk of being exposed to harmful fumes or debris from modern day nonstick pans. Another benefit is that metal utensils can be used with cast irons without any fear of scratching away bits of the material. These classic cooking vessels have seen a resurgence in contemporary American cuisine. Cast iron skillets require little upkeep, but there are rules to ensuring your pan stays a permanent fixture of your kitchen. Here are some tips for taking care of your cast iron skillet:
When you purchase a cast iron skillet, it is first essential to properly season it. Though some cast irons come pre-seasoned, most of them need to be coated to create a nonstick surface. First wash out the cast iron with hot water. Never use dish soap, as it will damage the pan. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat the skillet with cooking oil to create a nonstick barrier and then place it in the oven for an hour. This will allow the oil to break down and coat the pan, helping to make it nonstick and prevent it from rusting. When you remove the skillet, dab it off with paper towels and let it cool. Occasionally pans need to be reseasoned.
Cast iron skillets need to be cleaned immediately after use and should never be left to air dry. Any water left to evaporate will likely leave rust spots. Don’t ever put a cast iron in the dishwasher or clean it with steel wool. This may sound like a lot of specific rules, but cast irons are easily cleaned with hot water and paper towels. Salt can be used to help scour the surface. Cast iron skillets can essentially last forever when cleaned properly.
Remember to use a hot pad or dry towel when picking up your cast iron skillet, as the handle will get extremely hot. When using metal utensils, try not to scrape the pan too hard as it may scratch away at the seasoning (though these utensils will not damage the pan itself).