Real talk: If you don’t own a cast iron skillet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. I guess there are lots of things to cook in, but I’ve never found anything quite like cast iron. They’re cheap, they last forever, and if treated properly, are less sticky than all the teflon in the world. However, it takes some time and energy to properly season a cast iron skillet. So, I’m here to help you out.
First, you need to know when a cast iron skillet needs to be seasoned. If food is sticking to the skillet, it’s time to re-season. If it’s new, it’s time. (Don’t believe this pre-seasoned business.)
First, you need to break a major cast iron rule. You’ll need to scrub your skillet with soap and hot water. A regular kitchen sponge should do the trick, but steel wool (used gently) is also an option. If your skillet is new, you can skip this step. After the skillet is clean, put it on the stove over low heat until it’s dry.
Next, you’ll need some Crisco (vegetable shortening). Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of Crisco in the skillet. Using a folded paper towel held with kitchen tongs, spread the melted Crisco over the bottom of the skillet and on the interior sides. It’s important to make sure there isn’t too much Crisco. It should coat every surface, but there shouldn’t be any extra hanging around. Make sense?
Set the oven to 350 degrees and place two racks in the center of the oven. On the top rack, put the skillet upside down. Below it, put a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch drippings from the skillet. In an ideal world, it would be lined with tin foil, but not if you’re me and you’re out of tin foil.
Leave the skillet in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and allow the skillet to come to room temperature in the oven.
Repeat this process (minus the scrubbing!) 3-4 more times for best results.
Once you have this well-seasoned cast iron skillet, there are a few rules you’ll need to follow in order to maintain the seasoning.
1. When cooking with a well-seasoned skillet, use the same sorts of oils that you normally would. You can probably use less, though. Butter, olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, whatever. Do as you wish.
2. Cleaning a cast iron skillet is a whole different kind of dish-washing. Generally, just use a folded paper towel held with kitchen tongs and dipped in a little olive oil to wipe away any leftovers while the skillet is still hot. If that’s not enough, put some water in the pan and let it simmer, then gently scrape the food off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. If the pan cools before you get a chance to clean it, you can use a completely soap-less sponge to work some of the food off the pan. Remember, the pan is always going to feel greasy, because it’s seasoned! Moral of the story–NO SOAP!
3. Make sure the skillet gets dry before you put it away. It doesn’t like to sit there being wet. So, when you’re done cleaning it, put it on the stove on low heat until the water has evaporated.
That’s it! You’re the new owner of a well-seasoned and well-maintained cast iron skillet. Congratulations! Prepare to loose every other skillet you own.