Caring for Cast Iron & Why it’s the Best
Cast iron skillets are the bomb. Seriously, they are bad ass beasts and everyone should have one. Sadly, a lot of people seem disinterested because of the “maintenance” and misconceptions, such as “They rust easily!” (not if you take care of them) or “You’re not supposed to clean them, so that’s gross!” (No, you’re gross.)
I have two cast iron skillets and I use them for just about everything. Everything except stir frying, because you would need Hulk wrists to quickly flick a cast iron skillet in order to get the proper motions for stir frying.
Why is cast iron the besty best and better than the rest?
Cast iron is durable. Cast iron cookware is fabricated with the same base material that builds engine blocks. (WHOA!) So, it’s safe to say that they will last a very, very long time. A lifetime, maybe. You might want to put your cast iron skillet in your will.
Cast iron boosts iron absorption. Cast iron skillets are fabulous for pescetarians like myself, or people who are on plant-based diets. Even though it sounds myth-erific, cooking in cast iron does, in fact, boost iron absorption making it a great vessel for cooking non-heme iron sources (along with sources of Vitamin C, which can increase your absorption up to five times). SCIENCE.
It’s a safe non-stick surface. Unlike Teflon, which offers the possibility of releasing dangerous toxic fumes when overheated, cast iron offers a non-stick surface that won’t harm you or your pets. As long as you take care of it and season it properly, your cast iron skillet should be your go-to for non-stick needs.
It retains heat. If you’re making something in your cast iron skillet and you want to also serve it in your cast iron skillet–because it’s all beautiful and rustic and shit–you’re in luck. Cast iron retains heat much longer than other cooking vessels and your food will likely stay hot for the entire meal.
The older, the better. I tend to believe that–like all things old school–the older the cast iron, the better the quality. Things were crafted with care back in the day. One of my cast iron skillets is from my late grandmother and it’s still in tip top shape. The other one is newer–we’ll see how that holds up. Basically all I’m saying is that if you can get your hands on a hand-me-down, AWESOME. If not, no big deal. Cast iron is cast iron. I’m just a sucker for good craftsmanship.
They are versatile as f*#!. I use my cast iron for pretty much everything. Frying, roasting, baking, broiling, sautéing, searing… everything. You can put it on the stove top, in the oven, on the grill, or over a campfire. If an intruder breaks into your home, you can also use it as a weapon and whack them over the head with it. If you aren’t sold yet, then I give up.
I couldn’t think of any real justifiable cons for cast iron myself, but I figured there had to be some. So, I hit the trusty World Wide Web and found some humorous cons to share.
They are heavy. Do you even lift?
It’s easier to burn yourself. Maybe you should exercise caution in the kitchen and not be a total n00b, huh? How’s that for a burn?
They are susceptible to rust. Well, humans are susceptible to stink but we avoid that by taking care of ourselves, right?
They require more maintenance. Ah, the reason why I wanted to write about Caring for Your Cast Iron and Why it’s the Best in the FIRST place. The “maintenance”, which basically includes salting, wiping, rinsing, drying, moisturizing, and putting it away. Hard tasks are hard. We get it.
Finally–to use soap, or not to use soap. There are two types of people out there: people who believe you can use soap on cast iron, and people who believe you shouldn’t. I was taught under the old school belief that you should not use soap on cast iron because it meddles with the seasoning of the pan. My method has served me well and my cast iron skillets are still looking brilliant, so I’ve happily stuck to my routine. Some say that scrubbing with a bit of soap will not interfere with the seasoning. Part of me thinks that this idea comes from the brigade of paranoid anti-bacterial folk out there. I’m 110% cool with using a natural salt scrub and heat to kill bacteria, but hey–it’s your cast iron.
One thing you truly do need to avoid, and even the pro-sudsy people will agree, is letting your cast iron soak in water. This is a big HELL NO. It will damage your skillet and can cause rusting.
K, let’s do this.
Dirty skillet is dirty.
Here is my skillet, after use, once it’s cooled down.
The first thing I do is throw approx. 1 tablespoon of coarse salt into that bad boy.
Then I take a sponge or coarse cloth (don’t use steel wool or anything of that sort), and I rub the pan down in a circular motion to pick up all of that grease and grit.
It stinks, but look, it works!
After a nice salty scrub down, I rinse the skillet with water. If I still see some grub, I scrub it off and rinse again until the skillet is grub-less.
Once the pan is cleaned, I dry it thoroughly with a towel and place it on the stove top over a low flame for a few minutes to lend a hand in the drying process. Heating it up also kills bacteria. A salt scrub + heat = bye, bacteria! So soap can “gtfo”, if you know what I’m sayin’.
That is not a “low flame”, but it looked cooler.
After allowing the skillet to sit over a low flame for approx. 5 minutes or so , I turn off the heat and let the skillet cool down again.
Next: it’s moisturizin’ time! I treat this step as the post-shower lotioning. Nothing feels better after a hot shower than lotioning yourself, right? Well, the skillet agrees.
I use approx. 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening to moisturize my skillets. You can also use oil. With a paper towel, I rub it in, moving in a circular motion.
Make sure to grease up the edges as well as the bottom surface.
How happy and clean does this skillet look?
See? No soap used and it’s sparkly as f^$*.
Store it in a dry place until next time.
My placement of choice is inside the oven.