A cast iron pan is an essential piece of equipment for any cook. It not only transitions from grill to stovetop to oven with ease, but it’s versatile enough to sear steaks and seafood or bake fluffy frittatas and cakes. What’s more, the durable material improves over time, forming a natural nonstick seasoning that’s even better than chemical coatings. Cast iron is practically indestructible, so long as you know how to clean and handle it.
Cast iron heats slowly, but thoroughly, staying hot far longer than stainless steel pans. They also can withstand the high temperatures of an oven or grill, making them great kitchen workhorses. The more a skillet is used and seasoned, the less food will stick. Because cast iron skillets are heavy, their handles are usually short so the pan is easier to pick up.
Keeping the cast iron skillet clean is probably the most important step in maintaining its longevity. Never soak your skillet, and use soap sparingly. It’s best to scrub your dirty cast iron solely with a brush or abrasive sponge and hot water while the pan is still warm. To prevent rust, set the skillet over a burner on low heat so water can evaporate, then wipe the interior with a few drops of vegetable oil.
If you accidentally strip off your pan’s seasoning, don’t fret. You can re-season a cast iron skillet by coating the pan, inside and out, with a thin layer of neutral oil, like vegetable oil. Then, put it in an oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for up to four hours. Make sure you reapply oil every time you wash to rebuild that precious coating!