My Beginners Guide to Cast Iron Cooking

So what’s the intrigue with cast iron cookware? How about it’s non-stick properties and its durability. How about the facet that it can be passed down generations, if treated properly it gets better with age, and can stand the test of time. Many people are blessed with cast iron cookware that is a century old. I am not one of those people but I am jumping on the cast iron bandwagon. A few years ago I was a yard sale junkie!! I would set aside yard sale money each month and spend my Saturdays driving around, scouring the area for the best deals. Much of the time I bought things because they were a good deal, not because I needed it! One item I happened to purchase was a cast iron skillet, to this day I can not even tell you why I did it because I had no clue on how to use it properly. So as you can imagine, I washed it without even thinking of researching proper techniques. I also set it on my side board to dry, and without a hitch it began to rust. YUCK!! I didn’t even know what to do at that moment, so I just put it in a giveaway pile.

Flash forward a few years and I began to become more health conscious, I moved away from Teflon coated pans to all stainless steel cookware. There is debate on the safety of Teflon and I think that is a personal issue but for my family I chose to do way with Teflon all together. I love the ease of stainless steel cookware, you can scrub it with steel wool without any problems and if your handles are not coated in plastic you can place the cookware in the oven to finish cooking. I have begun to spend more of my time in kitchen; I cook more foods at home and I cook more from scratch. After watching cooking shows and seeing more foods being cooked in cast iron cookware I became more intrigued and interested in having some of my own.

My husband graciously purchased a large cast iron skillet for me this Christmas from Amazon.

This time I was determined to not destroy this skillet and make it work for me. So I began to research how to care for the skillet; one thing I learned is that pre-seasoned does not mean its ready to use!! So below is my step by step process to starting your own cast iron cookware legacy.

First, you MUST clean the cookware with hot soap and water–yes, I did say soap. This is the only time you will and should use soap on your cast iron. Scrub the cookware with sponge that has a good scrubby part, such as the scotch brite. Now scrub, Scrub, and SCRUB…the inside and outside of the pan. You will see the suds turn black, this is a good thing. Just keep scrubbing and rinse the pan well.

Next, dry the pan. Pretty simple. Dry it inside and out.

Now, here comes the fun part of really seasoning your pan! First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees (this is where I started and I will comment more on this below) and line the bottom rack with aluminum foil (I put a cookie sheet on mine because I did not have aluminum foil). You are going to need a good fat. I have read that some people used liquid oils but after further research I found that a solid fat was a better choice. I used what I had in my cupboard, which was good ol’ shortening. I used a paper towel to coat the pan inside and out with shortening. Place your pan in the oven UPSIDE DOWN! Does this matter…I believe it does because it keeps the shortening from pooling in one area. Now set the timer for 1 hour and walk away. Go knit, read, or dance to some music 🙂

In a few minutes you might begin so have a strong odor filling your kitchen. It can be overwhelming if its winter and you can not open a window. If you open the oven door you might be greeted with some dark smoke. DON’T PANIC!! Just turn down the oven temp a bit, I turned mine down to 375 degrees and the smoke stopped. Once the timer goes off, turn your oven off and let the pan cool in the oven. When it’s cooled down, take a look at your beautiful seasoned cast iron cookware and get ready to cook!!
My first meal I cooked in my skillet was deer tenderloins and onions. Remember that the cookware will get better the more you cook fats in it, so I slathered the pan in butter! The biggest beauty of the cookware was how easy it was to clean. First, it is easiest to clean the pan when it is still warm. All you need is hot water and a cloth. Then be sure to dry the pan immediately, also you can put the pan on the stove on a low heat for about ten minutes to make sure it is really dry. This will also help to thicken the seasoning. **I have had my pan for four months and I love using it—I will be sharing some of my recipes and techniques in the future**

Happy Cast Iron Cooking!!

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