Cast iron pans are incredible, but can be intimidating to cook with– how do I clean them? are there special rules? what exactly should I use them for?? Keep reading for the 15 things you need to know about cooking with cast iron.
The links below may be affiliate links, meaning I earn a small compensation at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure policy here.
Our cast iron pans were formerly reserved only for camping trips. Mainly because I had NO CLUE how to take care of them, or really how to use them at all. So they were kept stored in the cabinet until the one week out of the year where my husband was in charge of all the cooking.
A few years ago, though, I decided it was time to figure out how to cook with cast iron and I haven’t looked back since.
When I tell you that I love our cast iron collection as much as I love my Instant Pot collection, you know it’s serious.
In this post:
- Benefits of cooking with cast iron
- 15 things you need to know about cooking with cast iron
- Recommended pans and accessories
- A GIVEAWAY of a favorite cast iron pans!
Keep reading for all the good stuff, and be sure to go all the way to the end so you can enter to win TWO of our favorite cast iron pans. After you finish, be sure to check out the newest video on YouTube so you can see all of these tips and recipes in action!
Benefits of cooking with cast iron ::
If you’re like three-years-ago-me, reluctant to cook with cast iron or not seeing the value, let me show you the light…
- Cast iron is durable. Really, really durable. As in, can last you a lifetime durable. There’s not much in the kitchen that this could be said for.
- Cast iron improves with time. Again, how many kitchen tools actually get better the more you use them? The more you cook with your cast iron pans, the better the seasoning will be.
- Cast iron is inexpensive. Yes, you read that right. Even though they could last the rest of your life, they won’t break the bank to buy them. We LOVE Lodge cast iron pans (more about them in a minute), because the quality is amazing and the price is on point. (We’ve used the $200+ fancy pans and greatly prefer our Lodge pans!)
- Cast iron is versatile. Just like my Instant Pot, I can easily use a cast iron pan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My griddle especially, is a workhorse in my kitchen. I might use it for eggs and bacon for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and steak or burgers for dinner.
- Cast iron is easy to clean. Okay, so cleaning cast iron was initially a big hurdle for me, but once you learn the basics, it’s seriously a breeze.
- Cast iron is healthy. Cooking on cast iron is a great way to get extra iron in your diet, which for many of us is a huge perk!
- Cast iron cooks food well. Cast iron maintains heat well and cooks food evenly, resulting in less energy usage and better searing and sautéing.
15 Things You Need to Know About Cooking with Cast Iron
Now that you’ve seen the light and are ready to try cooking with cast iron, you’ll need to know a handful of basic principles to get you started on the right foot.
Or maybe you’ve been cooking with cast iron pans for years, but can pick up on a new tip or trick!
This video is a short overview of the basic principles, but be sure to watch the longer version on YouTube to get all the tips and recipe ideas!
COOKING TIPS ::
1. Preheat your pan before cooking.
Always give your pan 5-10 minutes to preheat before starting to cook for best results, ESPECIALLY when searing meat.
2. Cook over medium heat at most.
Generally, medium heat is the highest setting you will need to use with your cast iron pans. Cooking food at too high of a heat is one of the most common mistakes with cast iron and can be a first cause of your food sticking to the pan. Lower heat prevents sticking.
(The one exception I use to this rule is when I cook my London Broil, I heat the griddle to medium high for a really good sear).
3. Use wooden, metal, or silicon cooking tools.
Cast iron is great because you can use whatever cooking tools you want! Personally, I love my wooden spoons, metal tongs, and my small silicon spatulas.
4. Don’t move food too often while cooking.
This is such an easy yet impactful tip to put into practice! If you move your food too soon, or too often, you are preventing it from browning or searing well. Plus, letting your food build up a sear is another great way to prevent sticking.
Add your food, toss it with whatever fats/oil and seasoning you are using, then leave it alone to let it cook. This is one occasion where less is more when it comes to stirring.
5. Start with ingredients at room temperature for more even cooking.
Whenever possible, take your meat and/or vegetables out of the fridge or freezer before you need them to give them time to come to room temperature.
6. Avoid sliding pans on cook surface.
This is a rule specific to glass top stoves. I get asked a LOT about if cast iron is safe on glass top stoves. The answer is yes, but you just want to be careful to set the pans down gently and avoid sliding hot pans around on the stove.
7. Keep a potholder handy for the handle.
We do prefer a small potholder or oven mitt over the silicon handle covers since the silicon covers tend to slide and move around when you are holding the pan.
DAILY CARE ::
8. For little messes, wipe clean with a paper towel or rag under hot water.
For everyday cleaning, soap is not necessary and can take away the seasoning on your pan. If you do not have a lot of food stuck to your pan, putting it under hot water and wiping it down is usually sufficient to get it clean.
9. For bigger messes, bring a cup of water to a simmer in the pan, then scrape with a stainless mesh square or nylon scrubber brush under hot water.
When you have more food stuck to the pan, heating water in the pan and then cleaning it helps tremendously to release the stuck food. We really like our stainless steel chainmail scrubber for these cleaning jobs.
10. Always dry your pan completely.
It is very important to dry the pan entirely as soon as you finish rinsing it. Leaving water on the pan can lead to rust.
11. Avoid rapid temperature changes.
Never put a hot pan under cold water. Use hot water to rinse and clean your pans.
12. Rub with a light layer of cooking oil, preferably while the pan is still warm.
You can use a variety of cooking oils, but flaxeseed oil is one of the strongest and best oils to use. Each time after you clean your pan, rub a quarter size amount of oil over the entire surface. Make sure you do not leave a thick coating or pools of oil anywhere on the pan. You just want a thin layer. Using too much oil lead to food sticking.
13. It’s time to refinish your pan when your food is sticking, or you see rust, or the surface appears dull and gray.
We re-season our pans as needed, every few months or so. The process is simple and will help to keep your pans in good condition.
14. Wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse and dry completely.
You want to get the pan completely clean, and in this case, soap is good to use. You are preparing your pan for the seasoning in the next step.
15. Apply a very thin layer of oil, then bake upside down in a 400 degree oven for at least 1 hour or until the oil is completely hard and no longer sticky. Let the pan cool in the oven.
This step can take a little while, so it’s best to do it on a day when you will be around the house so you can reapply the oil as needed. You want to repeat this process 2-3 times, until you achieve a deep, coal black finish.
You can print all of these tips on a handy reference sheet to keep on hand in your kitchen as you are learning the ropes with cooking with cast iron.
Recommended Cast Iron Pans and Accessories
Basically, we love Lodge pans. All the Lodge pans. They are great quality and come pre-seasoned and ready to go. These are the ones we have in our kitchen:
- 10″ Cast Iron Skillet
- 12″ Cast Iron Skillet
- 20″ Reversible Griddle (read a review and tips specific to this griddle here)
- 10″ Cast Iron Round Griddle
- Stainless Steel Chainmail Scrubber
- Flaxseed Oil
Share the love month! Giveaway #1!
Whew! If you have stuck with me in this thorough post (I’m nothing if not thorough!), then your reward is a chance to win TWO Lodge pans!
This is the first of four giveaways I will be doing for Share The Love Month, so be sure to stick around so you don’t miss the other great giveaways of my favorite things!
Sign up for the newsletter: