Taking care of your Favorite Cast Iron

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Fads in for pots and pans come and go. Copper, non stick, two sided! If a pan starts it’s life out on tv infomercial you’re not likely to see it in my kitchen. As a matter of fact a few years ago I threw out all my pots and pans and when my family asked what I wanted for Christmas I said, “Cast Iron Pots and Pans Please!” I have since accumulated a variety of shapes and sizes and they are the only ones I use with the exception of one pot to boil water. I’ll explain more about that later.

While they take more maintenance than your average pans they will last you a lifetime if you take care of them.

I remember my mom using cast iron pans when I was a little girl which she’s still using today mind you but it was my father in law is who really sparked my love of cast iron.  We have Sunday evening family dinners at the cabin all winter long before they buzz back to the coast for the spring and summer. My father in law does the bulk of the cooking for these dinners. So your meal is always cooked one of four ways. The smoker, his grill, in cast iron over the fireplace or on his wood cook stove. So being surrounded by family, friends and good food that is served right from the steaming pot I quickly associated the cast iron pans with comfort and love.  

Some of his cast iron came from estate sales but most were passed down from his parents and grandparents and are special to him. So when it time to clean up dinner we take extra care to be sure that someday our own kids will look at these pots and pans and remember family dinners cooked with love and share that with their own families.

Enough of my story…. you’re here to learn how to take care of your pots and pans right?

   

BRUSHES AND SCRUBBERS

For years I scrubbed my pieces with a normal piece of steel wool or scrubber until someone gifted me a chainmail!  Yes! Chainmail! From fierce knights to cast iron pans this stuff is a life saver!  

I have the LauKingdom XXL Scrubber which has been great for all the varying sizes of pans I have but there are tons of options out there. I didn’t realize just how poor of a job I was doing with my regular scrubber or how hard I was working to really clean my pans until I used this item.

This little guy has also caught my eye because it allows for you to put a sponge or insert inside the chain mail.

And I always have a few scrapers on hand.  They are so handy for so many different things.

Is it necessary to have special scrubbers? Absolutely not! But they a valuable tool in our family for keeping our cast iron in good condition.

Soaps and Cleaners

While there are many cleaners on the market made just for cast iron I’m to be honest and tell you I’ve never ever purchased a special cleaner just for my pots and pans. As a matter of fact I use very little soap at all in cleaning my pans.

It’s widely debated as I’ve heard of people who use no soap and some who lather it up and watch the bubbles fly! There are cast iron cooks out there that not only do not use soap they don’t even use water. I’ve always been of the mind set that a little soap and water will not hurt if it’s minimal and not left there to soak.

If I have stuck on food I rely on my chainmail scrubbers and have even used a little coarse sea salt to help on tougher areas.

Here is what I do know… Do not ever let your cast iron pans sit in water overnight. It will seep into your pans and could cause internal rust. Plus who wants dirty dish water getting in your pots? Long exposure to water can break down the seasoning of your pieces.

Earlier I mentioned I kept one regular pot on hand and that’s to boil water.  The break down and damage to a cast iron pot from boiling water in it could greatly shorten the life of your pot. This would be essentially the same effect as letting it sit in water overnight.

If you tend to let your pots and pans sit and soak maybe cast iron is not for you but if you really love cast iron pans and don’t wash them immediately I suggest just leaving them on the stove for the evening.  

OIL AND DRYING

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Even the tiniest drop of water left on your pans will cause rust. So be sure you dry them well. After you have dried them always oil your pans to help keep seasoned and in good shape. I use a thin plastic shower cap over each pan when I store it to keep dust out. A paper towel will do the same thing for you in an effort to keep them clean between uses.

There are plenty of oils on the market made just for your cast iron skillets but the reality is any cooking oil will be perfect. I promise you my father in laws grandparents were not popping on amazon to buy special oils to season the pans we are still using today in our family.

This video from Cooking with Cast Iron is a good reference. They also share some of their own amazing cast iron recipes making this channel a valuable tool for any cast iron cook.

 

SEASONING 

If you’re new to cast iron then you’ve seen me use the word seasoning multiple times in this post and are probably wondering what that means. Seasoning your pans has multiple purposes. It gives the pan a nonstick surface and it helps keep it from rusting.  

The process of seasoning a new pan is simple. Coat it in a thin layer of oil and bake it for 60 minutes at 350 degrees. This will give you a base seasoning. You will oil your pots and pans each time you wash them. It’s what makes your pans last for many generations and is key to keeping them in good shape.

SOMETHINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

If you’ve never used a cast iron pan before but you’re thinking of jumping in lets talk about a few things first.

Care is essential to your pans. I think we’ve established that above.

Cast Iron takes longer to warm up but it stays hot much longer!  If your thinking of buying your first pan be sure to pick up silicone handle covers. The entire pan gets hot and without doubt you will grab the handle without a thought and burn your hand. It took me many times of jumping around the kitchen yelling, “hot hot hot!!!” before it sunk in.

Newer pans come both seasoned and unseasoned. Just be sure you look over the description if you would prefer to skip that process.

There are so many shapes and sizes so you should have no problem finding pans to fit your family’s needs. I recently saw a Wok which intrigued me but this Dutch Oven is next on my list to purchase.

So what’s in your cart? Better yet…. What’s in your skillet?

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