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How to Care for a Cast Iron Skillet

Updated on May 1, 2013
A cast iron skillet awaits its next meal
A cast iron skillet awaits its next meal

From seasoning to cleaning

A cast iron skillet is a family heirloom if you care for the it correctly. They gather flavors over decades and cook as well as cookware ten times more expensive. But a cast iron skillet needs to be cared for, that is, seasoned and cleaned properly. Learn how to care for a cast iron skillet.

Seasoning The Skillet

It is rare that you will find a new cast iron skillet for sale that is not pre-seasoned. The label clearly tells you. It is possible, however, for a skillet to be stripped of its seasoning if it is washed with soap or–*gasp*–put in the dishwasher.

All is not lost.

To season (or re-season) a skillet. Wipe the pan, inside and out, with a generous layer of oil. It is best to use canola or vegetable oil for this. Then bake the skillet at 300 degrees for about an hour.

When you finish, the pan will feel tacky to the touch. This is normal. Wipe the skillet again with oil.

Depending on how well you want the skillet seasoned, you may want to repeat this process a few more times.The key, however, is caring for your skillet properly. Proper care will do the real work of seasoning the skillet over time.

Caring for a Cast Iron Skillet

The most important part of caring for your skillet it is how you clean it. When you have finished cooking, while the pan is still hot. Pour a cup of water into the pan. Scrape the pan with a spatula while the water steams. Then rinse the pan with water. Never use soap to clean a cast iron anything.

If the skillet is especially dirty or has food stuck to it, pour 1/4 cup of salt into the skillet with 1/4 a cup of water and use a rag to grind off any food particles. Rinse with water.

Some people recommend wiping the skillet with oil after every use. I find this unnecessary. I wipe mine only occasionally, when it has lost its sheen. It is a good idea to do this once in a while.

Restoring a rusted cast iron skillet

I have seen cast iron skillets and other cast iron cook ware such as dutch ovens and cornbread molds at antique shops that are rusted. It is possible to restore these items to their previous glory.

Begin by following the steps for cleaning using generous amounts of salt and scrubbing. Continue cleaning in this way until you have removed all surface rust. Then, follow the steps for seasoning the cast iron cookware. In the end it should look good as new.


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  • Woodson profile image

    Woodson 9 years ago from Minnesota


    I love it for eggs and home fries. You just can't get a comparable flavor out of a non-stick.

  • RGraf profile image

    Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

    I love using a cast iron skillet. I grew up with that being one of the main cooking tools.

    Thanks for bringing back memories.