Caring for Cast Iron

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Caring for Cast Iron

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

A cast iron skillet is a chef’s staple and a worthwhile investment.  Typically, a standard size produces crispy pie crust, lovely seared meats and fish, crunchy home fries, scrumptiously browned biscuits and cornbread, caramelized desserts, tasty braises, and whole roasts.  You can even splurge for enameled exteriors in lovely colors, or shapes to fit your exact needs like cornstick pans, griddles, and Dutch ovens.

But unless you use your cast iron regularly and clean it diligently, chances are you’ve experienced some maintenance problems. 

Here’s our guide for optimal cast iron performance…

Seasoning (ie. sealing the metal with oil)
Most new American cast iron comes pre-seasoned, meaning it’s factory-treated for less food sticking, better flavor, even cooking, and easier cleaning.  However, you will need to follow package instructions before first use, which will most likely be cleaning with hot water and light seasoning by rubbing with neutral food-grade oil such as vegetable oil.

It’s best to season your cast iron with a light oil coating between uses, especially if you don’t cook with it much (frequent users will naturally “grandfather” in accumulated oils and flavors).

For serious refurbishing, we’ve got a quick video on how to season cast-iron by coating it with a thick layer of vegetable oil and putting it an oven preheated to 350 degrees for about an hour.  This is more like a deep-cleaning: not the fastest, but the oven does all the work.  It’s great after periods of disuse, or if you notice uneven cooking, stickiness, dulling, or rusting.

Always preheat; cast iron should be heated low and slow. Many baking recipes will recommend you preheat your oven with your oiled cast iron vessel already inside.  For stovetop, some prefer cooking with low heat, as iron holds a fairly constant temperature once established. 

Pick utensils that won’t scratch the surface (or melt).

Never refrigerate, freeze, or submerge your cast-iron. 

Cleaning (ASAP!)
Try to simply wipe out your cast iron while it’s still hot, using vegetable oil and wadded paper towels.  This way, you are seasoning instead of stripping away.

Ideally, “cleaning” doesn’t entail heavy scrubbing, which can remove the seasoned coating and damage the metal itself.  Some cast iron purists will say never use soap.  Manufacturers recommend only mild soap if any, applied with a non-abrasive sponge or stiff brush (no metal or plastic).

Water can be used, but be careful with hot cast iron.  Avoid cold water and submerging, which is unsafe and may cause cracking. 

DO NOT put cast iron in the dishwasher.

Dry your cast-iron immediately and thoroughly after cleaning with water, as iron rusts.  Water also gets into the pores and affects flavor.

Minimize rust by storing with the lid off (if applicable) and a paper towel on top to soak up remaining moisture.

Don’t panic – remove rust with additional applications of oil.

Cast Iron Recipes!
Minted Lamb
Okra Fritters
Baked Tilapia
Easy Blueberry Skillet Cake

Read More From Kitchen Basics.

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Reader Comments:


I have used my cast iron for over 50 years and have washed it with soap and water and it is still fine and does not have a build up on the outside, and does not rust.

By Anita Adair on August 15, 2014


i watch your shows the meals you make seem so easy &look; so good i wish i could cook like that.

By labinda thomas on February 05, 2013


I love what am seeing,moreso great work you are doing there,i wish i could have a test of it.Good job

By Samuels22887140 on November 19, 2012


Although I own cookware in just about every material, from glass to stainless to non-stick, cast iron is my go-to every time! Even when camping, we go cast iron Dutch Oven style. I've been cooking for forty years and haven't found anything better.

By Shay McIntosh on November 13, 2012


Thanks, Paula I love cast iron even more since I learn how to take care of them. I'm a countrygirl from Arkansas. I grew up watching my grandma cook with cast iron, but never learn how she took care of them. Thanks from country girl in SinCity grin

By Trimeka on November 10, 2012


Hi, I did what the site said about putting oil in my cast iron pans and putting them in the oven for a hour on 350 degrees. They came out splotchee. They have a real shine on parts of the frying pan and sticky; other spots are dull looking. Do I need to rinse them in plain water and oil them again and then bake them in the oven again. It is also that way on the side walls of the pans. Thank you for your help. Barbara Mattera

By Barbara Mattera on November 09, 2012


I was wondering as the topic was cast iron skillets. I have some along with a stainless steel and some none stick. I was wondering if there were foods that cook better in any given skillet? I tend to gravitate to the none stick anodised. Thanks love your shows. Michele

By michele bensch on November 09, 2012


I need to know how to make the chocolate icing that Paula had on her cake mixes box. Please I love the taste. ALso, how about the cake mix receipe too. thanks a bunch karen

By karen on November 09, 2012


I routinely use my cast iron skillet combo for "savory" foods. I clean and store it using the guidelines above. I would like to use it for desserts also, however, the couple of times I've done so, the food has a sort of "off" flavor - garlicy, oniony, etc. I've tried soaking in baking soda before use, but, the off-taste remains. I'm thinking of purchasing a 2nd skillet I can dedicate for "sweets", but, before I do, does anyone have ideas for solving the flavor issue? Thanks!

By Chris Calkins on November 09, 2012


Thank You for your directions on cleaning cast iron pans. I have one and didn't know for sure how to clean it. So thank you for the information. Also, I am waiting for a cookbook from Paula for diabetics. I hope one is in the making.

By Darlene Mitchie on November 09, 2012


I don't have cast iron...but am really just interested in those wonderful looking biscuits with some butter...Paula....LOL....Suzanne Byrd, VA.

By Suzanne Byrd on November 08, 2012


Thanks for the info. I love using my cast iron skillet. But didn't know how to keep it from rusting. Thanks so much. When are you coming to Bolingbrook or close to it so I can get one of you book sign. Love you show and recipes. We cook alike ( BUTTER )that the way my grandma cooked.

By Jo Ann Aguilar on November 07, 2012


I am looking for a recipe on How to make Corn brean in a cast iron skillet with Collard Greens on the Bottom. I had a friend bring this dish to a christmas party & it was a Sothern dish. Cornbread was golden & sweet on top collarsd greens were smokey tender & salty on the bottom! It was Heaven!

By Shelly Steele on November 06, 2012


Paula,You are about the sweetest lady I know. I don't really know you,except thru your cooking shows etc. I sure wish I could have the opportunity to meet you. I have two cast iron skillets, one used to belong to my mother, it is black and I treasure it as my 92 year old mother passed away on Christmas morning 2009 and boy I sure miss her. Anyway, the other one is red. Iuse the black one the most. thanks for the tips on keeping them clean. I am a 68 year old grandmother of four and great grandmother of four wild boys. paula, thanks again for the tips. I would sure like to meet you one day. By the way, I was diagnosed with Diabetes about a year ago (type 2) and started eating better and lost 27 pounds. Now I have gained it all back, any suggestions on how to make myself do better? love ya, Anne

By Patricia Anne Bishop on November 06, 2012


Love to see you and your sons in here and all your friends...God Bless you in all you do...

By BarbaraAnn Venticinque on November 06, 2012

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