BY BONNIE RODRIGUEZ
So you’ve listened to all of the hype surrounding cast iron skillets, watched all the videos and now have decided to buy your very first one. Congratulations! You have embarked on a journey of many delicious recipes and years of tradition. Before you get cooking, there are a few recommendations I would like to pass on to you from what I have learned; 3 helpful tips that will help you not only properly use your pan but also keep it in shape for years to come.
The best way to keep your cast iron well maintained is to use it. The more you use it, the more of a seasoning it will build up. Always make sure your pan is thoroughly heated and oiled before putting food in it. This will ensure a good sear and help with not sticking. Silicone, wood and metal utensils can all be used in your pan. I use metal in mine almost exclusively. You’ll just want to use precaution with metal so that you don’t gouge the seasoning.
People go either way about soap – some say to never ever use it while others say it’s ok. For me the solution has been moderation. I only use it when absolutely necessary. For tougher jobs I use oil and kosher salt, add about 1/4 cup kosher salt and a few tablespoons of oil to make a paste and scrub away until the food residue is gone. For stubborn food particles you can simmer water in the pan for a few minutes to loosen it up and use a brush to scrub it out. Never let your pan sit with water in it or put it away wet because cast iron rusts very easily. A last ditch effort is to use steel wool but you have to be very diligent and careful not to gouge your seasoning or in extreme cases scrub it off. There are available chainmail scrubbers made specifically for cast iron cleaning that offer a viable alternative. Finish up by giving your pan a quick rinse with warm water and dry well with a towel or paper towel then place it on a burner over medium heat to dry it completely and reseason.
Always re-season your pan with oil after cleaning it. This is essential to keep the seasoning intact and to maintain the nonstick finish. You need an oil with a high heat threshold, meaning how high of a temperature the oil can stand before reaching its smoking point. Heating the oil until it’s smoking creates polymerization which gives it the nonstick finish. The most common ones are canola, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed and corn. Canola is used the most because it’s more commonly available but a lot of people say that grapeseed is the best. The process of re-seasoning is simple in itself; heat up the pan on high heat, apply about a teaspoon of oil, give it a swirl for even coverage and let it heat up until it starts to smoke. Turn off the heat, carefully wipe out excess oil and let the pan cool before putting it away.