A set of seasoned cast iron cookware can be a game-changer in the kitchen. Excellent at conducting heat and able to be used over a flame or in the oven, a good cast iron pan is a go-to tool that is not to be underestimated. To help ensure that ours will go the distance, we asked the experts at Little Rock, Arkansas-based Eggshells Kitchen Company to share their secrets to cast iron care; here are their recommendations:
Start with a seasoning session. Season every piece of cast iron cookware when you get it, even if it was pre-seasoned when you purchased it. To season a piece, heat it up on the stovetop until it’s smoking hot, then rub a little oil into it and let it cool.
Skip the soap. Hand wash your cast iron cookware after every use and dry it immediately—never allow it to remain wet. When washing, you do not need to use soap, simply hot water; if skipping soap sounds too scary, use a mild soap and then rinse, dry, and oil the pan immediately.
Apply oil. After every wash, rub the cookware with a light coat of vegetable oil—just enough to restore the sheen, without being sticky. This keeps the iron “seasoned” and protected from moisture.
Get cooking. Cast iron pieces can be used with almost any heat source—on induction, ceramic, electric, and gas burners (be sure to lift cookware, not slide it, on ceramic or glass cooktops); in your oven; on the grill; and even over the campfire. Gas flames should not extend up the sides of your cast iron pieces, so be sure to match the pan size to the appropriate burner size. Also, when deep frying, fill cookware only to 1/3 capacity.
Beware of certain foods. Some foods may stick to new cookware (especially eggs), so use a little extra oil or butter until you’ve built up the seasoning. Acidic foods like tomatoes, beans, and certain sauces can damage seasoning and should be avoided until the seasoning is well established.
Consider a lighter alternative. Lodge is making a new option called seasoned steel. It gives you the same effect as the cast iron, but it’s much lighter and the pans are less bulky and therefore easier to handle.
Expert tip from Lindsey Gray of Eggshells Kitchen Company in Little Rock, AR.