Not only is the cast iron skillet incredibly versatile, but it boasts a great value for all it can handle. After getting one last year, I have downsized on much of my cookware. Cast iron is a versatile workhorse and no other pan even comes close. They can be used in both the oven and the stove top and can withstand very high temperatures.

They are built to last and are extremely tough. It is not uncommon to find 50 year-old pans still floating around at thrift sales. In fact, that is exactly where I found my skillets! All they needed were a thorough cleaning to remove the rust and they were good as new. Theseskillets will last a lifetime if cared for properly. Cast iron is tough as nails – the skillets are difficult to ruin once they have built up a layer of seasoning.

Some other amazing benefits of cast iron:

  • High Heat Capacity: Once the pan is hot, it stays hot. This is especially important when searing meat.  Make sure to preheat your cast iron for about 10 minutes on the stove, rotating it occasionally.  You can also heat it in the oven for about 20 minutes, but make sure to take it out with an oven mitt.  It will also heat food all the way through, not only heating the outside layer of food.
  • Great Source of Iron: When cooking with cast iron, you are also getting low doses of iron in your food without having to supplement.
  • Natural Nonstick Coating:As long as your cast iron pan is properly seasoned you should not have too many issues with foods sticking to the surface. Especially in comparison to Teflon and non-stick pans, which can produce toxic fumes when overheated.

Seasoning

This is the process of creating a slick and glossy coating.  You can apply multiple layers to help even the surface.  Cast iron is made of little peaks and valleys and the oil during the seasoning process helps create a smooth finish.

Although many pans come pre-seasoned, I personally do not trust the rancid vegetable oils used.  So even if you purchase a pre-seasoned skillet, I would suggest scrubbing it thoroughly with a steel wool pad and re-season the skillet.

The process of seasoning involves rubbing a thin coat of coconut oil or lard over the entire surface of the pan.  Rub off any extra with a paper towel so that it doesn’t look too “oily”.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch any drips.  Place pan upside down in the oven and heat for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and let the pan cool to room temp.  Repeat seasoning process 3 or 4 times. Although, the best way to get a really good season is to simply use the pan – since you are seasoning it each time you do.

Cleaning

Always make sure to clean your cast iron immediately after use – while it’s still warm or slightly cooled.  NEVER soak it or leave it in sink as this may cause it to rust. The easiest way to wash it is with warm water and a sponge or stiff brush. If food is caked onto the surface you may want to use a nice stainless steel spatula with a flat edge to scrape it off. In fact, you can use this method of scraping off food bits or oil deposits left from cooking instead of washing it with water.  Just make sure to wipe it clean with a paper towel afterwards and if necessary, add a thin layer of oil.  Another option would be to use a steel wool ball to remove the food, but you will need to follow up with re-seasoning the skillet.  If you are looking for a gentler way to remove stuck-on bits, you can try making a coarse salt and water paste.  Always make sure to dry your cast iron off immediately to avoid rusting.  Feel free to apply a light coat of coconut oil to the inside of the pan.

Once you get the hang of it – care and clean up are super easy, with the added benefit of being coated with nontoxic ingredients. Cast iron skillets have been one of my greatest kitchen additions!