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Cooking With Cast Iron Cookware 101

“Do I need to cook differently with a cast iron skillet?” I wondered as I unpacked my new housewarming gift. Frankly, I’ve had my eye on cast iron cookware for ages yet hesitated to invest in anything.

I know, I know, cast iron gets better with age, is practically indestructible and makes tasty food!

But I had so many questions.. and it seemed like a lot of work. Until I dove in and realized the simple truth from all the myths out there.

Really, to cook with cast iron there are 5 Main Commandments:

Commandment #1: Season

seasoned versus unseasoned cast iron skillet
The left side is before.. the right side is after seasoning

You can read more about how to season cast iron here. The spark notes version is:

Cast iron hates water. By coating your cast iron with vegetable oil and heating it to over 400-500 degrees Fahrenheit the iron and fats mix together into a glossy non-stick surface that keeps your cast iron rust-free.

Even if your cast iron comes pre-seasoned, I recommend giving it a good scrub. (Yes, you can use soap- just no bleach or anything you wouldn’t wash your hands with).

Remember water = rust. Once you’re done cleaning your cast iron, dry it off well then go ahead and season just in case.

Commandment #2: Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is HOT

cast iron warming up
Slow and steady here…

Ok, I’m paraphrasing a bit from the US Navy Seals saying that, “Slow Is Smooth and Smooth Is Fast”. However, the same point comes through here.

Cast iron gets MUCH hotter than your typical cookware. But, when you go to cook with your cast iron it’s best to heat your pan over low to medium heat.

Why? Because cast iron heats unevenly but does an excellent job at holding on to heat.

And you don’t want to miss the pre-heating step because it’s essential for commandment #3…

Commandment #3: Never Add Food To A Cold Skillet

food burnt onto a cast iron pan
A good example of what NOT to do…

Yes, I used the word never (unless you’re baking, then it’s allowed!). On the stovetop, you’ll want to get your cast iron up to temperature using low to medium heat for about 5 minutes before adding any meat or vegetables.

Otherwise, you’re going to have some trouble.. Adding cold food to a cold pan is bound to end in food sticking all over your cast iron.

Really, you want to heat up your cast iron so that the food you add can instantly get a good sear. Once the sear is in place after a few minutes, your food will typically unstick itself, thanks to proper seasoning.

always be oiling (your cast iron)

Commandment #4: Always Be Oiling

This is an absolute without exception. Once you bring your cast iron up to temperature, be sure to add a little bit of oil. I think of this as “activating” your seasoning. Even if you’re cooking food in butter, I still recommend adding a bit of vegetable oil beforehand.

Commandment #5: Break All The Rules

cast iron cooked desserts

I’m talking about the rules you THINK apply in cooking! Not these commandments. Let me explain.

A big benefit of cast iron is its versatility. You can use it to evenly sear meat and vegetables on the stove top.. and finish them up in the oven.

Cast iron can handle the hot temperatures of a grill.

And even be used for evenly baked treats!

There are so many ways you can use your cast iron cookware in the kitchen. I challenge you to use your cast iron at least 3 times a week. The more you use it, the easier and better it gets. Plus you’re more likely to step outside your comfort zone and try to cook something new and interesting!

People Also Ask

What happens if you don’t season cast iron?

The process of seasoning up your skillet lets it let food out easily, wash it up quickly, and remains clean and free of rust and staining. You’ll be having difficulties every time you cook if you don’t season your cast iron well.

How high can you heat cast iron?

Cast-iron cookware can withstand temperatures of up to 1500degF which is a lot hotter than what your oven will ever be. The seasonings will burn off around 800degF, so don’t be concerned that you’ll damage your skillet by cooking it at high heat.

Why is my cast iron black when I wipe?

They are probably carbon deposits. This is due to the overheated oil or fat. The use of oils with an extremely low smoke point can cause carbonization at high temperatures and cause the pan’s pores to get absorbed into your food.

Start Cooking Now

I have a joke with my friends and family that since I’m not responsible enough for a dog.. or able to keep a plant alive.. I regressed to taking care of a cast iron skillet.

Frankly, it’s not a bad comparison. You do need to season you cast iron, to feed it. And keep your cast iron safe and dry- to prevent rust.

Understanding that the better you care for your cast iron, the easier it will be to clean, cook, and enjoy your time in the kitchen with your cast iron. I know it’s just a skillet.. yet cast iron opens up a whole new world of kitchen possibilities for you to enjoy with your friends, family, or just yourself 🙂

What’s your number one question about cast iron cookware? Do you love it? Or don’t know where to start? Let me know in the comments below!