Cast Iron Cookware
The Necessities
    The funds to purchase at least 1 good cast skillet - 2 is even better.  A 3 piece set is generally under $25 (American)
    About an 10 minutes in a well-stocked store and 2 hours to do the seasoning.

There is nothing like a well seasoned cast iron skillet!

If you are not so lucky as to have inherited your grandmother's iron skillet there is still hope.   On the cooktop and in the oven they are possibly the most versatile pans in your arsenal.

Before You Begin

Cast iron requires a  commitment - but not much of one and it pays you back in spades. There are so many cheap aluminum skillets available now that many people never look at cast iron, but nothing gives you the even heat, or stands up to REALLY high temperatures as a good ol' cast iron frying pan.  Properly seasoned, a cast iron skillet produces a natural non-stick surface that rivals anything the chemical companies can spray on aluminum, but it will stand up to metal utensils and extremely high temperatures that will melt the "wanna-be" skillets.

Go to your favorite hardware store and peruse their collection.  You'll also find them at that cooking store at the mall.  You'll find them on the bottom shelf, under the expensive "Teflon" coated pans.  Buy one or two 10 or 11 inch pans.  They are as large as you'll want.  Anything larger is too heavy - anything smaller lacks usefullness.

I recently bought a 3 pan set for $18.  10 1/2 inch - 8 1/2 inch and 6 1/2 inch.  I use the large one almost daily, the middle one occasionally and the small one I've used only once...

Step 1Initial Cleaning

Manufacturers coat their cast iron pans with a rust inhibitor before shipping them to stores.  This coating MUST be removed before you can properly season the cookware.  Failure to do so means you just wasted the money you spent on the pans.  Do this part right - it's worth it..

A good washing with soap and hot water should remove the coating, but it doesn't.  When you buy your pans also buy a can of spray-on oven cleaner.  Use it on the pans to remove the coating - THEN wash them well with lots of soap and hot water. 

Step 2Seasoning the cookware

This step creates the super slick coating on all the surfaces of your cast iron cookware.  It can be repeated as often as you think the coating needs replacement or reinforcement.

  • Turn your oven to 350 degrees (F)
  • Using your favorite cooking oil, apply a THIN layer to all the surfaces of the cookware, inside, outside, the bottom and the handles.  Work it in well.  Thin is the operative word.
  • Put the cookware in your 350 degree (F) oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool (Note:  Handles are HOT! - use a towel or oven mitt - always!)
  • The surfaces will be smooth and slick and have a golden color.  The pans will darken to a deep black with continued use.
  • Rub down again with a thin layer of oil and store.

Step 3Cleaning the cookware

NEVER put your cast iron in a dishwasher!  It'll rust and be useless, and worst of all you'll remove that beautiful seasoning that you've worked so hard to create.

  • Typically you can clean your pans with a little hot water and mild soap. 
  • Use an abrasive pad to remove any stuck food. 
  • Dry well immediately.
  • Coat with a very thin layer of oil and store.
Never use steel wool or harse cleansers unless you want to re-season again.  Of course, if you've burned something into your pans beyond hope of removal, you can always go back to step one and break out the oven cleaner...