Everything you need to know about cooking with cast iron. Learn how to cook with cast iron, proper care, and how to season it.
I bought my first cast iron pan about 6 years ago now. The first time I used it, I washed it as I would any pan, and left it on the drying rack. I didn’t think that one through, and was left with a rusted mess of a brand new pan. My husband spent a long time scrubbing off that rust and seasoning it. After that, it sat in the cupboard unused for several years.
A few years ago I committed to figuring out cooking with cast iron. It took a little bit of trial and error, but now it is absolutely my go to for cooking. I have added a couple cast iron pans to my collection now, and they are by far my most used items in my kitchen. Not one day goes by that each of those three pans gets a little love. I know how when you are first getting started with cast iron there can be a bit of a learning curve, so I figured why not share what I have learned so your experience goes a little smoother than mine did.
Why Should I Cook With Cast Iron
If you are still using non-stick pans, please take this as your sign to ditch them for good! Non-stick pans are coated with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid. Not only is this an endocrine disruptor, but it’s a known carcinogen. We are exposed to so many chemicals on a daily basis, many of which are out of our control, so it’s important to ditch them where we can!
The main reason I ditched non-stick pans years ago was because of the health risks associated with them. There was a long time where I missed the ease of a totally non-stick pan, especially when it came to cooking things like eggs. The first few times I used cast iron I found it to be frustrating by how much anything I cooked would stick. Turns out my pans needed a little love, and I needed a bit of a lesson in how to use them.
Now that I fully understand how to best use my cast iron, nothing sticks at all. Cooking with cast iron is a dream, once you figure it out!
Caring For Cast Iron
What I love about cast iron is that it is very low maintenance. I prefer to clean my cast iron pans with just warm water and a sponge. If there’s any stuck bits of food, I will give it a good sprinkle of kosher salt, and then scrub with a sponge. Using soap or steel wool on your cast iron pans can strip the seasoning, which is what prevents sticking.
If you leave any water on your cast iron pans, they will rust. Even just a drop. I use a dish towel to dry my cast iron right after washing. If the oven is still hot from cooking, I will throw it in there to make sure it is totally dry.
How To Season A Cast Iron Pan
Seasoning with cast iron can also have a bit of a learning curve. My first few attempts didn’t go all that great. I tried with coconut oil, and had no luck. I have also added too much oil to my pans in the seasoning process and been left with a sticky mess.
Many of the high temperature oils that are recommended to season cast iron aren’t things I particularly like to use in my home, or in my cooking. Canola oil, grapeseed oil, and flaxseed oil are often recommended, but they aren’t my first choice for health reasons. I don’t personally want any of these on my cookware, especially when seasoning with high heat.
I prefer to season my cast iron with saturated fats. Ghee is a great option because of it’s high smoke point. Ghee is clarified butter, meaning the milk solids that burn easily are removed. I also think that bacon grease is perfect for seasoning cast iron. The best part is that if you often cook with saturated fats, your cast iron pans get a mini seasoning whenever you cook.
To season your cast iron pans, follow these steps:
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Thoroughly wash and dry your cast iron pan.
- Rub some ghee all over every surface of your cast iron pan.
- Using a dish towel, buff in the ghee and remove any excess. You barely want to be able to tell it has been greased. An excess will cause your pans to be sticky after seasoning.
- Place cast iron pan upside down directly on the rack in the oven for an hour.
- Turn off the oven and allow pan to cool completely.
- Repeat if necessary.
How To Cook With Cast Iron
Cast iron is heavy, and with that it can take a little longer to heat up, but once it does it holds its heat very well. It is important to let your cast iron get nice and hot prior to adding anything to the pan. The exception to this, of course, is cooking fat. I allow my cast iron to heat up for about 5 minutes before I begin cooking.
Avoid stirring things around while cooking in cast iron. If you are constantly stirring what you are cooking, I have found things tend to stick a little easier.
Can You Use Cast Iron On A Glass Stove Top
Well, technically the recommendation is a strong no. I personally have never had an issue, and I know many people that also use cast iron on their glass stove tops. I feel that as long as you’re aware, it shouldn’t be a problem. Cast iron will scratch up your glass stove top if you aren’t careful. I avoid dragging the pans along the stove top, but there are some small inevitable scratches where the elements are.
Other concerns include placing hot cast iron pans onto the cold glass, or glass breaking. My cast iron pans are typically cold when I turn the element on, and if I pull them out of the oven, I place them on a trivet. I am really careful when I place my cast iron pans onto our glass stove top to avoid it breaking under the pressure. As long as you are careful, I don’t feel there is a need for much concern.
What If My Cast Iron Rusts
If your cast iron rusts, it will need a little more care to get it back to its normal working order. Steel wool, a wire brush, or even a sander can work here to remove all of that rust. Once the rust is removed, wash well with water and dry thoroughly.
At this point, you will need to season your cast iron pans again. All of that scrubbing will have removed the seasoning from your cast iron pan. I recommend going through the full process twice before cooking with your cast iron again.