Do you cook in cast iron?
If not, it’s time to start. These pans are inexpensive, wildly durable, and lifting a few doubles as decent arm exercise. They are heavy skillets. Season these skillets over time and they’ll become your go-to non-stick cookware, without a Teflon coating that will scratch, flake, and end up in your food over time. Yuck. Time for a pan that will live on and on and on.
Where to Find Them
Once you use them, you’ll be amazed that this dynamo pan sells for few dollars. Lodge sells a great pre-seasoned one for $15. You can even outfit yourself with a set of three from Walmart for less $25. Sure, there are fancy ones out there, but it’s easy to find a great skillet for a song.
If you’re really lucky, the snag one at the thrift store or a yard sale for a fraction of that price. That’s where I acquired most of my collection. Even though they were rusty and needed to be reseasoned when I found them, I snatched them up anyway. It was easy to fix them up in just a few minutes. And to tell the truth, the older and more experienced the skillet, the better it is. Over time the skillet gets smoother and increasingly more non-stick as you develop the pan’s seasoning and scrub it smooth. So, those once-old rusty skillets are actually my most beloved.
Here are five simple ways to clean them, and one big no to care for cast iron pot and pans:
- Do not use oil dissolving dish soap like Dawn on them.
This soap pulls of the seasoned finish you’ve worked so hard to build. Don’t take off the naturally non-stick finish.
- Scrub Brush
Nothing fancy, just a plastic or natural bristle brush that you use for scrubbing most dishes works fine with liquidy things. However, f you’ve got something like egg or crumbs stuck in there, it’s only going to get stuck in your brush and be nasty there. So this is my least favorite option.
- Plastic Scraper
Buy the little hard plastic scraper for a dollar at the hardware store or any kitchen supply store. Some cast iron skillets or stoneware pieces even come with them. Use a little elbow grease and leverage and you can scrape most things off with ease. If anything is really good and stuck, let it soak with water for a while or even simmer with the water for a minute and then come back (make sure the pan is cool enough to handle) and give it a scrape.
- Scrubbing with Coarse Salt and a Dish Rag
This works and is a fine way to get off excess grease build up, but using up salt every time feels wasteful to me so I don’t do this often.
- Metal Spatula
Use the metal spatula you were cooking with to scrape the pan clean. If you are using one of the angled-edge spatulas I adore, it’s easy. The angled edge works really well to pry any bits off the pan and you can double dip and clean both at the same time. Win. Win.
- Chain Mail Mesh Scrubber
Made just like the body armor stuff, this metal mesh is a wonder tool for caring for cast iron. Simply scrub the pan, working at the sides and bottom to smooth any build up and scrape any food bits. Then use the oil dissolving soap to clean the mesh when needed. Let it dry and tuck it away. Mine even has a ring on it I use to hook on my faucet to let it dry until I put it away. They’re about $8-$15, and even though I was a skeptic for years, I’m entirely won over. They do a beautiful job of smoothing out my pans and getting into the corner edge perfectly.
Be sure to wipe the pan dry and oil it as needed (just reheat to soak it in when needed, then wipe the excess out).
Say Good-Bye to Teflon
If you’ve been spending $20-$50 on a new non-stick pan than easily scratches and the finish wears off, it’s time to kick the habit and go a natural. Those chemically treated non-stick surface pans are an expensive habit and need regularly replacing. It felt so wasteful and expensive to me that I haven’t had one in almost ten years. Cast iron is the best, longest-lasting, real-deal in naturally non-stick pans.
Want some great recipes to cook in your cast iron? Here’s a sampler of the recipes I’m cooking this season. Want them all? Purchase the full 20 ingredient, 20+ recipe collection. It comes with shopping lists, quick tips, and loads of ideas to show you how flexible and fast (and delicious) seasonal cooking can be.