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Got me a cast iron skillet! Now what!

Also, it's pre-seasoned. Is that a good thing? Does the seasoning of a skillet require further maintenance? Should this be my new everything pan? How do I clean it?

And of course, what's your favorite thing to cook on yours?

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  1. Re seasoning and cleaning, check out any number of threads on the cookware board, there's some seriously good advice, difficulty is choosing which to follow!

      1. Make sure you have enough strength to lift the damn thing. Those suckers are heavy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mucho gordo

          I'll second that. I know people who have dropped them on their foot and broken toes. Be careful when you go to grab that handle, it can get really hot.

        2. "Also, it's pre-seasoned. Is that a good thing? "

          It depends who you ask. I personally am not a huge fan of preseasoned cookware because I like to season them myself, so the preseaonsed surface add extra steps for me (removal of it). That being said, it is a good thing for most people.

          "Does the seasoning of a skillet require further maintenance? "

          I don't understand the question. I will say this. The preseasoned surface should make it easier, but it does not eliminate maintenance.

          "Should this be my new everything pan?"

          It can be. I use my cast iron and carbon steel pan for everything.

          "How do I clean it? "

          That is the difficult question in part based on your experience since there is no one perfect answer to it. I will say to clean the initial pan with oil and papertowel for a week before using water and then further down later with dish detergent.

          "And of course, what's your favorite thing to cook on yours?"

          Meat. Cast iron pans can cook vegetable just fine, but it is cooking meat where it shines. More specifically, high temperature meat cooking.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            "I will say to clean the initial pan with oil and papertowel for a week before using water and then further down later with dish detergent." NOOOO ....
            NEVER clean your cast iron with detergent, unless you're prepared to re-season it all over again from scratch.
            Been using cast iron for more than thirty years. I cook almost exclusively using cast iron. I haven't had to use detergent on my pans EVER. If they're properly seasoned they typically require nothing more than wiping out (while still very warm) with a oiled rag or oiled paper towel, finishing up with a dry rag or towel. If foods do stick, and provided they're properly seasoned, allowing the so soak for a short time, filled with hot water, is enough to loosen any debris. Then, of course, reheat them and oil as usual.
            If you have a "pre-seasoned" pan, go ahead and run it through a seasoning process. The factory pre-seasoning isn't particularly effective because it's primarily done to prevent rust.

            1. re: todao

              "NOOOO ....
              NEVER clean your cast iron with detergent, unless you're prepared to re-season it all over again from scratch. "

              :) Not even a little bit? In my experience, it is ok to clean it with detergent like once a while. So I should have clarified that I don't routinely use detergent to clean my cast iron or carbon steel cookware. Anyway, your warning is a good one.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I have had several cast iron skillets for over thirty years, use them constantly and have never needed to use soap. If you need soap, the pan is not properly seasoned or you are letting it sit way too long before cleaning it.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I've used detergent on my CIS plenty of times, once you get a solid seasoning going a little detergent doesn't seem to hurt.

                  1. re: joonjoon

                    Yes, I too have a few cast iron cookware and a few carbon steel cookware. Like you said, once they are seasoned, a little detergent do not hurt. Thanks.

            2. I love my skillet to cook steaks. Screaming hot pan (fans going to keep the smoke detector from going off) and a substantial sprinkling of Kosher salt, and the steaks are wonderful.

              1. The pre-seasoning is a start. Did it come with cleaning instructions (or go to the Lodge website.

                For a start I would use it in ways that enhance the seasoning, and avoid those the reduce it. Stay away from harsh scrubbing and scrubbers (including strong soaps), dry it well after washing, and rub with oil before storing. Also don't let it get when in storage (that includes setting a wet bottom pan in it). It can be dried on the stove top, but DO NOT forget it.

                Things that will destroy the seasoning -
                - long simmering, especially acidic things like tomato sauce
                - getting it too hot
                - deglazing after cooking steaks (this may be ok 5 yrs from now).

                Things that enhance the seasoning -
                - baking cornbread and biscuits
                - bacon (though it can leave a sticky residue behind)
                - pancakes (though flipping them may be a problem)

                If you have an electric stove, the pan will heat more evenly in the oven.

                I do not use cast iron (or carbon steel) for everything. Quality nonstick aluminum and stainless steel are better for many tasks.

                7 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  While I agree that just about any cooking vessel will heat more evenly in the oven, the amount of energy it takes to bring a cast iron pan up to oven temperature with radiant heat makes using it to fry things by heating it in the oven cost prohibitive. My electric range heats my cast iron quite well and, because it's cast iron and not stainless or aluminum, it tends to heat evenly enough to make it an effective stove top cooking vessel.
                  As paulj notes, avoid using acidic ingredients in your CA cookware if you want to preserve your seasoned condition.
                  You ain't had first class corn bread or biscuits until you've baked 'em in a cast iron pan.
                  Try this:
                  http://leitesculinaria.com/7175/recip...
                  (it suggests using unbleached AP flour but bleached flour works nicely for this recipe)

                  1. re: todao

                    off topic, I know, but why would one choose bleached flour? I have never used it.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      Superior baking qualities - for things like cake and biscuits.

                      The soft wheat flours preferred by many Southern cooks (White Lilly and Martha White brands) are bleached.

                      Before the use of chemical bleachers, millers and bakers knew that natural bleached flour (with time and exposure to air) was better than freshly milled flour.

                      1. re: paulj

                        This is what CI says, for what it is worth.

                        "As an overall category, though, the four bleached flours in our tests in fact did not perform as well as the unbleached flours and were regularly criticized for tasting flat or carrying "off" flavors, often described as metallic. These characteristics, however, were more difficult to detect in recipes that contained a high proportion of ingredients other than flour. Coincidentally, our cake tests and chocolate chip cookie tests (both sugary recipes) were the two tests in which off flavors carried by the bleached flour went undetected or were considered faint."

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          Are you going to take the word of CI over Alton's Grandmother (and other masters of true southern biscuits)? :)
                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3QuQS...

                          1. re: paulj

                            no, I actually pay little attention to CI, I was just saying :=)
                            Though I have to say Alton irritates me too. It was a genuine question as I really don't understand why bleaching would help.

                            1. re: magiesmom

                              Shirley Corriher (Cookwise and Bakewise) and Harold McGee may be the best sources for discussing bleached v unbleached.

                              I've preferred unbleached, not because I understand the pros and cons, but because the cookbooks and TV chefs that I listened to a few decades ago implied it was better (that bleaching was, in some way, bad). I've experimented a bit with bleached Southern brands that I found at Grocery Outlet, but not enough to notice any real difference. Plus I tend to go the multi-grain route (while whole wheat, oats, etc), so baking qualities of my white flour don't matter much.

                2. First thing you need to do is to fry up a mess of bacon. Eat and enjoy, then pour off the fat and reserve for future goodness. Wipe the pan clean and rejoice in the "bacon bath" you have just administered.

                  I use my skillets for all sorts of meat, from aforementioned bacon to flank steak under the broiler and everything in between. Also for sauteed veggies, from potatoes to zucchini. I also toast herbs, spices, and seeds for various recipes. Last night I made stuffing in it; latkes the night before that.

                  I've had mine for many years but never did go through an elaborate seasoning ritual. I just use them often, don't expect magical non-stick properties (use oil/fat if needed), and do take care with cleaning. Often I just wipe them clean. Sometimes add a bit of oil and coarse salt to "scrub" and wipe. If really needed, rinse with water and scrub gently. And on occasion, my husband, sigh, has gotten ahold of one and cleaned zealously with hot water and detergent. Go back and repeat bacon step one. And they've all survived.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    I use oil instead of bacon because I always can taste the bacon fat, which is not always agreeable.

                  2. My favorite thing to make is a good steak. I like Altkn's method, which involves preheating your oven to 500. Make sure your steak is seasoned with salt and pepper. Then get your skillet scorching hot, and add some oil. Sear for 30 seconds or so on each side and then throw the skillet into the oven until the thing hits medium rare (or however you like it). Delicious.

                    Cornbread is also essential. For me, cornbread involves frying up some bacon and then adding the grease to the batter with jalapeƱos and cheese. Perfect with chili or black bean soup.

                    Honestly, you can make pretty much everything in the skillet (except tomato or wine sauces). I always just rinse mine off after using; if you do enough frying in the pan it starts to season itself. My vintage one easily cooks an egg (I use it the most) and my Lodge skillet only needs a drop of oil for great pancakes and crepes. If you take care of them, they'll take care of you!

                    1. Congratulations! Go to the Lodge Cast Iron Manufacturing Co. website, lodgemfg.com. There may be some information there that may be of some help.

                      I have the old-fashioned non pre-seasoned skillets that are easy to maintain. I wash them after each use with dish washing detergent and a soft bristled brush. I dry the skillet immediately and wait for the moisture to totally evaporate before appling a little canola oil with paper toweling. The skillet is then stored with a dry piece of paper toweling in the until the next use. I have had no rusting to date. YOU SHOULD NOT NEED TO DO WHAT I JUST DESCRIBED since you skillet is pre-seasoned.

                      One suggestion if you are into making 'frittate (plural in Italian)! I make a frittata for lunch quite often in a cast iron skillet using leftovers. The process of cooking one in such a skillet makes it easy because no flipping of the frittata is needed. Once the ingredients for frittata are in the pan, one starts the process on the cooktop, and when one sees that the bottom is starting to set, it is removed to the broiler for finishing. A person must watch that the frittata does not burn by constant observation. When the top of it is sufficiently browned, remove the skillet, turn off the broiler, add cheese to the top of the frittata, and place the pan in the turned off warm oven until the cheese has melted. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES PUT THE CHEESE ON TOP OF THE FRITTATA WHEN 1ST PUTTING IT UNDER THE BROILER. The cheese will burn before the frittata is properly cooked.

                      My apologies if I bored you with my frittata process.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ChiliDude

                        not boring at all! Lol, details like that are always welcome, and what a great idea! I know I'll be using it for that, since I cook with eggs a lot.

                      2. thoroughly clean off that preseason, season yourself, then...FRY UP SOME BACON!

                        4 Replies
                          1. re: paulj

                            1 - I wouldn't bring anything into my kitchen without a good cleaning...who knows who's been handling it, or if it came back for a refund, etc. And an honest to goodness soap and water scrub will break down whatever "seasoning" is on it.

                            2 - I can't believe a production line style seasoning is gonna be better than one I can apply

                            1. re: paulj

                              I do it like BiscuitBoy. Some of the preseason layers are fine, but some are not. So to avoid the possibility of struggling with a poor surface and finally reason the cookware, I just do it from the start.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I agree.

                                Building a good foundation is quite important to performance of a cast iron pan.

                                I just stripped down two pans that had a shinny but very irregular surface. I followed Shirley Canter's advise on the method and the use of flax seed oil to build my foundation. Did 6 seasoning session with a very light coating of flax seed oil. The pans look terrific and so far functioning better than before.

                          2. Pro-tip: Don't put your CIS away, leave it on your primary burner, and use it for anything/everything relevant. You'll get a rockin' seasoning going on it in no time. When you're done just scrub and return to the stove.

                            1. I have my grandmother's cast iron skillet, so it is close to 100 years old. I've never heard of a pre-seasoned iron skillet, but if your is, happy day for you. I always wipe mine out after use to remove any grease. You can wash it, quickly, with a small amount of s oap, but move fast, rinse, and dry immediately. I mostly use mine to fry steak with a little butter or olive oil when the skiillet is very hot. I much prefer this method to broiling or grilling as I feel the flavor is far better. If you give your new skillet lots of TLC, it should be around for a long time. Be sure to wash the back side as well. Drying will prevent rust. I might add that mine is so well seasoned that it doesn't rust, but they can if not dried properly...... I would probably do my own seasoning even tho yours says it's been done. Use a little oil and set burner on medium until it is hot, reduce the temp and let it slowly season for several hours.. Use a pastry bruch to occasionally oil up the sides. janet1012