What are the Best Tips for Cooking with Cast Iron?

Susan Grindstaff

Cooking with cast iron really is not that much different from cooking with other types of pots and pans. One important tip to remember is that cast iron cookware typically gets hotter than many other types, so adjustment to cooking temperature may be necessary to prevent burning. In addition, foods cooked in cast iron often develop a crunchy crust where the food meets the pan. In some recipes, this might be considered a plus, but for other dishes, it might not be desirable. To prevent foods from becoming overly crisp when cooking with cast iron, frequent stirring is advised.

A cast iron skillet.
A cast iron skillet.

Proper seasoning of pots and pans is essential in cooking with cast iron. Cast iron is rough and porous, and this type of finish will often cause foods to stick to the bottom and sides of the pans. Some cast iron cooking utensils can be purchased already seasoned, but in many cases, more seasoning is required. Seasoning cast iron pans is not difficult, and typically does not take a lot of time. Seasoning should be done before cooking with cast iron pans that are new.

Foods, such as cornbread, develop a crust on the side when cooked in a cast iron skillet.
Foods, such as cornbread, develop a crust on the side when cooked in a cast iron skillet.

Most cooking experts advise first washing and thoroughly drying the pan, then coating the entire piece with a layer of oil. Vegetable oil or olive oil will do, though many experts claim that pure lard acts as the best seasoning agent. After the entire pan has been coated both inside and out, it should be placed in an oven that has been preheated to about 300 degrees F (149 degrees C). The cast iron should be left in the oven for about an hour, then removed and allowed to cool before storing. This process may need to be repeated a number of times to achieve the true non-stick finish that is necessary for cooking with cast iron.

Like any other pots and pans, cast iron pans need to be cleaned after use. Some experts advise against using soap on cast iron, while others say it causes no problems. Those who are against the use of soap argue that it will diminish the seasoning on the pan. This could result in having to repeat the seasoning process. It is generally accepted that if the cast iron is older and has seen a great deal of use, that it is probably safe to wash it with soap, as long as it is done by hand rather than in a dishwasher.

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