A cast iron skillet is a staple in any good cook's home. Half workhorse and half badge of honor, it's a classic piece that's just as home over a campfire as it is in a five-star kitchen. If you've just bought or been gifted your first cast iron, congrats! Before you use it, read through these tips and no one will find out that you're a rookie.
1. You should wash it first.
Before you use your cast iron skillet for the first time, wash it in warm, soapy water, and dry it immediately with a soft cloth. Avoid harsh detergents and scrubbers so you don't disrupt the coating.
See our tutorial: How To Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
2. And then season it … maybe.
Classic cast iron skillets should be seasoned before using them, a process of building up a fine coat of fat to create a nonstick surface. But many cast iron skillets come "pre-seasoned" now, with the non-stick coating already built in. Read the packaging to make sure you know what you've got and what the exact recommendations are.
More on Seasoning Cast Iron
3. Cast iron can be used on all heat sources.
You can use a cast iron skillet on the stovetop (whether it's electric, gas, or induction), oven, grill, or even over a campfire.
4. Cast iron holds in heat.
Cast iron gets very hot and distributes the heat evenly throughout the whole piece of cookware — including the handle, so wear your oven mitts! Once you've finished cooking, it will stay hot for a while, so be sure to use a trivet if you're taking it off the stove.
5. You should use caution when cooking with acidic foods.
Foods like tomatoes, citrus, or beans can be tough on a cast iron skillet if it's not thoroughly seasoned, as the acid can strip off light seasoning and lead to discoloration and metallic-tasting food.
6. You really have to make sure it's dry before you put it away.
Despite its tough exterior, cast iron is actually a porous surface susceptible to rust if you don't dry it thoroughly after washing it or before storing it.
7. You should heat your pan slowly.
Your cast iron skillet will work best when it slowly heats up on a moderate heat and stays warm. Heating it up on too high a setting can make food stick or burn because the heat is conducted so efficiently.
8. Stack it carefully when you put it away.
If you're stacking your cast iron skillet in a cabinet with other cookware, place a sheet of paper towel between it and other cookware to avoid ruining the finish.
9. You can almost always save a rusty cast iron skillet.
Let's say your husband did the dishes last night and soaked your skillet overnight without you realizing it. Not to place blame or anything, but that's bad! And now you may find that your new skillet is all rusted. Don't worry (or banish him from dish duty) — it can most likely be salvaged.
See our tutorial: How to Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet
10. It should last forever.
With proper care, a cast iron skillet can last decades, and many believe that these skillets get better with age and natural seasoning.
Using Your Cast Iron Skillet
Did you just get a cast iron skillet over the holidays? What will be the first thing you make in it?