The Best Cast Iron Tips We Learned from Grandmas

published Jan 7, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Gabriela Herman

Here at Kitchn, we’re always up for boosting our cast iron knowledge. After all, we love collecting and cooking with this tool, due to its gorgeous, rustic look and superior heat retention. But even after years of learning about the best way to use, clean, maintain, and cherish our cast iron pans, there’s still a lot we don’t know.

So we asked our most trusted source for kitchen wisdom: grandmothers! We surveyed a group of grandmas who mastered cast iron before we were even walking. No surprise here; these grandmas had some real gems. Here are their best cast iron tips.

1. Buy them used.

“The key to good cast iron is years of love and seasoning,” explains Joan Nolan, a grandmother of 16. Her secret cast iron tip is to buy them at antique shops, rather than new. They’ll already have gone through years of use and care. “The more well-loved the better,” says Nolan. You can also look for vintage brands — like Wagner and Griswald — on eBay and Etsy.

Related: The Kitchn’s Guide to Buying Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

2. Simmer with water to release stuck-on food.

Deb Daly, a grandmother in New York, uses her cast iron to make skillet s’mores. They’re a big hit with her family members, but “a mess to clean up.” To tackle the sticky, crusted-on sugar, Daly fills the pan with water and a bit of dish soap, then brings it to a simmer on the stovetop — after that, it’s much easier to scrub clean. (Just be sure to use gloves or a potholder to handle that hot pan.)

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Make use of your still-hot oven.

Plenty of folks finish drying their pans over a low stovetop burner, but Daly recommends making use of the oven that just cooked your dinner. After washing and rinsing out her cast iron pan, she finishes drying it in her still-warm oven. You can leave the pan in there as the oven cools completely — just don’t forget about it next time you preheat.

4. Always re-season the pan before putting it away.

Lizzy Lieberg, a grandmother from Oregon (and the mother of farmer and cookbook author Andrea Bemis), always rubs a little oil or lard on her pans after rinsing — no soap for Lieberg — while drying them gently over low heat. By coating them with a high-smoke-point fat, she’s protecting the pans from water damage, and preserving their all-natural nonstick coating. “I’ve followed suit and my pans are well-seasoned, and not rusty!” says Bemis. The point? Don’t skip this step. Not even once.

Read more: How To Season a Cast Iron Skillet

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

5. Keep an oil-soaked towel handy for re-seasoning.

When it’s time to dry and re-season her pans, Daly reaches for a dedicated cast iron cloth. “I use a towel saturated with coconut oil,” she explains, which cuts down on her single-use paper towel consumption and protects the rest of her dish towels from becoming oil-stained. We like this idea, too!

Did your grandma pass on any cast iron wisdom? Let us know in the comments below.