How to Make Your Cast Iron Last Forever
Looking for savory, smoky flavors? Crispy textures when you sear? A pan that only gets better with age? Then you’ll want to get your hands on cast iron — a must-have pan for every home chef.
Cast iron is so durable that some families pass them down over generations. But you need to take care of it if you want it to last. Check out our guide on caring for your cast iron so it lasts a lifetime.
Keep It Seasoned
Buying a pre-seasoned cast iron is the quickest way to go from the store to the stove. But don’t worry if your cast iron didn’t come pre-seasoned. Seasoning cast iron is an easy process which makes it different from other pans. You season it once and it’s good for decades.
Here’s how to season a cast iron pan:
- Scrub in hot, soapy water and rinse with clean warm water
- Dry completely with a cotton or paper towel immediately after rinsing
- Cover in a thin layer of vegetable oil
- Turn upside down on the middle oven rack (place foil below to catch drips)
- Bake at 375°F for one hour
- If there are still spots on the pan that appear dry after it’s cooled down, repeat the process on the dry patches
Clean It Properly
It’s possible for cast iron to rust, so routine care is necessary.
- After cooking, toss room-temperature water into the pan while it’s still hot (Note: if you let the pan cool after cooking, heat it up over medium heat until almost smoking)
- Make sure the water sizzles to help break down food or sauce residue
- Scrape the bits as if you were deglazing the pan, then dump out the dirty water
- Wipe the pan dry thoroughly with a wadded paper towel
- If necessary, apply a little oil (the pan should look glossy, not dry)
If you find your pan needs some extra attention, all you need to do is reach for the kosher salt:
- To remove stubborn bits of food, pour 1 cup coarse kosher salt into the still-warm skillet
- Use a folded kitchen towel to scour
- Discard the salt and rinse the skillet with hot water
- Dry immediately with a kitchen towel, or heat skillet over a medium-low flame to evaporate the moisture
Use It Often
When you keep cast iron clean and use it every couple of days, it performs like a well-oiled machine. The oily nature of cast iron not only helps keep it rust-free, but also adds natural nonstick qualities to the pan and enhances flavor over time.
If you let cast iron sit too long without use, the oil that’s soaked into the metal can get old and pick up an “off” smell.
What Not to Do to Cast Iron
- Don’t let cast iron stay wet or soak in water
- Don’t let it get too dried out
- Don’t use high heat on the stovetop since cast iron can overheat this way
- Don’t shock the metal with sudden temperature changes (it will break)