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Cast Away 
Jan. 11, 2009 3:16 pm 
Updated: Nov. 4, 2013 7:25 am

I made some scrambled eggs this morning, and realized that I was using what I think may be the coolest piece of gear in my kitchen: a cast-iron pan.

Yep—that one. The one my mom gave me when I got my first kitchen. The one I’ve carried from place to place, despite how much it weighs. The one that’s more non-stick than the special one I bought for an untold sum of money.

You have that pan, too, don’t you?

That’s because they’re amazing. Heavy enough to evenly hold the heat, and if you ‘season’ it properly, just so easy to take care of. I make eggs in mine, use it to bake scones, toast garlic, and heat up tortillas. Never leaves the stovetop.

They’ve got one problem, though—and I’ve already sort of mentioned it: Seasoning. I’m not sure, outside of baking bread, that there’s anything more mysterious that ‘seasoning’ a cast iron pan. There are always dire warnings from friends to worry about—and the instructions sometimes can be a bit tricky.

So, I’m going to tell you what I do. If it’s not what you do, then let me know! There’s more than one way to season a pan—so add to the mix.

Basically, I just heat it up on the stovetop, nice and hot. Then I pour in a teaspoon or so of oil, and wipe it around with a*thick* towel (folded paper or clean cloth, either one). Let it cool, then repeat 2 or 3 times. You just need to do that every once in a while (which why it’s so easy) as you use the pan, and it just gets better with use.

If you don’t have a cast iron pan, you might wonder why I’m going on about them. Well, it’s because of how well they retain heat. See, when you pan-fry something in them, it stays hot! You know this—what happens when you put frozen tortellini in boiling water? Yep—it cools down and takes forever to come back to a boil. A thick pan like cast iron will drop less in temperature when the food’s added in.

Okay—cleaning is another issue. Some people are adamant that you should never use soap on a well-seasoned pan. Others, I know, have accidentally put them through the dishwasher (sorry Mom!), with very little ill effect. I typically don’t use any soap in mine—that’s the advantage of seasoning it well—but if it gets particularly dirty, I’m willing to use soap. What about you?

Jan. 12, 2009 10:27 am
Great post! Thanks for the advice on seasoning. I love my cast iron skillet, too. Used it last night for a chicken dish. And before I used it for cooking, I wielded it around as a weapon, pounding the daylights out of the chicken breasts. Am I right in thinking the Cookies out in the wild west cleaned their skillets with sand? True grit for real.
Jan. 23, 2009 2:07 pm
I got b*tched out for washing my girlfriend's cast iron with soap.
Feb. 2, 2009 3:08 pm
I too share a love affair with my cast iron skillet. As far as cleaning, I once read that to get the pesky sticky cooked on stuff off, just pour in some kosher salt while the pan is still warm (not hot, or you'll be cussing) and swish it around with a paper towel. Works like a charm. I love to grill crostini in mine. I brush olive oil mixed with dried thyme on sliced baguettes and grill each side until golden. This is the only kind of bread I serve with my husband's awesome bruschetta. No way can oven toasted bread compare to my cast iron skillet. Try it!
Jan. 17, 2011 12:24 pm
I season mine in the oven but, very much the same way and clean with salt. I have taken rusted out yard sale pans and turned them into beautiful daily use pans. My favorite thing is that they naturally add iron to your diet.
Nov. 4, 2013 7:25 am
Thanks for the slow cooker idea being used for Thanksgiving when you always need more than the space available...brilliant!
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About Me
I'm a refugee of the restaurant world, now working as a writer and editor. I don't cook anywhere near as much as I should at home anymore, but I still love to get behind the stove and make good food.
My favorite things to cook
Breakfast; Cajun Foods; Seafood; Anything on the grill; I love making salsa, or anything that requires me to improve my knife skills. And risotto. I love making risotto.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My Mom's cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning; Happy Cocoa at any time during the winter.
My cooking triumphs
Catering several large parties; creating 2 or 3 signature dishes at restaurants where I've worked. At home, it's anytime I can create food that tastes like I want it too.
My cooking tragedies
Macaroni and Cheese. Honestly--I tried following a recipe that I knew was good and believe me, it wasn't when I made it. Still not sure what I did wrong.
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