Cast Iron Cookware pt 2: How to use and care for

Many people (used to include myself) don’t care to use cast iron pans because everything sticks!

But did you know if you properly season, use, and care for your cast iron that won’t happen? The problem is, we’re all out of practice when it comes to using these fabulous ‘non-stick’ pans and we don’t know how to use them. So I’ll share a few tips I’ve learned along the way for using your cast iron pans and hopefully it’ll help you get the most out of them.

  1. Make sure the pan is correctly seasoned. If food begins to stick, you’ll need to re season it! And always season a new pan. Even if it states it’s pre seasoned. You will be unhappy with it if you don’t.
  2. Preheat the pan every time you use it. Place it over whatever flame you’ll be using (or in an oven with whatever temp you’ll be baking at) until it’s hot. To test you can place a few drops of water in the pan and if they sizzle and jump around, it’s hot enough! Take care though not to let it sit to long waiting for food, an empty hot pan could crack.
  3. Always have pot holders around! It takes awhile to remember that the handles get hot when your used to using modern pans and skillets.
  4. Use a bit of oil or grease each time you use it.
  5. If you do use a fat to ‘grease’ the pan before frying, make sure you don’t let it sit with just the oil/butter in it for to long before adding the food. It will begin to re season it and could become gummy and sticky.
  6. Use a hard edged stainless steel spatula.
  7. Don’t use knives to cut anything in the pan.
  8. Once cooled, clean right away. Don’t let it sit overnight with leftover, gunked on food in it. A dry rag should be all that is needed after frying if you have a perfectly seasoned pan.
  9. On the same note, don’t let it sit and soak for long periods of time in the sink. Moisture is not your friend when it comes to cast iron as it will cause it to rust.
  10. When washing stuck on/dried on food (especially for the first dozen times or so after seasoning) use only hot water and a rag. Mild soap only if you need it. Dry immediately. Pop it on a hot stove for a minute to make sure all the water is out. Heat is a must when drying them! Otherwise you’ll get rust.
  11. If you do have stuck on food in the pan, try boiling water in the pan to remove the gunk before you move on to scrubbing.
  12. Never use a dishwasher!!
  13. Spread a very thin layer of oil inside the pan after each washing. I try and remember to do this, and the reasoning behind it is the fact that it will save your pans from moisture in the air.
  14. Use often. The more you use it, the better the pan will become!

So now that we know how to use them, what do you use them for? I personally use them for anything that needs to be fried. Plenty of eggs, potatoes, veggies, chicken, ground beef, etc. I’ve also used them to make frittatas by cooking on the stove top for a few minutes and then finishing under the broiler. You can also make a traditional cornbread in these pans as well since the whole pan can go into the oven!

While these pans are very versatile, and can be used very much like modern non stick pans, there are some foods that will actually remove the seasoning. Like tomatoes. Because of their acidity, they may ‘eat’ away at the seasoning and cause you to have to re season over time. So just be aware that even though you’re using the pan like you should, some foods may not be suited to the pan like you’d think.

So do you use cast iron? What’s your favorite dish to prepare in it?

Part one – How to Season

coming up…..part 3 : recipes for cast iron

This post is linked to: Kitchen Tip Tuesday

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Sarah Bauer says:

    I love my 2 cast iron skillets! I have a 12 inch and a 6 inch and they are amazing!!!! I cook everything in them, I also have a stainless steel skillet, but only use that if my cast iron ones haven’t been cleaned yet (meaning they are stuck on the bottom of a pile of dishes I haven’t gotten the will to clean yet) . I’ve done fried rice, spaghetti sauce, eggs, frittatas, Dutch oven pancakes, steaks, fish, chicken…pretty much anything except my veggies….it takes too long when you’ve only got one pan, so those are going in a stainless steel saucepan on another burner while the main course is going in the cast iron. Yay!

    donielle Reply:

    @Sarah Bauer, I’d love a 12 inch one! I do have a 10 inch skillet, but it’s just not big enough to do my sauces in.

  2. I have two cast iron pans (and two enameled cast iron pots) and I LOVE them! I use them almost every day – they just sit on the back burners of my stove, ready to be used. I totally agree with your list up there, but you really don’t have to be that careful. So long as your pans are well seasoned (and I mean WELL seasoned. I recommend putting 5-6 layers!) they can stand up to just about anything! Well, except the dishwasher or long soaking, but anything else, really! I scrub them in the sink with soap all the time, and I also scrape off any stuck bits with the edge of a paring knife.

    I also cook tomato sauces in them all the time – I’ve never had a problem with it stripping he finish, and I think I think it’s great that the iron leaches into the food – iron is absorbed into the body BEST when in the presence of licopene (which is released when tomatoes cook), so it’s a great way to get some iron into your body.

    If for some reason your pan has the finish stripped away from cooking or washing, it’s simple to fix without having to go through the whole long re-seasoning process. Scrub out the inside of the pan with a little oil and salt, wipe it clean then coat the interior with oil (vegetable shortening works, but so does canola oil). Heat on the stove over high heat. The oil will smoke, so you probably want to turn on the fan or leave a window open. When the oil is no longer smoking, it’s done.

  3. I use only cast iron and so did my mother before me. I have three large ones, probably 10 or 12 inch and then a tiny one which my five year old daughter is learning to use to fry her own egg for breakfast! I love my cast iron and use them for every thing. The beauty of these is that if you do goof up and do something not so good, such as leaving them soaking in the sink all night, its easy to get them back in shape. They will last almost forever.

    donielle Reply:

    @rachel, Such a good thing they’re fixable! Especially since I left mine out the night I posted this with food gunk in it! 😛 Oh well, I have 2 more I need to season anyways! (those haven’t been seasoned at all yet and were new in the box from a rummage sale) What I really want now is a cast iron dutch oven.

  4. I just bought two cast iron pans at a flea market this summer and I LOVE them!! I use them for absolutely everything and I love the way food just slides right out of them and they are so easy to clean. I was amazed the first time I cooked an egg in one and it just slid right out onto my plate (oh so much better than my “non-stick” pan which everything seemed to stick to…). Maybe it’s because they were second-hand, but I have never had to season them, I don’t season them after I wash them, but I do put a little oil in before cooking and have never had a problem with food sticking. Definitely the best flea market item I have ever purchased!

    donielle Reply:

    @Andi, I have heard the older ones are better since they machined them smooth on the inside. I have one old and one new and the old one is definitely better!! The finish is like black glass.

  5. I have a couple cast-iron pans but never really use them. I knew about seasoning but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it or how to care for them. This helps. Thanks!

    donielle Reply:

    @Kate, Get to using them lady! You’ll them them. :-)

  6. I have a 15″ cast iron that I use for making GIANT frittatas. I forget how many eggs–12 I think, plus some shredded potato, etc.? Brunch for a large group of people. Also good for making a bunch of steaks. Or sauteing a bunch of vegetables, or a big rice dish or something.

    Plus it’s good forearm exercise. And good for self-defense.

    donielle Reply:

    @Alex, That thing must weigh a ton! I can see it now, an intruder comes in, my husband goes for the gun, I head to the kitchen for my frying pan! :-) Once my kids are older, I’ll need to start looking for one that big! My biggest is only a 10 inch.

  7. I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  8. I do not like the way that most pre-seasoned cast iron pans smell when heated. They are usually seasoned with soy oil and it just smells plain rancid when you start using them. I would guess that canola would smell terrible after a few heats too. The best cast irons I have are the old ones that have been well abused. The nasty factory season is out of them and they have been re-seasoned with healthy fats. I’ve stripped all of the newer pans I’ve acquired by washing them with soap many times over, allowing a bit of surface rust and removing it with steel wool, and reseasoning them many times using good old fashioned lard. The factory season is usually 5-7 layers thick. We’ve used olive oil, coconut oil and beef tallow as well, but none of them works as well as lard.

    donielle Reply:

    @Nicole, I’ll have to give lard a try next time I season one of mine. I do fry with it a lot so after rinsing the pan there is usually some lard residue leftover!

  9. I just came across your site from Kitchen Stewardship. I love my cast iron and have several more (especially a camp dutch oven as my husband and I do reenactments) on my wish list. I love making cornbread in them and just about anything else. Also love my corn stick pan!

    donielle Reply:

    @Leah, I’d love a cast iron dutch oven! So many of my recipes call for one and I’ve just been making do without.

  10. I just found another really cool cast iron item that I want. A waffle iron!

    donielle Reply:

    @Leah, Ooooo, waffles. :-)

  11. I just found a small cast iron skillet at a thrift store, and I can’t wait to use it! It has some rust on it, and what looks like very, very old seasoning. Can I scrub it with steel wool that has soap already on it (I think that’s all I have around right now, a Brillo-like pad)? I know not to use soap after I season it, but not sure about when cleaning a used pan.

    My mom gave me a *huge* cast iron skillet ages ago, maybe 12 inches, when I moved into my first apartment, but I was in no way ready to use or appreciate it. :( I eventually gave it away, never having used it once! I cringe when I think about that! Oh well, I hope whoever ended up with it is happily enjoying it. Funniest part—it was so heavy my mom always called it “the husband-getter.” She never clarified if she meant acquiring one or reprimanding one…hahaha!

  12. I love my cast iron frying pans!!
    The bottoms have acquired a black crust, any ideas of how to get rid of this, it comes from cooking on a open flame stove.
    Thanks in advance :)