Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries and will most likely be around for more. Its versatility and even heat-distribution has made cast iron cookware a favorite of many cooks. Pots, pans and various other pieces can be purchased new from the store or found for a bargain at yard sales or flea markets and some is even passed down through generations as a family tradition.

And, with proper care and maintenance, an owner of a piece of cast iron can assure that it will last for a lifetime (or several).

In this instructable, I will show the steps and guidelines I follow to keep my cast iron collection in good condition and ready for anything.

Step 1: Your new piece of cast iron

Cast iron cookware can be purchased from many different places. A person buying a piece of cast iron new from a store can be fairly certain that it is clean and nearly ready to use. However, buying a piece from a flea market may be somewhat different, since it is most likely used. Although it may be dirty-looking, chances are it can be rescued. Try to select a piece that looks to be in good condition, free of cracks and large patches of rust. Smell it and make sure that it hasn't come into contact with harmful chemicals or other liquids. As long as there isn't anything wrong with it that can't be fixed with a little elbow-grease, it is a good piece. Any piece of cast iron, new from the store or used, must be cleaned well before it is used for cooking.

There are several pieces of cookware that are made from cast iron, the most popular being pans, pots, dutch ovens, muffin pans, bread pans and griddles that are made to fit over the burner on a stove.
<p> I have been using Food Grade Mineral Oil for forty five or longer both sets of grandparents used this method. The reason they liked it was because after seasoning with it, the carbon caused by the seasoning process does not rub off, secondly it does not get the rancid smell if not used in a while. Last but not least it makes seasoning a lot easier. Way back then we would build a large Bon fire to clean everything in it. ( a lot of people state that you shouldn't do that because it will crack it or warp it.) and have been cleaning it that way all my life. By the way, I still have 25 pieces that I have had since before I turned 18. Never damaged any of them. </p><p> After putting them in the fire we would let them sit for twenty minutes. We would use a heavy wire hook to pull them out. While holding them with a heavy metal hook I would strike it with a small ball peen hammer and that would cause all OG the carbon build up as well as most of the rust. When the inside was clean we would brush the insides, then using a small cotton mop we would rub down the insides with mineral oil and watch it smoke, after it started to cool down we would reheat and mop until we got a clean smooth bottom. Now days I use the grill to heat them up and rub them down , heat , rub with mineral oil making it smoke up, then back to the grill and we repeated it 6-7 times and I've made grilled cheese sandwiches with cast iron and it don't stick because of the fine slick carbon build-up. If you do not like the mineral oil idea ( which is inert after it's been carbonized.) you should use a light virgin olive oil. It also is not bad about becoming rancid !</p>
<p>I followed your instructions and am testing the result right now!</p><p>(before picture included for comparison)</p>
<p>I'm assuming this is fahrenheit at 350 so for all the people needing celsius; 176.67&ordm;C</p>
This was an informative instuct, and more so with the comments. I love camping and cooking, and find that cast iron is great for blackened foods. It's not blackened if its not in CI. All the tips hear are great. My grandmother had an 8&quot; CI pan that was used only for biscuits. She would just wipe it with a clean kitchen towel, and put it back in the oven. Biscuits would slide out, never sticking. I recently found a 10&quot; pan at a thrift store for $5, and will use the info in this instruct and comments to keep it for a long time. Thanks. B-)
<p>My mother-in-law always put her cleaned cast iron pan back on the fire for a few minutes after washing and drying to ensure it was totally dry. It has the most beautiful seasoning finish on it.</p>
<p>I've heard and read this about cast iron cleaning in many, many places, including the instruction leaflets or tags that come with new cast iron cookware. However, I don't feel comfortable using only hot water to get the film of grease off a pot or skillet. Hot water often doesn't do the trick, and the cookware feels slick and not very sanitary. and the admonitions about using detergent can, I think, make someone panic unnecessarily, thinking they've ruined their cast iron if they use a bit of detergent.<br><br>For the past 40+ years, I've washed my cast iron cookware in hot water with detergent. My Dutch oven and my most often-used skillet are now 37 years old, and my other skillets and saucepans close to 20 years old. They are not rusty, food doesn't stick, and I feel a lot better when I hang them up than I would if they still felt greasy from the last meal cooked in them.<br><br>I recognize that most people prefer to follow the rules for cleaning cast iron, but, for me, I intend to keep going by what I've seen with my own eyes for decades. </p>
Do you have info on the best way to fully season cast iron that has wooden handles? I'd love to use them.
Hmmm. This gives me an idea for a cooking reality TV show about competing cooks who only use this type of cookware. We'll call it &quot;Cast Iron Chef&quot;!
You know, although I think this is the weirdest instructable I have ever read, I must commend you on your very well proportioned expose on the use and care of cast iron crockery. <br/><br/>I do believe that us mortals here on the a** end of Africa (read South Africa - which is a country if you didnt know) also use cast iron pots, yet with a devious twist that might just save you from whipping on a glove like a paediatric nurse every time you want to cook some pasta. <br/><br/>The trick is (i believe) to get/make a wooden handle. Usually I would not suggest this to just anybody, but as you seem so passionate about your cast iron cookware, I would suggest: &quot;A wooden handle, in two halves, that fit over the handle created by the cast iron. When riveted together, the half moon cylinders of wood provide a sturdy and comfortable handle, easily replaced when burnt or otherwise damaged.&quot;<br/><br/>Have a good day...<br/>JW.<br/>
The only problem with adding a wooden handle is that it prevents you from using the pan in the oven or on a campfire. I have bare handles on my pans and use a leather welding glove as a pot holder. Works great, prevents burns or singeing hair of my knuckles.
All of the comments for tempering cast iron pans are great. I have 24 pans of varying sizes and prefer them over EVERY other pan I have - aluminum commercial pans, stainless steel, Teflon. <br> <br>Although I love Lodge and Griswald pans, any cast iron pan is good as long as it does not have any cracks in the steel. Even VERY rusty ones. <br> <br>Since I shop for pans at yard sales, my average price is $3-5 for quality pans. Often, I find soiled or rusty pans that the owner feels are no salvageable. But I buy the rusty pans for cheap and put them aside until my next camping trip. Putting the pan into the campfire which is burning at 1000 to 1400 degrees will remove ALL ferrous oxide (rust). Since the pans are made at 2500+ degrees, no damage whatsoever occurs to the pan. Next morning, pull it out of the fire, clean/scrub it with kosher salt, temper with oil and you have a nice, new pan that will outlive you and your family.
I preheat my cast iron in the oven before I apply the layer of oil. I've heard that by preheating the metal it causes the pores in the metal to open and allows for a better seasoning. I just heat it until the metal is almost too hot to touch btw
Very informative! The next time I cook with my skillet I will remember this page. It is packed up right now. I have missed it. I wondered how this was done. Thanks for sharing.
The little pan inside of the square skillet in the pic, I believe I have one just like it! If it has a heat ring on the bottom and doesn't have a brand on it, It's just like mine. I have a 10&quot; griswold, and a 6.5&quot; krischer as well.<br>
so... what happens when you're bad and your skillet gets rusted?
Sandpaper the rust off and season immediately.
As a chef, I agree, cast iron is great. Let me add a tip I give to all my students - especially good for grill pans. After you remove the food and the pan is still hot, add a good layer of kosher salt to the pan. The salt will absorb any excess grease etc in the pan. As soon as the pan has cooled a bit - still warm but not screaming hot - use a nylon dish brush to move the salt all around the pan. The salt is a minor abrasive and will help to remove any stuck on food. The salt along with the &quot;drippings&quot; can be disposed of in the trash helping out your plumbing a bit! Then using JUST very hot water, rinse the pan well. In a well seasoned pan the water will bead up a bit. You can use the nylon brush to be sure there is no food stuck to the pan. I place my pan back on the stove and turn on the gas to high. The water evaporates quickly so rust is never an issue - just be sure to let the pan cool well before storing it.
I know this is a really old ible but I have two things to share anyway.. 1. my process- cook, rinse, heat to dry, oil lightly, repeat 2. the best thing about a well seasoned (old) CI is the rue
Very well done.&nbsp; I'm glad to see there are other dutch oven cooks on Instructables. :)&nbsp;I'm going to forward this to any family and friends that ask for help in using, cleaning, and storing cast iron.<br />
I have auestion for you. Where did you get your kettle? Thanks for a great instructable.
Probably a flea market or thrift store.
Excellent instructable! I agree with your love of "Cast Iron Cooking" as there is nothing you can cook on a stove that you can't cook over a fire in a dutch oven or a skillet!!!
I know that this is an old thread, but I want to say thank you. I have my Nana's two cast iron skillets, and they were her mother's as well. I think the age we came up with them was around 100 years old. I've found a couple of good ways to clean mine over the years. The best thing you can get is a wok cleaner. It's this cylindrical brush made out of stiff bamboo. Imagine if you took a stalk of bamboo, cut out a section of it and split it all up lengthwise. Find in your local Asian grocery store. If something is really stuck, I let the pan heat up for a while. Then I throw in some water, actually a good amount of water. Enough to cover the bottom even after it stops boiling. Let it soak for 30 minutes, tops. Then go to town with the bamboo scrubber. Bamboo is not hard enough to remove the coating so you can really dig in. Have fun.
Love the 'Ible!!! Very detailed! I learned a lot!<br/><br/>I have been an amatuer cast-iron user for some time now, but I do seem to remember hearing one &quot;trick&quot; when I was in the Boy Scouts that I haven't seen mentioned here. When cooking directly on coals with your cast-iron skillet, it is helpful to rub a small amount of liquid dish soap onto the bottom {the <em>outside</em>, people - no one wants to eat soap!!! :)} of the skillet to aid in cleaning off the char from the coals. Apparently it is easier to wash off the mess the coals leave behind when doing this. I have tried it in the past, and the &quot;cooked-on&quot; soap did seem to aid in cleaning off the bottom of the pan somewhat. I was wondering what everyone else thought about that. Would it really matter using soap on the outside of the pan? I wouldn't think so, since you aren't eating/cooking from it, but I wondered how it would affect the health of the pan.<br/>What do you all think? Good idea? Bad? Why? <br/>Please discuss.<br/>:) <br/>
Nice tips.Now I am hesitant,what's better of cast iron or stainless,I have read from <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.stainless-steel-cookware.com/cookware-articles/best-cookware.html">best cookware selection</a>,do you have any good advise?thank you very much!<br/>
Honestly, there is no &quot;better&quot;. There's just &quot;better for your purpose&quot;.<br/><br/>For example, if you are cooking a steak with the intent of making a pan sauce from the fond left in the pan, Stainless Steel is *far* superior (well seasoned cast iron is too non-stick to generate a good fond).<br/><br/>At the same time, if I was making a grilled cheese sandwich, well, there's no pan on earth that can match my cast iron.<br/><br/>There's an important place in your kitchen for both stainless steel cookware, and for cast iron cookware (and non-stick aluminum, too!). Considering how inexpensive it is to get a decent cast iron skillet, I think everyone should have one in addition to anything else they have.<br/>
My experience (been cooking with cast iron on and off since I was a Boy Scout back in the 1980's) is that when cast iron is properly maintained (and it is real easy to take care of it) it is far superior to stainless steel cookware.
My Aunt purchased a cast iron pan from a yard sale that was old and rusted. She was told to make a very hot fire in a charcoal grill and put the skillet on the grate to burn the rust off. It worked and now it belongs to me and I use quite often.
I've restored some CI pans and pots from flea markets that were not cared for well for Scout Troops and have found that Alton Brown's thorough method of restoring/cleaning CI works very well. He recommends melting enough Crisco type shortening in the bottom to have a layer about 1/8th to 1/4 inch deep and then place a healthy amount of Kosher Salt in the bottom. The salt has large enough granules to be a good abrasive, and since it isn't fat soluble, it won't dissolve. I rub it around with a firm bristled brush (like Lodge sells, but I use a knock-off). Then after it cools off a bit, I rinse it out with warm, almost hot water, hot enough to dissolve the salt. After all the salt is gone I place it back on the stove for just long enough to rub some more Crisco on it. I've done this quite a few times and it really seems to scrub well without removing much, if any of the seasoning, just the food, char, and light rust.
I have never needed to use water with this method. LOTS of kosher salt dumped into a still warm pan then I use a paper towel to push the salt around and scrap it clean. Then just wipe out the pan. The advantage is then this helps the pan's seasoning form. Every time you expose your pan to water the seasoning is washed away a little and you run the risk of microscopic spots of rust finding there way in especially when combined with leftover salt! Because you reapply a lipid coating (Crisco) you MAY have been able to dodge this but be aware microscopic rust could still be forming. That rust could lead to Tetanus!!! Your best off using no water or just water. Combining the scouring power of the salt (scrapping of protective seasoning) with the corrosive power of salt water is not a safe to do after EVERY use. In general my cast iron never touches water for cleaning. The salt cleaning inhibits most nasty microbes and letting the pan heat up fully kills what ever I might have missed. Plus I find it gives my pan a superior seasoning.
Tetanus caused by bacteria and not rust.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetanus">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetanus</a><br/>
Yep, you raise a very good point, and evidentially I wasn't as clear as I thought I was. I ONLY do this in 3 potential circumstances: When restoring a pan that wasn't taken care of (often young scouts :) ), it has some NASTY char built up from when someone (including myself) who may not have been the most attentive when using it, or I buy one used that I don't know the history of. It only ends up being once in a blue moon.
Been using cast iron for a long long time now. Steel wool is the hard way of cleaning one you know nothing about. The best way to clean an old pan you know nothing about is to use elctrolysis. I got one that was so crusted with gunk (for free) that the person was going to throw it away. I stuck it in an electrolysis bath for 3 days and with about 2 mins of scrubbing it looked brand new. Look it up on google for electrolysis. I also recommend seasoning them in the BBQ grill using bacon grease. If it smokes outside who cares? Also you can build up higher temps in the grill then you can in the oven. The real purpose of not using soap came from the old days when soap was made of lye, lye was corrosive and ate off the seasoning. Todays mild dish soaps are OK to use if you feel the need. I very rarely have to use any cleaning agents on mine (even salt)once I have seasoned it on the grill.
I had to put my cast iron cookware in storage for over 2 years. To prevent rust, I got some Mineral Oil from the pharmacy and poured about an inch or less in the bottom of the Dutch Oven and other pieces. Generously wiped down the lids, with the Mineral Oil. When I was able to take my C/I out of storage (along with my furniture, etc.) there was not one speck of rust on any of the cookware. It looked just as shiny and good as tho I had used it only a week or so ago. BTW, this is not the Mineral Oil that you buy at the Hardware Store. You can only get the kind I used at the Pharmacy. So, don't forget or you may have a problem.
I had to put my cast iron in storage for a little over 2 yrs. To keep it from rusting, I poured about 1/2 " of Mineral Oil (that you get from the pharmacy) inside the Dutch Oven. Wiped it all around inside and all over the Dutch Oven lid. Did the same with other C/I. None of it rusted at all! To clean my C/I skillets, I wipe it out good, scraping up any burned on bits from the bottom. Put it on the heating element and turn it to medium heat, and put a coupla tablespoons of Kosher Salt in the skillet and distribute it evenly around. When the skillet gets hot enough, then I come back with the spatula and scrape around on the bottom, pushing the salt around as I scrape the skillet. This will thoroughly clean the skillet. Then I take the skillet off the heat, allow to cool. When cool, I dump out the salt and debree, wipe the skillet clean and oil slightly with Crisco or cooking oil. This is the very best way to clean the inside of the skillet. For the outside, where so much gunk collects, have your hubby take the skillet outside and take a blowtorch to the outside of the skillet and burn off the gunk. Reseason if necessary.
What is the best way to get rust off cast iron so the process can be started?
"What is the best way to get rust off cast iron so the process can be started?" - Put on some gloves and get to work with some steel wool. Rinse often to make sure you get it all off. You may need to paper towel it dry to make sure it looks clean. Once it is all gone, immediately get to work with the seasoning process to help seal the surface. Cast iron is almost indestructable, but as with cars, rust is like cancer.
Ok... so I'm an amature cast iron owner! I've purchased new pans because clearly they are healthier to use than the typical non-stick pan out on the market. I tend to not use oil or fat when I cook - but is it ok for me to cook with a little water heated in the cast iron pan instead of fat or oil? I realize that I won't season the pan by any means doing it this way - but i'm more using it for the health benefits. So would this be ok - or will it ruin my pan and risk rusting or something like that?? Also, what's the difference between enamel cast iron, porcelain & straight up cast iron?? merci! merci!
You're probably going to run into problems with cast iron that is not seasoned I think. Basically, since the surface is so porous, you're going to have to deal with food sticking like crazy if you're trying to replace oil with water. Enamel & porcelain cast iron both have finishes which is what makes them different from regular cast iron. You still get the even heat distribution, but you can use them like other pots and pans since they don't build up a seasoning.
Build up the seasoning with about 10 heat/oil/cool cycles, and then you could probably cook for a while with only water. Once a month or so, though, put the pan through another single seasoning cycle. Little, if any, of the seasoning oil is actually transferred to the food, so I wouldn't worry about it.
Excellent! I am the proud owner of a heirloom skillet that is almost 100 yrs old, and I use it almost daily. I am also the recipient of almost a hundred years of family cast-iron-skillet lore, and you are right on. Cornbread MUST be cooked in a skillet to be truly appreciated. ('able mat'l, I know..). Another tip for maintaining seasoning- when I cook bacon or another fatty food, I leave the resulting grease in the pan at room temp until the next day, then wipe it out (or cook with it). As for NoOneIsHeres comment, there is no possibility whatsoever of contracting tetanus from a rusty piece of cookware. None.
Thank you for posting this. If taken care of, a good set of cast iron will last many lifetimes.
Very thorough Instructable. My personal opinion is that teflon eventually comes off and can't be very good for you, so cast iron is the way to go.
we always use Crisco for the oil. It works great and i wold highly recommend it. Its perfect cause its oil and also very easy to apply since its thicker and more easily handled
I used to use Crisco but it has a very low smoke point (temperature at which it burns). Since my oven cycles around twenty degrees of its target temperature I found that my shortening began to smoke. Switching to safflower oil fixed that
I typically use bacon grease for the same reason. Saturated fats tend to stay better without spoiling.
This is a great instructable. One that I can point friends to when they ask how I keep my cast iron so sleek and sexy and non-stick. Well done!
Thanks everybody. I love the comments and tips so far.
My in-laws' home burned down when they hadn't been married all that long. The only things that survived were the cast-iron pots/pans.
When washing-correct when you said no soap. Very good primer on cast iron cook wear- Some of ours is close to a century old. Think about drying on the stove , after cleaning, low heat until the pan warms up, then let the moisture evaporate. These pans store very well with a bit of the oil or fat left on them. We believe chili, in our huge dutch oven is the best way to prepare chili. We always give a # 10 cast iron skillet as a wedding gift, a great way to learn a tried and true way of great cooking. We also tease new husbands to respect a person who can wield a cast iron pan on the range and otherwise. When buying cast iron, a good unseasoned #10 skillet often sells for less than ten dollars, seasoned and years old they sell for much more, if you can find them, because of the legendary seasoning in an older pan. Well done and Kudos!

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