How To Care For A Cast-Iron Skillet

From routine maintenance to serious rust problems

Cast Iron Skillet on Wood Surface
Photo: Jennifer Davick

If you've recently bought a cast-iron skillet, it's probably already seasoned, so maintaining the skillet is a matter of instilling good habits of care each time you cook with it. But for most of us, we've had our skillets for a while, and often, that means they need a little more attention.

Check Your Skillet

If it has rust spots, it needs to be seasoned. Even if it hasn't rusted, you may still notice the skillet is harder to clean because food is adhering to the surface. A good test if it's time to season is lifting the pan to reflect natural sunlight. If the metal looks bluish-silver and is reflecting the natural light with a silvery sheen, it's time to season your skillet. A well-seasoned skillet will be dull matte black and food will not readily stick to the surface.

Daily Upkeep

Gently clean your skillet after each use with water and very little soap, if necessary. Use the firm scrubbing side of a two sided sponge rather than an abrasive metal scrub. After you finish washing and rinsing the cast-iron, dry it thoroughly with a towel and return it to a warm oven for 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and, using a paper towel, coat the entire surface with a very thin layer of neutral oil like canola or grapeseed. You want to add the oil to the cast iron while it's still hot so the oil undergoes the chemical reaction to become a polymer that protects the surface. Store in a dry place.

WATCH: How To Season A Cast-Iron Skillet

Seasoning Your Skillet

Place your skillet in a sink and fill with a enough water to barely coat the bottom of the skillet. Add a generous amount (1/4 cup) of kosher salt to the skillet and use a non-metal scrub to scrub the salt and the water into the surface of the skillet. The coarse texture of the salt helps remove the impurities stuck to the surface. Rinse out the skillet and dry with a towel. Place in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes to dry thoroughly. Remove from oven, increase oven temperature to 500°F, and rub the surface of the cast iron with just enough neutral oil (like canola or grapeseed) to completely coat the metal. Flip the skillet upside down, and place it in the oven with a tray or aluminum foil beneath the skillet to catch any oil that drips off. Allow the pan to heat in the oven for 1 hour. The pan should no longer have a sheen, but will instead have a matte finish. Add a small amount of more oil and rub it into the hot surface. Allow to cool before storing in a dry place. Follow the steps in the Daily Upkeep section each time you use your skillet.

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