You’ll be a well-seasoned cast-iron cook in no time.

Jennifer Davick

A cast-iron skillet can seriously change your game in the kitchen. As a Southern staple and incredibly versatile kitchen tool, the cast-iron skillet is ready to go whether you’re cooking on the stovetop, in the oven, or even on the grill. Some cast-iron novices are wary of the high-maintenance rumors that circulate about using and caring for a cast-iron skillet, but don’t be discouraged. With a few tips and guidelines, you’ll want to use your cast-iron skillet for just about anything you’re putting on the table. Check out these basic need-to-knows.

Cleaning Cast-Iron

If your pan is well seasoned, all you need is hot water and a scrub brush to clean it. To remove any stuck-on food, a small amount of mild dish soap won’t cause damage. Water is cast iron’s real enemy, so thoroughly dry the pan, and then rub the inside and outside with a little vegetable oil.

Storing Cast-Iron

Keep cast-iron cookware in a cool, dry place. If you stack your pans, place a paper towel, small piece of cardboard, or even an old oven mitt in between each layer to absorb any extra moisture and prevent scratches or damage.

Using Cast-Iron

Cast iron heats up slowly, so preheat your pan in the oven or on the stove-top with some oil before adding anything else to it. Preheating prevents food from sticking to the pan, creates a nice crust on cornbread and meat, and also helps build up more layers of seasoning. You can use the same pan to make both sweet and savory dishes, but thoroughly clean it between uses to avoid transferring any leftover flavors—you don’t want your peach cobbler to taste like a batch of fried fish.

WATCH: Gooey, Indulgent Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

The Best Way To Season a Skillet:

“Break in” a new cast-iron pan or reseason an old one in three steps.

1. Clean It - Scrub the pan well in hot, soapy water, and dry it thoroughly.

2. Coat It with Oil - Spread a thin layer of vegetable oil or shortening over the entire pan–inside and outside.

3. Bake It - Place pan upside down on the middle oven rack. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any drips. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour; let it cool in the oven.