A cast iron skillet is a valuable addition to any cookware collection. Cooks everywhere are rediscovering the health benefits of cooking with cast iron. Treated cast iron skillets are natural "nonstick" cookware and even leach a little bit of iron into the food, which helps build red blood cells. A cast iron skillet needs a little bit of special care, however. Cast iron skillets can last for generations if they are cleaned and treated properly after every use. When cast iron cookware isn't properly treated, it will begin to rust.
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Scour your new cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets fresh from the factory are typically coated to prevent them from rusting. The coating might contain wax or plastic, so scour the skillet with steel wool. Wash the skillet in hot, soapy water and rinse it well. Put the skillet over a hot stove burner for five minutes to dry. Treat the skillet while it's still warm.
Treat your cast iron skillet. New or recently cleaned cast iron skillets need to be treated, or "seasoned," before you can use them. Place the skillet on a hot burner and add 2 tbsp. of cooking oil, such as canola oil or vegetable oil. Allow the oil to get hot, and then turn off the burner to let the skillet and oil cool. Smear the oil around the pan until the bottom and sides are lightly coated. Wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel.
Clean your cast iron skillet. Scrape off large food chunks with a stiff spatula. Put 2 tbsp. of coarse kosher salt or sea salt into the pan. Add enough water to make a thick, grainy paste. Scrub the pan with the paste using a stiff-bristled scrub brush. Rinse the pan in hot water and place on a hot burner for five minutes to dry. Treat your skillet with cooking oil following the process mentioned in Step 2.
Boil water in your cast iron skillet to loosen caked-on food. If your pan has dried or burnt food sticking to it, boil a small amount of water in the skillet for 30 seconds. Use a scrub brush to carefully scrape the skillet clean. Rinse the skillet and put it back on the burner to dry for five minutes. Treat it with cooking oil while it's still warm.
Store your cast iron skillet. Use paper towels or paper plates to separate your cast iron pans if you need to stack them. Make sure any cast iron cookware is treated with oil before storing it. This prevents moisture from causing your skillet to rust.