If you’ve just purchased your first cast iron pan, you may be asking yourself: now, what? The good news is that in a cast iron pan, you’ve found one that can sear steak like no other and that will last for decades and decades, that is, if you care for it properly.

A large part of cast iron’s ability to last for generations involves seasoning it to prevent rust so that it remains non-stick for a long time. Don’t fret if you’re a cast iron newbie. With these tips, you will pick up how to use a cast iron skillet in no time.

First Time Using a Cast Iron Skillet

Although it’s not recommended to use soap on your cast iron pan (once or twice per year should be the max), you’ll have to use it when the cast iron skillet is brand new. This is because rust or residue may be left on it from the factory. It’s also a good thing to do when you’re about to do a major seasoning on your cast iron pan.

If you don’t know what “seasoning” means, it’s a major component in caring for cast iron pans. Seasoning your pan simply means to coat it with multiple coats of oil and then probably following this step with baking the pan.

For a quick seasoning that works well with new cast iron skillets, simply wash your new pan with warm, soapy water, and then dry it with a dry cloth or paper towels. Next, coat the pan in olive or vegetable oil with a paper towel. You may have to wash your new pan a few times to get rid of all the gray residue.

How to Clean and Prepare an Unseasoned Pan

While most new cast iron skillets come already seasoned, that’s not always guaranteed. When that happens, follow these steps to thoroughly clean and prepare an unseasoned pan.

  1. Start by heating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. While the oven is heating, wash the skillet with warm, soapy water.
  3. Dry the pan thoroughly by using a dry cloth or paper towels.
  4. Using your choice of oil, add around 1 to 2 tablespoons to the pan and then use a paper towel to coat the entire pan, including the outside and bottom. 
  5. Place the pan face-down on the center rack of the oven. To catch any drips, place a baking sheet or aluminum foil underneath the cookware.
  6. Bake for an hour.
  7. Once it’s done, turn off the heat and allow the pan to cool before taking it out with oven mitts.
  8. Your pan should have a glossy coating that’s not greasy to the touch.  

Will Vinegar Remove Rust From Cast Iron?

While seasoning is mandatory for non-seasoned pans, it’s optional for pre-seasoned cast iron cookware. However, it’s best to still do so on a regular basis to help prevent rust.

If you do find rust, though, with this hack, you can use vinegar to remove it.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • An abrasive scrubber

Directions:

  1. Mix the water and white vinegar in the pan.
  2. Let the pan sit in the mixture for an hour (it may require more time if it’s badly rusted).
  3. Using the abrasive scrubber, scrub away the rust. 
  4. Once you’ve removed the rust, finish it off by following the normal seasoning process.

About the Author

Sarah Kester

Sarah is a writer, editor and cat mom. Lover of wine, rom-coms, and all things self-care, she’s inspired by mindfulness and helping others feel balanced in their lives through meditation, self-love and self-care. After all, what's balance without Saturday morning yoga and green juice and a glass of rosé later that evening? She has written for The Greatest, Elite Daily, YourTango, Vital Proteins, among others. To learn more, you can find her at her website sarahkester.com.