ONCE AND FOR ALL
HOW TO USE/TREAT/SEASON CAST IRON COOKING WARE
(Someone told me they hate cooking in a cast iron skillet because the food sticks.)
My reply to this was and always will be:
“Never, never, never wash cast iron in soapy water.”
Food in my cast iron skillets, Dutch ovens, and bean pots don’t stick because they are seasoned and stay that way due to some small effort on my part.
Cook whatever you want in a cast iron pot or skillet (spaghetti sauce, chili, eggs, cornbread, etc.) and when it’s cold wipe it out with pages from an old phone book (saves on paper towels). Cast iron that had anything with tomatoes in it (chili, spaghetti sauce) needs to be cleaned with hot water and a stiff vegetable brush only.
Any skillet or pot that had anything cooked in it that had sugar in it (bacon, ham, burnt sugar icing) needs to be half-filled with water and boiled for a few minutes and the sugary residue will lift right off. Do the same when the skillet was used for making gravy or anything containing milk and/or flour.
Oil from frying eggs will only season the cast iron more and all you may need to do is to wipe the skillet out with paper towels or the phonebook pages and put it away.
Once you have the cast iron ‘cleaned’, coat it with vegetable oil, let it set for a little while in a warm oven and then wipe it clean with paper towels. If you have been washing your skillets in soapy water, then it may take a few times of cleaning them my way to get them seasoned properly.
To get the black crude (actually baked on grease) off of the outside of the skillet or pot, put them in your campfire and the grease will turn to a rusty residue. Cool them, wipe them clean with paper towels, run warm water over them and wipe them down again. Dry them in a warm oven and coat them with vegetable oil and put them back in the warm oven for a while and then wipe them down again until they are almost dry but still have a slight coating of oil on them. They will, with use and in time, turn to a nice shade of black again which means they are seasoned.
I find the best way to get the crude off is to wait until my wife has gone shopping for a few hours and then I put them upside down in our electric stove and turn the knob to self-clean. Then I treat them the same way as the campfire method. Oh, another thing, Lodge Manufacturing Company sells cast iron pots and skillets that are pre-seasoned AND, you should never, never, never wash them in soapy water or they too will start sticking.
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