by Texas Homesteader ~
Although cleaning and caring for cast iron is somewhat different than other materials, it’s not hard nor complicated.
A few simple tricks will keep your cast iron rust free, virtually non stick and ready to serve you well for decades.
(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)
Simplifying My Kitchen Cookware
But back in ‘the day’ I was the same as probably most of my friends. I was rushing out to buy the latest and greatest cookware and food storage systems.
Several years ago I culled back HEAVILY and donated a tremendous amount of stuff to a thrift store, keeping only the things I actually used.
The most-used item in my Homestead kitchen is my small collection of vintage cast-iron skillets, passed down to me from both my father & my grandmother.
Precious Antique Cast-Iron Skillet Gift
Cast Iron skillets are the preferred cookware in my Homestead kitchen. But let me introduce you to my absolute favorite item in my kitchen: my grandmother’s antique cast-iron skillet.
(spotlight please…) Isn’t she a beauty?
This square cast iron skillet was given to me by my grandmother many years ago. She received it as a wedding gift when when she and my grandfather married in 1934.
Grandma was an amazing cook and this skillet was used almost daily in providing nourishing food for her family.
By the time she gifted the skillet to me it was perfectly seasoned from decades of home cooking. The surface was virtually non-stick too. I use it often.
I’ve also received a couple of vintage 10″ round cast iron skillets from my father.
These are so helpful because I like to make a double batch of No-Knead Skillet Bread and like to bake both loaves at the same time!
I also have various-sized griddles, comals, and other cast iron cookware that I use often.
Cast Iron For Stovetop or Oven Use
Cast iron is my go-to piece of cookware for virtually everything.
Stovetop Cast Iron Cooking: I most often use cast iron on the stovetop for:
Poor-Man’s Steak. (ie: stuffed hamburger).
Potato Cakes made from leftover mashed potatoes
Breakfast Quesadillas with scrambled eggs, cheese and sautéed veggies
Taco Spaghetti – Tex-Mex styled spaghetti is more fun!
Cast Iron Oven Cooking: And I love that my cast iron skillets are oven safe as well. So using my cast-iron skillets I also typically bake:
- Skillet Bread, and many other items too!
Cleaning My Cast Iron Skillet
Keeping my cast iron skillets properly cleaned & seasoned is a snap. If I’m frying something I simply wipe out the interior of the skillet of any residual food after the skillet’s cooled.
Any coating of oil left behind after cooking just helps to protect the seasoning of the cast iron.
But to clean the skillet after anything other than frying, I only need to use a scrub brush and some hot water to clean the interior. Soap is not necessary.
Although some cast-iron users will include soap in the cleaning, I feel it compromises the perfectly seasoned non-stick surface that was decades in the making.
So to keep that perfectly-seasoned surface I love, I never use soap when cleaning my cast-iron skillets. (Although I’m not gonna lie, it was VERY difficult for me to come to terms with never using soap in the skillet as I was cleaning it!)
Food Occasionally Clings To Cast Iron Surface
Now although the gorgeous surface of my cast iron skillet is virtually non-stick, there are cooking mishaps that cause things to stick in my skillet from time to time.
Errors such as not allowing the surface to heat enough before adding eggs for scrambling or when trying to fry very starchy varieties of potatoes.
But for those occasional messier things this is my favorite hack for cleaning my cast iron in those rare times when food clings to the surface of my cast-iron skillets:
Into my cooled skillet I pour in just enough water to barely cover the surface. Then I place the skillet on a burner set the flame to medium heat.
Since there’s so little water in the skillet, the water starts to simmer within a very short amount of time.
Now I turn off the heat and place the cover on the skillet. I’ll let the steam do all the work while I clean the rest of the kitchen.
By the time I’m done I remove the lid and any food that’s been stuck on the surface is softened & scrapes away effortlessly.
Maintaining Seasoning On Cast-Iron Surface
After my cast iron skillet has been scrubbed clean, I set the skillet on a hot burner until all moisture evaporates. I never walk away during this step because I’ve gotten distracted before. Eh hemmmmm…
Besides it only takes a few seconds for the heat to dry all the moisture that remains on the skillet’s surface.
When the skillet is completely dry I remove it from the heat and coat the still-warm inside surface with a thin coat of shortening or bacon grease before storing it away.
This helps protect the skillet against moisture. And remember that moisture is the enemy for cast iron.
Cast Iron Cookware Lasts For Decades
I’m amazed that this skillet has already seen almost a century of faithful service. And I love that I’ll still be able to pass it down to my own children. And they can pass it on to theirs!
Where To Find Cast Iron Cookware
If you aren’t lucky enough to receive a vintage cast iron skillet from your grandmother, they’re easily found at antique stores or thrift store.
You can still purchase cast-iron skillets new as well. I found cast iron skillets on *Cast Iron Skillets on Amazon.
Seasoning a new cast-iron skillet is easy. But nowadays you can even purchase your cast iron pre-seasoned.
Properly cared-for cast iron is highly durable cookware that you should be able to use for decades. And it only gets better with use. Now THAT’S an environmentally-friendly purchase.
Do you have a favorite piece of cast iron?
Read More About How Grandma Would Do Things
- Living Life Like Grandma
- Grandma-Approved Cleaning Techniques
- Is Grandma-Styled Cooking A Lost Art?
- The Importance Of The Family Supper Table
- Caring For Grandma’s Cast-Iron Cookware
- Stuck-On food? How To Easily Clean A Cast-Iron Skillet
- Using Grandma’s Vintage Corning Ware
- Why Doesn’t Junior Want Grandma’s Fine China?
- Living Deliberately & Naturally: Voluntary Simplicity
- Using It ALL – Eliminating Leftover Food
- Easy Self-Sufficiency Steps You Can Take Now
- Homemade Meals Daily (The EASY Way!)
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My favorite is the 15″ skillet. I never put it away–it just lives on my stove. I use it nearly everyday. Today I made eggs for breakfast & burgers for dinner. Yesterday was chicken paprikash. Tomorrow is fudgey chocolate skillet cake. I bought it new 2 years ago; it was already seasoned. All I ever do is wipe it out, and coat it with a thin layer of oil–no troubles with anything sticking–not even eggs.
They do get heavy when full of food though, My brother got my mom’s set of 5 skillets, the smallest was 8″. She said he got it because he was the only one who could handle their weight when full. Its all good because I got my grandfathers anvil. Even though the anvil is weigh heavier(pun intended)– I got it because my DH actually needed an anvil. I love things that last forever–who wants to waste time & money shopping for things every year or so. Now if I can find a vintage can opener–these new things don’t even last 3 months around here.
The craziest thing I ever did was when I was little, I decided to scrub my mother’s cast iron skillet with Ajax! She couldn’t get mad because I had worked so hard, but I know she probably wanted to snatch me bald! 😉
I love my cast iron pans–they’re a bit of an investment, but well-worth it! Now if only my husband could figure out how to use it without making a big stuck-on mess–seems lie I can go weeks and weeks with no trouble, but he makes one batch of eggs and there’s egg stuck all over the pan–every time! I told him–the secret is MORE BUTTER! Thanks for a great post! 😀
LOL Samantha. Eggs were always a challenge for me as well until I figured out the “MORE BUTTER” thing… When I do have an eggy mess, I pour enough water to cover the very bottom of the skillet, put the lid on and put it on the burner for just long enough to get the water bubbling and turn the heat off. I let it sit covered while I clean the rest of the kitchen and then the crusty eggs are softened & easy to scrape out. A quick run of shortening after the pan dries completely and we’re good to go again. ~TxH~
We have several cast iron pieces that we have picked up here and there. My older brother got all of our family’s hand me downs and won’t part with any. I love to cook a pot roast in our big Dutch oven; it just tastes better than in any other pot. Have a problem and question. There are only the two of us now, we have a skillet that is 24″ and 3-1/2 ” deep, that we rarely use. But when we need it, we have a problem with the oil coating having the raunchy rancid smell. We have tried using Crisco, Pam, Lard, and they all do it, does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks, Bob
Hummmm Bob, it’s too bad that you don’t have your family’s cast iron, but I know you love that you have cast iron to cook with. I know what you mean about the oil coating having a rancid odor when not used very often. Although I don’t have that issue with my grandmother’s skillet since we use it so often, we used to have other cast-iron skillets that weren’t used as often & I have experienced what you described. In those cases I would simply run hot water over the skillet & scrub it before using – I never noticed any rancid-oil taste imparted to the food. I’d still coat it with Crisco afterward to protect it though. Anyone else have any suggestions? ~TxH~
We usually use olive oil, and we have not had this problem since we started being careful to use only just enough oil and rub it in well. The goal is to coat the surface lightly to protect it from oxidizing–not to leave a layer of oil. If you get too much and it won’t soak in, rub it off with a towel.
You might also try coconut oil. It’s supposed to never go rancid.
We have several cast iron skillets. The largest, belonged to my husband’s grandfather
who was an outfitter, in Montana. It is in excellent condition because he knew how to
care for it.
We bought a couple other iron skillets at an auction. One was really grungy, and covered with
burned on food particles. I remembered reading, years ago, in the Tightwad Gazette, that
you can clean a skillet in bad shape, in a self cleaning oven, while the oven cleans.
We tried it, and it was amazing! It was clean, and all we had to do was season it.
Wow that’s a pan worth every cent! How sweet to have the memories of your grandmother as well.
I love cast iron! This motivated me to re-season my skillets.
Now that I can finally easily get to my cast iron skillets I am hereby going to use them!! I’d love to have a square one like yours too. Thanks for the reminder 🙂 And, thank you for sharing this at the party this week! It is being featured on my Facebook page and I have pinned it to the You’re Gonna Love It Tuesday board on Pinterest 🙂
Ok, ok, fine! I’ll get mine back out and keep trying to use them! 🙂 Mine are pretty raw and aren’t anywhere near as seasoned as your grandma’s. I guess I’ll just need to eat more bacon. Groovy. We shared this with our Fb readers at homesteadlady.com.
I love my cast iron, some more than others. I have a few pieces of Griswold that are just amazing in their workmanship. When, through everyday use, I feel like a piece needs a seasoning boost, I like to do one of two things (dependent in part on the pan size/shape). If it’s a skillet, I like to roast a chicken in it. Skillets or deeper pans can be used to pop some popcorn in bacon grease. Puts such a nice patina on the pan and restuls in a tasty reward for the effort.
Can a cast iron skillet with a crack be saved? If so, how? I was told to heat up the skillet without oil until really hot…I did and the result was a crack. Can you believe it? A chef told me that…guess he didn’t have any cracked cast iron!
Oh no! My mother has her grandmothers cast iron skillet that had previously suffered a broken handle & it had been welded back on. But I’m not sure how a crack in the pan itself would be repaired. I’m so sorry! ~TxH~
Great post! I know from experience that soap in a cast iron is NOT a good idea. A friend of my mom’s washed hers for her and used dish soap. My mom didn’t know about it, pulled it out the next time and made potatoes in it.. YUCK! Tasted just like soap.
Thanks for sharing this with us at Weekend Wonders! Hope to see you again soon 🙂
I have recently started using my cast iron skillets again. I have three sizes. The largest and smallest are Wagners. My favorite size is the 8 1/2 inch. Since there are only three of us at home, I bake biscuits in it. After preheating the oven, I put this skillet in to melt Crisco. Of course, I add the melted Crisco to flour and milk. Cut them out. (My mother used a little, old orange can for a biscuit cutter.) Biscuits are always baked evenly. I enjoyed your post. Have a fabulous Friday from middle TN!
My Mom has some cast iron I love and one day she will pass it on to me. Both my girls have cast iron as well. Great cooking in them. Thanks for sharing!
Linda and Diann
That’s great to know. I have a cast iron skillet we bought from a yard sale and I’ve never known how to properly clean it..until now! Thanks! I pinned this too. 🙂
I LOVE my cast iron. We are a larger family (there are 9 of us) and I have a HUGE skillet. My favorite thing to cook in it is cornbread. NOTHING beats cast iron baked cornbread. I would love to find a bread pan to make homemade bread in too. Bass Pro Shops (down here in the South) carry cast iron and have a great scrub brush made to clean stubborn food off cast iron. LOVE it!! 🙂
Thank you for this post! I have a cast iron skillet I use to make cornbread in, but I have never cooked in it because I didn’t know how to clean it! How simple! The other week my mother tried to give my grandmother’s cast iron skillet to me, but I wouldn’t take it yet because I know she still makes cornbread in it. I must admit, though, I look forward to the day when it is mine!
I need to get a cast iron skillet. I love how things taste in them, but have always felt like I don’t know how to deal with their care. I think your post has motivated me to get one. Thanks.
I love my cast iron cookware! It is my only truly non-stick pan! I have an old dutch oven I need to clean up and re-season soon – campfire time is upon us! Thanks for sharing!
I have three cast iron skillets, one purchased new and two that I picked up at flea markets.
The cleaning and re-seasoning on the two used ones was not as simple as put forth on the Internet. But after some tweaking, they are wonderful. Nothing better than cast iron!
I had trouble with restoring my skillet, too. The oven cleaner was killer. My friend hooked me up with a pumice stone. Two pumice sticks later, seasoning, and it’s good as new.
My wonderful and beautiful grandmother gave me two extraordinarily seasoned cast iron skillets as a wedding gift almost 2 years ago now. Although she is very young, they date back even further – my great grandmother gave them to her several years prior. She gifted me the skillets in a box with instructions on proper care and the history behind them both. It was one of my favorite wedding presents that I will use for years to come.
Ashley, how lucky for you that your grandmother passed down her own skillet which had been passed down to her from previous generations. And to get TWO of them? Wow, you really ARE lucky! ~TxH~
I’m always amazed at how many people don’t know how to care for cast iron, or all the benefits it has. In fact, when I was pregnant and my iron level was a bit low, my midwife even suggested I start cooking more in cast iron because it puts a good amount of iron in your food. My dear husband recent gifted me my first ever housekeeper and, while she does a wonderful job, I found my two favorite cast iron skillets sitting still soaking wet with water (and already starting to rust!) when she left. I shutter to think if she used soap on them. Guess I’ll be teaching her a few tips when she comes back. Great post!
LOL Peggy! In her defense, many people do not realize you treat cast iron slightly different than other cookware. But that diligence repays you with decades of service. Thanks for the giggle. ~TxH~
Thanks for the wonderful tips. I have never had much luck with cast iron and now I know why – soap and not drying and oiling it immediately!
Moisture is the enemy of cast iron, so getting it dried quickly and adding a thin layer of shortening afterward are key. Easy-Peasy! I love my cast iron, give it a try. ~TxH~
I had always wondered how I was going to get the sometimes stuck on food off my cast iron ware. After I found out I could use a plastic sgrungee on it, my pans have a beautiful finish and I don’t miss using detergent on them at all. I’m glad my food tastes like food and not like soap! I spray them with an aerosol oil, like ‘Pam’ when I’m done using them. Cast iron ware is a great source of iron in your diet. You could have mentioned the simple step to seasoning a new pan- rubbing it with oil, a potato, and salt, then baking it on high for an hour- preferably in an outdoor grill.
Thanks Paul for the information on seasoning a new pan, that’s very helpful. I have read that cooking in cast iron added iron to your diet – wow, chalk yet another benefit for cooking with cast iron! ~TxH~
Did you know you can get a free plastic scouring pad by using the plastic mesh bags that some produce comes in? Simply roll up the empty bag inside-out and use it to scrub. It won’t last as long as a purchased scouring pad but is good for half a dozen scrubbings at least.
We usually scrub our cast iron skillets with coffee grounds. We have two skillets (full size and a smaller one for scrambling a few eggs, etc.) and whenever we are emptying the coffee percolator, if one of the skillets is dirty we dump the grounds in there. Then when my partner has a free moment (often when he is waiting for water to boil) he puts a little water in the pan and scrubs the grounds around. Depending on how finely you grind your coffee and how delicate your skin is, you may be able to do this with your bare hand, or it may be better to use rubber gloves or a scrubber–if you happen to have an orange peel, that works really well between your hand and the coffee grounds, adding some citrus cleaning power. Coffee grounds are really good at removing stuck-on food and do not leave flavor behind. Afterward, put most of the grounds in the compost bin and let the rest rinse down the drain.
We use the last drops of cooking oil in a bottle to season our skillets, unless we’ve run out of “last drops”–it’s remarkable how much is left when the bottle seems almost empty!
My mom and dad were married in 1938. At that time my great-grandmother gave her a cast iron skillet that she had used when raising her children. Mom cooked meals in this skillet for our family and also for my children and their children. I now own that skillet and only after receiving it did I notice that sometime in the past the handle had been broken off and welded back. In those days people did not throw away and replace broken items. They had them repaired. My great-grandfather was a blacksmith and I have no doubt that he repaired the skillet. Needless to say, this skillet is my favorite piece of cookware.
That’s awesome PK, what a wonderful story about your great-grandfather! I’d like to think we’re coming back to a generation that buys quality and keeps it in good working order instead of throwing it away and buying more, although I think we still have a long way to go. It’s encouraging though that many people are now shunning cheap poorly-made goods and instead opting to spend their money on better quality for longer-term use. Thanks for sharing your story. ~TxH~