A reliable cast-iron pan can be a real workhorse for any cook. Because cast iron retains heat so well, it’s ideal for stir-frying or searing a steak on your stovetop. You can also use your skillet in the oven, on the grill, or even over a campfire.
It’s healthier, too: These sturdy pans transfer trace amounts of dietary iron to your food, and they’re free of the harmful chemicals used on coated cookware. If properly seasoned, they can retain a naturally nonstick surface for a hundred years or more.
Best of all, these skillets are easy to maintain. Follow the steps below to keep your pan in good working order.
How to Season Cast-Iron
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Wash your skillet with hot, soapy water. (Use soap on your pan only when you are preparing to season it.) Rinse and dry it thoroughly.
2. Apply a thin layer of oil (we like ghee for its high smoke point) inside and out — enough to make the surface shiny but not sticky.
3. Place a square of aluminum foil on the bottom oven rack to catch any oil drips. Set the skillet upside down and bake for an hour, and then let it cool. Repeat as necessary to maintain your pan’s nonstick surface.
How to Clean Cast-Iron
1. If the pan is soiled, simply rinse it with hot water right after cooking (don’t soak it; this can cause it to rust). Avoid using soap and never put it in the dishwasher; detergents will strip the seasoning.
2. If there’s food stuck to the surface, scrub with coarse salt and a nonmetal brush. Add more salt as needed, then rinse the pan with water and dry thoroughly.
3. Using a paper towel or soft cloth, rub the surface of the pan with a thin layer of ghee once a week or so to maintain the seasoning. Store the uncovered skillet in a dry place.