A well-cared for cast iron skillet will be your best friend in the kitchen.

fried eggs in mini cast iron skillets

Cast iron skillets have been around since the beginning of time. Well, not technically, but almost.  First used in China in the 6th century BC, civilizations worldwide have been cooking in cast iron for centuries. And for good reason. 

Cast iron is durable, holds heat well and is easy to come by, making cast iron pans very affordable.

So Why Cast Iron?

Like most of the free world, I tossed out all my nonstick frying pans years ago. 

The dangers of Teflon not only to humans, but to pets and especially chicks in a brooder in the house, are pretty well-documented. 

cast iron skillet with carton of eggshells

I'm just not comfortable with any of the various non-stick pans that have a chemical coating on them that can flake off or emit toxic fumes at a high heat. 

I figure a cast iron skillet was good enough for my grandmother to fry her chicken eggs in, and her mother before her too, so it's good enough for me.

eggs frying in cast iron skillet

In the 1950's, stainless steel and aluminum became popular materials for frying pans, but you're going to need a LOT of oil or butter to keep your eggs from sticking to both of those surfaces.

So if you're in the least bit health-conscious, having a pan that doesn't require a ton of calories added to your cooking is a major plus. 

So clearly, there's a very good reason why cast iron has stood the test of time. 

If you're new to cooking with cast iron, you'll need to learn how to care for your cast iron skillet. With proper care, you'll have yourself a pan that will outlive you

Cast iron pans have been passed down for generations from mother to daughter to granddaughter. 

As well they should be.

cast iron skillet

How to Care for your Cast Iron Skillet 

If you buy a new cast iron skillet, it will need some initial care, but will eventually get better with age. And as you use it, it will continue to season. 

well-seasoned cast iron skillet shouldn't need much surface coating, if any, when you cook to prevent foods from sticking.

So how do you care for your skillet and season it for the best nonstick-ability? 

Here are some tips from Lodge Cast Iron.

  • Never put your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. 
  • Always wash cast iron by hand.
  • Never let it sit or soak in water.
  • Don't use soap.
  • After washing, dry your skillet with a paper towel.
  • Set your skillet over a low burner (or the still-warm burner you cooked on) then rub the inside with a light coating of olive oil or coconut oil when completely dry.
  • Use caution when you cook highly acidic foods like tomatoes, because the acid can pit the surface.

That's it. How easy is that?

Fried eggs in mini cast iron skillets

If you want me to be perfectly frank here, I often just swipe the inside of my skillet with a paper towel right after using it and that's it. If you've fried anything and have added oil, then just redistributing that oil on the pan's surface will be sufficient.

Or drizzle in some olive oil and give the inside of the skillet a quick swipe. Then I just set it on the back burner of our stove until next time.

Empty cast iron skillets on range

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet

If you do need to wash your skillet, hot water and a rough sponge is usually all you need to get it clean. 

Just be sure to dry it well after washing so it doesn't rust - or use this trick I learned from my father-in-law: after he rinses his skillet, he sets it over a low flame to evaporate every last bit of moisture that might be left behind on the surface.

If there are bits of food stuck to your skillet, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan and put it back on the stove over a low flame, let it simmer for a bit, and then use a spatula or wooden spoon to loosen anything left behind.

For really stubborn bits (or a spot of rust), you can use steel wool. Don't worry, it won't scratch your pan! I've also read that you can use salt, but I've never tried that.

Rehabilitating an Old Cast Iron Skillet

If you run across an old, rusted cast iron pan at a yard sale or antique store, don't hesitate buy it! Bring it home, scrub it with steel wool and then season it with oil.

For a bit more TLC for an old skillet, you can coat the inside with cooking oil, then put it upside down (over a baking sheet!) in a low oven (300-350) for an hour or so. That will really help to season the surface and you'll be on your way to non-stick cooking.

©2020 by Fresh Eggs Daily, Inc. and updated in 2024 for Coop to Kitchen. All rights reserved