The seasoning on your skillet takes time to build up. It also requires you to cook the right kind of foods and avoid cooking others.
Many cooks swear by their cast iron skillets, and for good reason. These skillets are cheap, hold on to heat well, and are built to last a lifetime. They excel at tasks that require a steady source of heat, be it searing, sautéing, or frying.
That said, there are a few things to know before using your cast iron skillet for the first time, and one of them deals with the seasoning and what foods to cook first to build it up.
So, what foods are the best to cook first in a brand new (or newly re-seasoned) cast iron skillet?
The best choices of foods to cook first in a cast iron skillet are bacon, steaks, sausages, and sautéing veggies like onions or bell peppers. You want fatty foods or alkaline foods cooked in an abundance of oil to build up the skillet’s seasoning in the first few weeks.
Cooking with acidic foods can take away the seasoning and leave the food with a metallic taste due to chemical reactions that happen between the iron and the acid. So do try and avoid them, especially for the first few weeks of cooking.
If you use a cast iron skillet and take care of it with TLC, it will last forever and give you plenty of mouthwatering meals. We will explain how to season your cast iron skillet and what it is the best way to build up that seasoning.
There are many interesting facts about the foods cooked in a cast iron skillet—and why you should cook some foods, but not others. We will cover that and much more, so enjoy the read!
All About Seasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet
Seasoning a cast iron skillet is a required step that needs to be done properly, but the results are worth it. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet does not corrode or rust, and has a slick surface that keeps foods from sticking to the bottom and sides as they cook.
It is said that cast iron skillets get better with age, and this is because cooking fatty foods with plenty of oil builds up the seasoning. Taking good care of the seasoning can make cooking much more enjoyable for home cooks because you get a non-stick cooking experience every time.
Surely you have heard it said eating whatever is cooked out of a cast iron skillet supplements the iron in your blood. A trace amount of dietary iron ends up in your home-cooked meals every time. Without a doubt, it is a blessing for those who are anemic, which is a blood disorder.
In the realms of humor, seasoning does not mean salt and pepper. It means oiling the skillet, baking that oil onto the metal, and maintaining a patina of polymerized oil as you use and clean it. The details, below.
How to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet (5 Steps)
There are many steps to how to season your cast iron skillet, but the most important ones are outlined below. If you follow these instructions, your cast iron skillet will be ready for cooking in just a little while!
Step 1: Wash your brand new cast iron skillet in hot water and dish soap. Dry it thoroughly, inside and out, with a lint-free cloth or paper towel. Remove any leftover moisture by warming it empty for 5 minutes over medium heat on the stove.
Step 2: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) for 30 minutes. By the time you slide the skillet in, you want the air in your oven hot and the walls radiating heat.
Step 3: Warm your skillet in the oven for 2-3 minutes. You don’t want it to get hot; just to warm the iron so that the pores expand and hold on better to the cooking oil that you’re about to grease it with.
Step 4: Remove the skillet from the oven, put a small amount of flaxseed oil on a kitchen paper towel, and wipe the inside and out pan, making sure that all surfaces—bottom, sides, underside, handles, pour spouts—are covered.
Step 5: Place it back in the oven turned upside down. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the heat and let it cool completely before removing it.
The seasoning is done. You can pull the skillet out of the oven and store it or, better yet, cook your first food with it. Provided you have done a good job, the skillet should be an even black color with no gray discoloration or stains (a sign that the seasoning may need to be redone).
Foods To Cook First After Seasoning the Cast Iron Skillet
The foods in this list are the most popular ones cooked in seasoned cast iron skillets. The most important thing about cooking in a cast iron skillet is that all of these foods have a high fat or oil content, so they build up the seasoning rather than erode it.
Bacon is an absolute must. It locks in flavor when cooked first, and the fat that renders from it and pools inside your skillet gives the metal its first dose of additional seasoning.
Spicy sausages, like French andouille, Hungarian kielbasa, or Spanish chorizo, work great in a cast iron skillet. They also give another layer of flavor to them. At this point, your cast iron skillet is seasoned enough for any dish you want to make because the foods high in fat leave oils and flavors behind.
Steaks work wonderfully on cast iron skillets, since the outside gets a nice char while cooking it to perfection. Caramelizing onions or sautéing garlic is another great way of adding more flavor to the meat that you cook first in your pan before proceeding with other recipes.
Chicken can also be prepared in this skillet, since the fat, if not as plentiful as on red meat, renders out when cooked. If these foods are prepared in a hot cast iron skillet that has been oiled beforehand, the flavors will be locked into the pan for years to come.
The iron skillet will be ready to use for cooking anything after these tips are followed. Be patient and, before cooking “stickier” foods such as eggs and fish fillets, wait until the skillet is seasoned enough.
Foods To Avoid Cooking in a Cast Iron Skillet
Foods to avoid cooking in your cast iron skillet are anything acidic. Basically, any recipes that call for tomatoes, fresh or canned; lemon or lime juice; vinegar, wine, or beer should not be cooked in this skillet.
Tomatoes are incredibly acidic, so they will ruin the seasoning you worked so hard to achieve if they come into contact with the all-metal cooking surface—a fact evident by the flaking of the seasoning and the black residue that’s left behind in your food. You have to start over with the seasoning process.
Like their juice lemon and lime, citrus fruits also have an extremely acidic content, so it is not advised to cook them in this type of skillet. At best, they will give a metallic taste to anything you are cooking in your pan. At worst, they can completely destroy your pan’s seasoning!
If you follow these steps, your cast iron skillet will be ready to cook an array of recipes in no time! The first time will be the base or the foundation of your cast iron skillet’s seasoning.
The Myth of Using Dish Detergent on a Cast Iron Skillet
One of the most pervasive cast iron myths is that you should never use dish detergent on your skillet after cooking something.
It should never be put into the dishwasher, that is true. However, the truth is it will not hurt anything if you put a little bit of dish soap in the pan to clean by hand (still, do not overdo it).
This myth was because people believed that the lye in dish soap would erode the seasoning. Although it is true if you use soap that has degreasing agents, a quick soap down with mild soap will seldom do damage to the seasoning.
What You Should Use to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet
The best way to clean a cast iron skillet is with coarse salt and a paper towel. The salt acts as an abrasive to get any food particles left behind from your skillet while the oil seasons the pan again after being cleaned, locking in all of that hard work.
Lightly coat the pan with some oil after it has been thoroughly heated and scrape the pan clean with a paper towel. You may use a soft bristle brush or a sponge to get the stubborn burnt food off the skillet. A little elbow grease, and your cast iron skillet will be ready to go again!