in the kitchen

Cooking with Cast Iron

Best Cast Iron Tutorial

The majority of cooking in my kitchen is done with cast iron pans. Cast iron pans are great to cook with because they’re versatile, inexpensive, and long lasting. Cast iron cookware is my favorite for scratch cooking but it does need seasoning, which is easy to do and once the initial work is done, it’s easy to maintain the finish and requires little cleaning. Seasoning cast iron cookware is nothing more than putting a glaze on the raw metal so that when you cook with it, the food doesn’t stick.

Cast iron pans can definitely take the heat in my kitchen!

Cooking with Cast Iron

  1. Inexpensive – can be purchased new or used.
  2. Sturdy and durable – they will last forever. Mine is inherited from my husband’s grandmother, and it’s still our everyday pan.
  3. Great to cook with because it retains heat and provides even cooking.
  4. Easy to clean – water, metal scrubber, and baking soda.
  5. No chemicals to worry about – non-stick pans can peel or get scratched and then guess what? You’re eating the finish.
  6. Versatile – sear, fry, sauteé – they can go from stove top to inside a hot oven.

What else is great about cooking with cast iron?

  • Roast a whole chicken in a cast iron pan.
  • If you like deep dish pizza, a cast iron skillet makes an excellent, deep dish pizza pan.
  • Bake corn bread in your cast iron skillet. Heat the pan in the oven during preheating and the cornbread will take less time to bake – and tastes great!
  • If you have 2-cast iron skillets, make a grilled cheese on one and then place the other cast iron skillet on top of the sandwich and you’ve got yourself a homemade Paninni maker!
  • It can go camping with you. It’s an excellent addition to any camp cooking supply set-up and can take the heat of a camp fire.

Go Gingham Stylishly Frugal Living Cast Iron

How to buy cast iron cookware:

How should you buy cast iron cookware? Used if you can find it. It’s usually plentiful at estate sales, garage sales or a second-hand store. The cost new vs. used can vary but a new skillet costs about $19.00, and the same one at an estate sale will cost around $5.00, used. I found a free set of cast iron skillets, thrown out,  on the ground, next to a dumpster. Total score!

I have even found several Le Creuset cast iron saute pans at second-hand stores. Yes, they were a bit rough, but following the methods here and giving them a good cleaning, they look almost brand new. Forget the discount you supposedly get at the LeCreuset outlet stores and buy them second-hand instead!

How to season cast iron for the first time:

Wipe oil (I use olive oil), with a paper napkin or a tissue, onto cast iron pan and place in 300 degree oven for an hour. Every 20 minutes, take iron skillet out of oven to wipe again with oil and put it back in oven. You can use a brush to do this but the napkin or tissue can really get the oil into the pan and I find that when using a brush, I put too much oil in the pan. The tissue gets composted when I’m done.

How to season cast iron ongoing:

Generally this won’t need to be done unless you have to really scrub or clean your skillet or it begins to show signs of rust. If the skillet looks dry, I wipe it down before putting it away. By “putting it away” I mean into the oven – that’s where I store mine – in the oven. When the oven pre-heats before making something, my skillet is getting a mini-seasoning while the oven heats up.

If the pan or skillet is really in dire need of seasoning or it got really scrubbed down (please note: this rarely happens!), repeat the steps above if necessary.

Cooking with cast iron

How to clean cast iron pan:

Wipe pan out with a paper towel after cast iron skillet has cooled. I don’t use many paper towels but do use them for this task. The dark seasoning is tough to get out of cloth towels. Compost the paper towel after you’ve used it.

How to clean cast iron pan when food is really stuck or after cooking fish, meat or poultry:

Use metal scrubber, warm water and baking soda to scrub cast iron skillet. You may need a small amount of detergent on a sponge to get the smell out of pan but only use a drop or two of detergent. The key is not over cleaning the cast iron skillet – you don’t want to remove the seasoning you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Cooking with cast iron
Pan searing pork before it goes into the slow-cooker in my cast iron pan.

Letting a cast iron skillet soak with water and baking soda overnight is not desirable but sometimes that’s what happens here. (Honestly, it happens more often than I prefer!) After using a metal scrubby on it in the morning, it usually needs a wipe down with oil and then put into its storage spot – the oven! – it goes. This morning, I found the cast iron skillet that had been cleaned last night but had water left in it. This produced several rust marks. I used a clean tissue and put a few drops of olive oil on the tissue and wiped down the skillet. In no time, the skillet was back to looking clean, rust-free, and ready for cooking in. Then, I put it away – into you guessed it the oven!

Cast iron pans are versatile, inexpensive, and long lasting and once the initial seasoning is done, it’s easy to maintain the finish and requires little cleaning. Cast iron pans can definitely take the heat in my kitchen!

Do you use cast iron? What’s your favorite shape or size pan?

Go Gingham related links:

New to cooking at home? Fear not!
11 reasons to meal plan every week – save money, save time and reduce food waste
How our freezer gets used – what I keep in our freezer and how I utilize the space
Grocery shopping soon? Plastic grocery bag alternatives
How to roast red peppers or food you’re supposed to burn
How to roast tomatoes freshly picked from the garden – so good!

More related links:

Ree, the Pioneer Woman, cooks with a cast iron skillet – of course she does but her’s came with a lid and was pre-seasoned. Don’t fall for the extra cost of a pre-seasoned pan now that you know how easy it is to do yourself! The lid? Now, that would be nice.

30 thoughts on “Cooking with Cast Iron

    1. You’re welcome, Lisa!
      I must say, cast iron is my go to for just about anything! Well, I don’t use it for baking cookies or cakes but I would if we were all at the camp site. 😉


  1. Have used a 12″ cast iron skillet to make cornbread from scratch for many years. The end product has a great crust, and the taste is so good I seldom put butter on my slice. The recipe I use is from a newspaper magazine insert from a long time ago.


    1. Karen, that sounds delish! I use mine, too, for cornbread but I do add more butter. There’s nothing better than melted butter on hot bread! Yum! I don’t add butter to the recipe so I figure I can slather it on top.
      I’m realizing I should share the cornbread recipe – it’s a Bob’s Red Mill one that I’ve worked into mine!
      Thanks, Karen.


  2. I have a glass-top, electric stove/oven (range). Is cast iron suitable for the glass-top? I was afraid it would scratch. Thanks and love your website!


    1. Hi Mandy! Thanks for the nice compliment about my site 🙂
      Here’s the deal: the cast iron will scratch the surface of a glass-top if you drag or slide it. The first few years of cooking with cast iron on my stove, I was very careful. Then, my kids started cooking and they weren’t as careful (but – they were cooking!) and then I became less careful. Next thing you know, we have scratches. So, if you cook with cast iron, you’ll eventually have scratches but you’ll have excellent tasting food!! 🙂
      ps I just got a new stove and the directions say not to use cast iron but that won’t stop me. There have been several proclamations by me to not slide the cast iron on the stove top….
      Thanks for leaving a comment!


  3. I resisted using cast iron for years. My mother used it, but the skillet I had always stuck. Within the last year, I have fallen in love with cast iron. I found out how to season it correctly and use it all the time. Now that skillet that always stuck is seasoned and ready to use! My mother-in-law had a dutch oven and a large skillet that she didn’t use because she couldn’t get them seasoned right. When I found them they were rusty. I cleaned them up and after several rounds in the oven they are used regularly here. The large skillet is perfect for pan pizza and biscuits! I use the dutch oven all the time! Can’t wait to take them on our annual camping trip to the mountains in October! I sure wish I had realized this love for cast iron before my mother gave away all her skillets.


    1. Gala, this is such a tribute to cast iron! It is so true – rust equals stick.
      I’m so glad you use them and for baking, too. Well done.
      Enjoy your camping trip! Cast iron is great for the campsite. I have a large one that I’d like to take camping (it was my grandfather’s) but we have so little space when we camp. Someday when I have a mini-trailer, I’ll bring it!
      Thanks, Gala! 🙂


  4. Cast iron plus cornbread = total yum.

    We love our Dutch oven for camping. Gives us many more cooking options.

    Cast iron isn’t good for people with arthritis or who are easily fatigued, though–it’s VERY heavy.


    1. Kris, that is correct about cast iron being heavy. I just found a small pan that is just the right size for cooking an egg or other small foods. If someone lives alone, I’d definitely check out a small pan that can be used to cook/bake/saute with that isn’t huge and heavy.
      Thanks, Kris!


  5. This is the key – seasoning. I’m wondering how suitable it is for things beyond cast iron pans? I know people mention they do it for woks, but I’m not sure what they are made of. I’m totally against non stick, so maybe some seasoned pans will deter the BF from making me use non stick when we move in together in a week!?


    1. The seasoning is very similar for woks, Sarah. I will say that when cooking with a wok, I use peanut oil because I cook (or my husband does) outdoors on a very hot cooker. The wok is also a thinner material but the cleaning method is the same – including a wipe down with oil to season it.
      Good luck with the move!! Very exciting. 🙂


  6. Another tip : if unable to store cast iron in the oven, be sure to place a paper towel or cloth between the skillet and any other pot or skillet to prevent rust.


  7. We love our cast iron. I have a giant flat griddle I use on the bbq and a variety of pans.

    When we were diagnosed with celiacs, I had to give away piles of my kitchen stuff. All my baking sheets, strainers, cutting boards. Not my cast iron though. I just striped it and re-seasoned it and have had no cross contamination issues what so ever.


    1. Hi Laura! I’m wondering why you had to give away kitchen stuff because of celiac disease. So glad you got to keep the cast iron. 🙂
      Thanks for leaving a comment. I have a large square skillet cast iron pan that’s too big for the stove but now you’ve got me thinking about using it on the outdoor cooker that I use with my wok….thank you!


  8. Great info!! I recently used my cast iron skillet, cleaned it and wiped it with olive oil. The paper towel hat I used came away stained black. I used a few more towels to try to clean the black stuff off, but it just keeps coming. Is this normal? If not, what can I do to get the pan clean? It LOOKS clean and there are no food particles on it. This is a Lodge pan I bought new a few years ago but haven’t used all that much. Thanks!


    1. Kim, that’s your seasoning…..once it’s dry, don’t worry about wiping it again.
      You’re smart to use a paper towel to wipe the cast iron pan. I try NOT to use paper towels in my kitchen but I’ve stained too many cloth towels (that seasoning doesn’t come out!) by wiping my cast iron pans so I do go with paper towels as well.
      Good luck, Kim! Can’t wait to hear how often you use the pan now… 🙂


  9. Great post, Sara! I was just thinking today that I need a new big pan – and was considering cast iron. Thanks for the step-by-step on seasoning. My mom only ever used cast iron skillets – and I remember them being super heavy. do you find that they are hard to work with when you need to pick them up and pour the contents of the pan into something?

    Note – I have read that we actually get a dose of iron from food that is cooked in cast iron – which is an added bonus! Have you heard that as well?


    1. To answer your question about the weight and pouring into another pan, yes, it can be awkward. Skillets I don’t usually have trouble with. Pouring from my dutch oven into something is awkward. I have learned to use oven mitts while attempting this.
      About the iron, yes, I’ve read that. Especially when cooking an acidic food like tomato sauce in it.


    2. I have read the same things about cooking with cast iron, Annie, but I don’t know enough about it personally – or if it has changed my iron levels – to know for sure. It seems like it makes sense!
      Occasionally my cast iron pans will be really heavy and I’ll feel like I’m getting a workout in the kitchen but not too often.
      You can easily find a cast iron skillet for a reasonable price at an outdoor sporting goods store but try an estate sale first.
      Good luck, Annie!


  10. I have been using cast iron for about 3 years now. Most of my frying pans have been given to me. I found a deep grilling pan at a thrift store for $3.00 and purchased a dutch oven from a big box store. When my family goes camping my cast iron goes with us. It is so versatile and easy to care for, hot water and a scrubbie then a little to re-season. I rarely use anything else when I cook.


    1. Emily, if you can believe it those cast iron skillets were on the ground next to a dumpster! I picked them up and brought them home. Cast iron is absolutely the best – and will last forever. I think people get hung up on the ‘seasoning’ and how that’s somehow difficult but it’s not.
      If you’re on the market for cast iron, look at estate sales, garage/yard sales, and second-hand stores. You’ll be able to find some no problem.
      Thanks for writing in!!


  11. Awesome tutorial!
    I found a cast iron skillet at a thrift store, but it has a lot of rust on it! How do I get rid of the rust??


    1. Hi Rachelle,
      Congrats on your thrift store score! Rinse your skillet in water and scrub with a metal scrubby or rough sponge. Once it’s clean and most visible rust is gone, begin the process of seasoning. When you wipe the warm pan with oil, rust will disappear. So easy! Enjoy it… 🙂


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