Using Cast Iron 101

Guide To Using Cast Iron |

Cast Iron pots and pans are some of the most important items in my real food kitchen.

I use my cast iron EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and at almost every meal. I use a range of different sized skillets, a dutch oven, and bread and pie pans. I also have this awesome, enameled, cast iron, dutch oven on my wishlist for Christmas! 🙂

Lots of people are intimidated by the thought of using cast iron, but it is really quite easy to master once you learn a few, basic, guidelines.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you improve your cast iron cooking!


No, I don’t mean salt, pepper, and spices seasoning. I mean FAT seasoning. Olive oil works just fine, but lard is my all-time favorite fat to use for seasoning. (See how to render lard here.) You need a nice thin layer of fat to coat the pan, and give it a “non-stick” finish. I recommend always seasoning new cast iron pans, (even if they say “pre-seasoned”) and periodically seasoning your used cast iron pans.

To season:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, then wash your cast iron pan with soap and water *NOTE- this is the ONLY time you will use soap to wash your cast iron!* Dry completely.

Guide to using Cast Iron |

Use a clean old cloth to wipe a thin layer of olive oil or lard on the inside and outside of your pan

Guide to using Cast Iron |

Guide to using Cast Iron |

Place the cast iron pan upside down on the middle rack of your oven, and bake for 1 hour.

Guide to using Cast Iron |

Turn off oven, and let completely cool before removing pan. When you are finished, the seasoned cast iron should be black and shiny like this:

Guide To Using Cast Iron |


Ok, so now that your pans are nicely seasoned, lets talk about actually cooking with them!

Here are a few things you need to know:

  1. Use a bit more cooking fat when cooking with cast iron-especially if you are using a new pan. It doesn’t make your food greasy, because the pan is soaking it up. This really helps to prevent stuff from sticking.
  2. Use a larger pan than you think you need. Cast iron gets a great sear on stuff, and you don’t want to have any of your food miss out on it by being piled too high in the pan. This also helps prevent sticking.
  3. Cast iron takes a little while to heat up, so be patient, and give it a couple minutes on the burner before using.
  4. Once it does heat up, cast iron heats very well, and evenly, so you will rarely need to turn it up high. Most things will never need to be cooked higher than a medium temperature on your stove top. Adjust your usual cooking temps to a bit lower for cast iron. (Baking temps will remain the same.)
  5. Don’t use regular cast iron for cooking food with a really high tomato content.Tomatoes are very acidic, and will make your food taste like metal if cooked in cast iron. Soups and stews with a little tomato in them are fine, but spaghetti sauce and tomato soup should be cooked in enameled cast iron only.

Guide to using Cast Iron |

Caring for your cast iron.

After you cook anything in any kind of fat, you should be able to simply wipe the pan out with a damp rag after it cools. For wet food items, give the pan a good rinse with hot water, then wipe out with a damp rag.


If any food sticks to the bottom of your pan, (and this does happen occasionally with any type of pan) you can use a plastic pan scraper like the one pictured here. If that doesn’t do the trick, then move on to a stainless steel scrubbing pad as a last resort.

Cast Iron Scrubbers |

After you have cleaned your cast iron, place it on a stove burner, and heat on med-high until dry. If the pan is nice and shiny, you can just let it cool and put it away. If it is looking a little dull or brown, wipe it down with a little oil or fat and let it cool. This will prevent you from constantly having to re-season.

Using Cast Iron |

Once you get the hang of these basic tips, cast iron is a breeze, and so awesome to cook with!


This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, So Much at Home, The Backyard Farming Connection, Tuesdays with a Twist, Freedom Fridays, From the Farm Hop, Old Fashioned Friday, Clever Chicks, Mommy Monday Blog Hop, and The Art of Homemaking Mondays.


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48 responses to “Using Cast Iron 101”

  1. My dad gave me two cast iron pans that are very rusty. I have them sitting on my porch waiting for me to clean them up so they can be used. Your post reminded me I need to get them taken care of. Thanks!

  2. Oh my gosh, thank for this post. I admit that I am very intimidated by the cast iron! I have just a couple items (a tiny skillet from my grandma, and a small flat skillet), but I rarely use them because I was a little scared to. I am going to season them and start using them, and hopefully get more cast iron pieces eventually.

  3. Lindsey says:

    Oooh, I don’t have any cast iron yet (shame on me, I know!), but I saw a ton at a local antique shop that were just shouting my name! Along with dozens of other cool old things, lol. When I go back to get some of that awesome cast iron, I’ll be referencing this frequently! Thanks Angi!

  4. Finaorlena says:

    I like this post; including care as well as cooking information! Thank you for sharing your lovely post over at the Art of Homemaking Mondays!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I have several cast iron pans (even some new still in the box) but I can’t use them because I have a flat top stove. I’ve heard you can’t use them on the flat top because they’ll break the glass.

    • Angi says:

      Rebecca- I have used them on two different flat top stoves for years! Just try to avoid dropping or slamming them down super hard on your stove top. (I have actually accidentally dropped one, and it didn’t do anything.) You should be just fine!

  6. I have two cast iron pans (a regular one and a grill pan) and I use them all the time, but I don’t actually know how to take care of them. Now I do – thanks!

  7. Matt says:

    I love cat iron. I picked up a 5-inch egg pan at a garage sale for $.25. It has such a fantastic finish that fried eggs slide out when they’re done. We’re looking for a dutch oven but so far the prices for what we’ve found have been way out of our budget range.

    • Angi says:

      Yeah, the dutch ovens are a bit more expensive. I have had great luck at yardsales though. That’s actually where I found mine! I am saving up for an enameled dutch oven though. Haven’t hit the yardsale jackpot on that one yet. 🙂

    • Clyde says:

      I haven’t used cast iron for very long. I remember my mom cooking and she always used cast iron. When the nonstick came out she tried it, didn’t like it the flavor wasn’t there you had to use special utensils and they got scratches and had to be replaced. moms cast iron didn’t ware out, and they got season from years of used. and nothing stuck. Use your cast iron and enjoy.

  8. I love cast iron pans, its just something old fashion and delicious about cooking in them, food just taste healthier! I saw you on Tuesday with A Twist and love if you share this on Fabulous Friday Blog Hop
    Thanks Maria

    • Angi says:

      Thanks Maria! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I will definitely share it on your blog hop, and I will share something next Friday as well!

  9. JES says:

    Great information! I need to fix my pans as I didn’t season right in the beginning (my poor dutch oven!!!)… Thank you for sharing this inspiration to get me back on track… I am going to pin this! Please join us again this week for the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

    P.S. I have the same scraper as you (I think it is Pampered Chef?) and can’t live without it!!!

  10. karen says:

    I LOVE my cast iron skillets and try to exclusively use them when cooking…they make a big difference in taste, food prep, and cleaning.

    Happy Mommy Monday Blgo hop

  11. Rebecca says:

    I have a cast iron pan that has enamel on the outside that needs seasoning. Should I just season the inside & place it right side up in the oven to season? Any advice is appreciated 🙂

  12. Stella Lee says:

    I really struggle with the no soap concept. I’ll get over it I’m sure. I can’t actually fit our really big one into our small oven – the handle stops the door from closing :-/

    • Angi says:

      I found that putting the cast iron pans on a hot burner to dry after “washing” them made me feel better. 🙂 The sterilization happens every time you warm up the pans to cook, but mentally it can help to do it after you wash. Plus it completely dries the pans and prevents rust issues!

    • Angi says:

      Oh, and if you cant fit the large pan in your oven, you can just put it on a medium heat burner for 20-30 minutes with your stove vent on high. Might not smell great, but it works.

  13. Lynette says:

    I totally disagree with how these are cleaned. I wash then in soapy hot water them rinse in hot water then place them on my stove and turn it on and get them hot then wrote them down with oil, canola oil, and they work waaay better than any nonstick skillet. I’ve had mine for years and that is how a friend told me to do it because that’s how her grandmother did it. My friend is in her 70’s so I think she knows better.

    • Angi says:

      That’s totally fine Lynette! I’m glad your way is working fine for you. The reason the cast iron manufacturers recommend against using soap all the time is because it is really rough on the seasoning of the pans, and they will work better in the long term without it. The other concern is that canola oil is really really bad for your body, so I would avoid it for that reason, and choose lard or olive oil instead.

      • Lynette says:

        If canola oil is so bad for you why do drs recommend either it or olive oil and why do most of the chefs I see use it for their cooking and even my heart Dr suggests it? I think you need to recheck your info on that. Still going to clean my cast iron the same way and the more I do it this way the better it gets

        • R Wenner says:

          Canola oil and olive Oil are ok for the body if you use them cold, (salad dressings and dips) but recent studies show that high heat (not low baking heat) on metal degrades them so that chemically these oils become carcinogens. Lard is best for seasoning ironware, however vegetarians won’t use it. However cocoanut oil can be used at high temperatures without losing its healthy properties; and cocoanut oil is much better for you than canola or corn oil. I now use Cocoanut oil on all my iron skillets and to fry with. You don’t have to use much, and it doesn’t make things taste like coconut. I keep a little dedicated pastry brush soaked with cocoanut oil over the sink, and when I wash my iron skillets etc (As my mother and yours did–with soap, however never letting ironware “soak” — washing and rinsing quickly, drying on stove-top, then a quick brush with cocoanut oil before storing the pot or pan — works a treat.

  14. Erin Blegen says:

    I love timely posts- I was just thinking about the cast iron pans I received (used) from my SIL. Need to get them cleaned up and cooking with them! Thank-you for the clear, concise instructions. Much appreciated 🙂

    Visiting via the Clever Chicks Blog Hop,


  15. CHARLES BABB says:


    • Jody says:

      My mother-in-law has some amazing cast iron pans that have been passed on from her grandmother. She washes in hot, soapy water and never greases them up. It works for her because her pans are old and much better quality than the newer ones.

      As for my iron pans, we only used water to clean them, and we try to coat them with oil (coconut oil or lard) when they’re dry and hot. If we don’t they get nasty pretty quickly.

  16. Mandi says:

    I have two preseasoned skillets. I cook in them frequently but feel they remain greasy after washing if I don’t use soap. I always apply olive oil to them before storing them after being washed. This is especially true after browning ground beef. Please help!

    • Angi says:

      A bit Grease is good! A fine coat of oil/grease is what makes the cast iron work well. If its SUPER greasy, try wiping the pans down with a hot wrung out dish cloth, or a “polish” them down with a dry cloth. You want them shiny and a bit greasy.

  17. Dawn says:

    I have had my pans in the oven now for 20 mins and my kitchen is getting all smoky. Is this normal?

  18. Angi says:

    A bit of smoke is normal, and I usually turn my stove vent in high to take care of it. If it’s lots of smoke, it may mean that you have food or oil on the bottom of your stove, or you put too much oil on your pans. Either way, everything is fine, you will just have a smoky kitchen for a while:)

    • Patsy says:

      Oops I am opening my windows as we speak! Lol Next time I will do this on a little warmer day so I can put a regular fan on and open the windows since I don’t have a vent either. I think I used too much lard.

  19. Yuki says:

    Every time I cook with my cast iron pan, I wash with hot water, dry it on the burner and put a coat of oil. Although I do this every single time, would I need to season it twice a year? It looks fine to me…. I don’t put any oil on the outside of the pan, though. I would love to hear your opinion. Thank you.

    • Angi says:

      As long as it is performing well for you and not sticking, I see no reason to season it. It sounds like you are taking great care of your pans! 🙂

  20. Gay says:

    I have 2 skillets (6″ & 12″) which need seasoning and a dutch oven which is missing it’s lid. I have dragged my feet over preparing them because the pans are so heavy. I cannot pick up the large skillet with one hand and it doesn’t have the hand hold shown in your pictures of your large pan. Also I haven’t figured out what to use to touch them when I am cooking because the handle gets hot. I am totally wanting to use these for health reasons but I am baffled how to do it!! How do you deal with these issues?

    • Angi says:

      Hmmm. I can pick up all of my pans with one hand, but if I need to use two hands for any reason, I use a hot pad to grab the opposite side of the pan to steady it (whether it has a hand hold or not). I have a glass top stove right now, so my handles don’t get very hot, but when they do, or if I use the pans in the oven, I just use a hot pad or hand mitt to hold the handle. Does that make sense?

  21. Christina says:

    I found my cast iron skillet outside covered in rust. Can it be “fixed” and if so, how?

  22. Cyndy says:

    When I use the cast iron and clean/oil it…. I need to know what I can cover or wrap it in. Plastic bag can get pretty gross, and I worry about the plastic chemicals staying in the pan. Is foil OK ? Or just an extra heavy zip lock. The reason to coverify is for dirt, possible critters and other non-desired things to rest in the pan while stored in the cabinet. I would prefer not to have to work so hard to clean it before I can use it. Thoughts ?

    • Angi says:

      I have never had a problem with clean pans getting dirty just sitting in my cabinets, but if you are worried about it, I would suggest covering with an old cloth napkin. More eco friendly and easy to move around than aluminum foil would be.

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