Why do we love cast iron pans?
Because they are basically indestructible. I used to own teflon pans, but they got scratched and ruined rather quickly. I also cook a lot (a lot), so I had to change them every year or so. Give or take I could use them a thousand times before they've got ruined. two three times a day for 12-18 Months.
And cast iron pans? You can scratch them, burn them, use them and they will stay good forever. I've seen posts about more than100 year old pans and they were still going strong. Sure they need a little TLC here and there, but you can even use rusty cast iron pans if you remove the rust.
So how to care for cast iron pans? Before the first use: Some suggest to season your pan even if you've bought them pre-seasoned. I've missed this step and I will have a food stain on my pan forever. I don't mind it too much, but if I could start over, I would also season mine before the first use. How to: 1.) Scrub with steel wool or a strong scrubby and mild soap.
2.) Rinse it with water and wash it
3.) Dry it with a towel and dry it in the oven or on the stove top This is a very important step. If you don't dry it out with heat it will get rusty and you can start from the top (or see down the last paragraph How to clean rusty cast iron pan)
4.) Apply the thin layer of oil. The best oils are the ones which have a high burning point. E.g.: flax seed oil, canola oil, vegetable oil are all good.
5.) Put it in the oven on 450 - 500 F (260 C) for one hour. It is possible that it will smoke a bit. In this step the oil brakes down and bounds with the iron.
6.) wipe it clean with a kitchen towel (paper towel or dedicated reusable towel)
7.) it might be necessary to repeat step 4 to 6 two more times.
How to cook with your cast iron pan:
Pre-heat your cast iron pan: These pans to heat up even you have to pre-heat them otherwise one side than the other side or the middle can be hotter than the edges. It is an important step if you cook pancakes or sunny side ups. If you make a stir fry dish or you deep fry something it is not a necessary step. In that case you will move the ingredients around so all of them will get eventually evenly cooked or when you deep fry the oil will distribute the heat evenly.
What is very lovely, it will give you a good nice crust on any food. If you use it in the oven the bread or pie will get a nice crust. We love to deep fry sweet potatoes in our cast iron pan on low heat and it gets a very lovely crispy crust. Or even if you fry a steak or meat, it will be lovely on the outside and nice soft on the inside.
Dont cook acidic food in it. Some say you should not cook even tomatoes in these pans. In my experience tomatoes are fine but vinegar, oranges and lemons are too harsh. Well if you still do cook them you will just have to re-season the pan, it won't ruin it forever.
Cleaning cast iron cookware after use:
Some people just wipe off cast iron pans after cooking wit a paper towel or a dedicated reusable kitchen towel. I like to wash it with water and mild dish soap.
A very important step to dry the cast iron cookware before store it, because otherwise it will rust. I usually put it back to the still hot oven or on the stove top which is still cooling off after cooking.
I have seen it that others clean it with baking soda, but to be honest I would only do this before I want to re-season my cast iron skillet, otherwise normal wash is fine.
Caked on food:
Scrub off the caked on food with a brush, coarse salt or metal wool.
dry it in the oven or on the stove top on low heat
re-season your cast iron cookware
What to do with rusty cast iron pan:
make 1:1 vinegar:water solution. (this means e.g. 1 cup vinegar with 1 cup water or 2 cup vinegar with two cup water, etc.) Wash and scrub the pan with this mix.
Lots of lots of scrubbing. You can scrub with steel wool, electric polisher, coarse salt & coconut brush... You will have to scrub until you scrub off the last bit of rust.
wash it with mild soap and water
dry it immediately in the oven or on your stove top on low heat
when it cooled off apply the thin layer of oil. The best oils are the ones which have a high burning point. E.g.: flax seed oil, canola oil, vegetable oil are all good.
Put it in the oven on 450 - 500 F (260 C) for one hour. It is possible that it will smoke a bit. In this step the oil brakes down and bounds with the iron.
wipe it clean with a kitchen towel (paper towel or dedicated reusable towel)
it might be necessary to repeat step 5 to 7 three or four more times.
There. It might sounds like a lot of TLC for a pan, but really for the day to day use it is just normal wipe it off or rinse it with water and mild soap. And if anything goes wrong, you can repair the seasoning and you have a brand new pan. Ours three years later looks the same like the first week we got it. This was one of our wedding presents and I would never pick anything else today.
Yes, you can't put it to the dishwasher or to the microwave oven, it might be a bit heavier than other skillets but you buy one and your kid & grandkids will be able to use it too when they grow up. Better than the 70€ teflon pans every 18 months. Did I convince you yet? :)