Cast iron skillet newbie here - your wisdom solicited!

We bought some prime rib and leg of lamb for the holidays, and I was kind of sick of putting these beautiful meats in an aluminum pan to roast in the oven, so I decided to purchase a brand new cast iron skillet.

I probably went too big, got a 15 inch one and it’s pretty massive, but the first thing that popped into my head when I saw it was: “man, I can make a mean paella on this baby!”

But I don’t know anything about cast iron skillets, and apparently the web is full of do’s and don’ts about this thing. What’s the low down on taking care of your skillet? What kind of foods should I not cook in it? IS the paella idea a good one? Any suggestions on the lamb or prime rib?

Man this thing weighs a ton! My wife has never thrown a pan at me, but if she ever does, I sure hope she doesn’t pick this one up, or I’m a goner.

There is only one proper way to use a cast iron pan and you will soon hear about all of them.

Unless she used to throw the shot or hammer, you have nothing to worry about. :smiley:

I’ve read that flaxseed oil gives the best finish. I think you have to strip off the current seasoning if you want to try that. Otherwise, any fat will do though I prefer shortening for maintenance.

After I finish cooking, I clean the pan ( you shouldn’t need soap, just get all the food residue out), dry and wipe on a film of fat and heat to smoking. Let cool a few minutes and wipe on another film.

TriPolar is correct. The use and care of cast iron is a pretty frequent topic on this board (here’s the latest thread, from August).

A lot of it depends on what make and model of pan you got. If you’ve never used cast iron before, I’d strongly recommend using it a few times before jumping into those expensive cuts of meat (especially if company’s a-comin’ for the holidays). Not to say that you’ll get poor results without practice, but rather to make sure that the pan is properly seasoned. Make some bacon, some cornbread (natch), anything with grease or oil in it to help create a carbonized film on the surface of the interior (assuming that the cast iron isn’t enameled). Along those same lines, I’d avoid particularly acidic foods (like tomatoes) for at least the first few times of use.

I’ve never tried making paella in the skillets, but I would think it’d be fine – as long as there’s enough seasoning in the pan to release the socarrat.

I absolutely love using cast iron – we’ve got four pieces (two skillets, the first of which I received at my college graduation 23 years ago, and two dutch ovens, one of which goes camping with us) that get frequent use, and I’m thinking about getting a long griddle.

I agree with the above posts. Here’s a blog article that I recommend for detailed info.

A tip I’ve found helpful: heat up a pan before adding oil. Apparently the surface can absorb a touch of moisture from the air, and heating it first gets rid of that and allows the oil to work better to prevent sticking.

My opinion on a controversial topic:

Some say never use soap on cast iron, as it will degrade the seasoning. I disagree. I’ve found that a little bit (don’t go overboard) of soapy water will not harm a well-seasoned pan.

Lots of reading to do! Thanks for the links guys!

I love my cast iron for most things I cook. The only thing I have problems with sticking are steaks as I like to sear them pretty hot. Stove top I use for eggs, pan cakes, french toast, potatoes, gravies, and chili’s or other slow cook items. I use a different pan for my steaks with a ribbed bottom and it just looks like shit most of the time. It doesn’t seem to work right if it is freshly seasoned so I just let it look like shit.

There’s a guy I worked with who restored cast iron cookware, and resold it. He told me something that sounds like conspiracy theory stuff, that I have no idea if true or not, that I’ll share here to help spread the paranoia. He said that there is only one American company left (I have no idea the name) that makes quality cast iron cookware. By this he means that it is not dangerously radioactive. He warns you to beware of cookware made with Chernobyl metal, which is pretty much all of the other stuff.
Hope this helps.

I made paella a couple months ago in a cast iron skillet and it came out great.

The only problem was that I doubled up on the cayenne because I couldn’t find aloppo pepper in any grocery store and it was a little too spicy.

Cast iron will work fine for paella. Hell, I make it in a nonstick pan and still get a nice socarrat, which is the result of heat and oil, not type of surface. I’ve found that the worst surface for the dish is an actual paella pan, which is too thin to prevent burning (unless you are really adept and experienced with using one).

That explains why my pans never fully cool down.

Sure are easy to find in a dark cupboard though.

I’ve got two new methods that I’ve been trying lately.

1.) If i’ve cooked something fatty, I don’t bother wash the pan until the next time I want to use it. I just store it in the oven so I don’t have to look at it or smell it.

  1. After I do clean it, I spray it with Pam. (Or whatever vegetable spray)

That’s what I do as well- works better than intentionally reseasoning it periodically.

After you’ve done this for a while, and you have a good black, slick seasoned surface built up, you can use soap and *mild *scrubbing to get stuff out. Don’t soak it, and don’t use anything abrasive- the same stuff that you’d use for a non-stick pan is appropriate.

Keep on doing the re-oil and heat up procedure after washing, and you’ll be fine.

To be honest I have a hard time keeping my pans seasoned: I usually only have a soft seasoning instead of that enamel-hard coating that lasts. My efforts to bake a coating on usually just evaporate/burn the oil off leaving it worse than ever. I’ve always heard a 350F oven for an hour, but maybe it should be cooler&longer?

I’ve seasoned mine with flaxseed oil and it works great. I’ll cook anything in it including the dreaded tomatoes (I figure the seasoning will protect the cast iron). If I ever cook anything that sticks a bit I’ll use kosher salt to scrub it out. Most of the time I just need to give it a wipe after cooking, sometimes I need to use a bit of water to deglaze the pan, and only very occasionally will I need to pull out the salt.

As others have said, when you’re done cooking, heat the pan with the thinnest layer of oil until it smokes then turn off the oven and let it cool. Finish with another very thin layer of oil.

Longer. It could get hotter, but more heat will produce smoke. I recommend heating with just salt to start with, then remove the salt and add oil, then bake for a long time. That’s just to get you started, after that fry a lot of stuff in the pan before using it for other purposes.

BTW: do you have one of those newer pans with the pebbly bottom surface? that came up in another thread and I think it’s worth smoothing that if you don’t want to wait years for the coating to build up until it’s smooth.

See the link in post #5.

If you want to go hard core this method seems to have universal acclaim. I know it worked well for me.

On edit, I see the link I provided is the same method as linked to in post 5.