Monday, December 27, 2010

My Cast Iron Skillet Hates Me

There are certain things you cannot do to a cast iron skillet. I think I have done all of them at least once. I asked for a cast iron skillet last year for xmas because all of the cool old ladies I've ever met had them. To me cast iron skillet=honorary good cook. I carefully oiled mine and baked it at 350 degrees for an hour or so thinking this would make a magical force field over my skillet and make it invincible.  I was told this was "seasoning" my skillet. Still not sure what this is supposed to accomplish, since my skillet is still one temperamental b*tch, I must be doing something wrong. If I look at it right, the handle looks like a giant contemptuous middle finger taunting me saying, "Eff you, you will never win!"

My husband said the only thing you are supposed to make with a cast iron skillet is biscuits...mainly because his grandma was a master of homemade biscuits so now that's all he can associate a cast iron skillet with. I'm beginning to think he may be right and I just have to get it through my head that "seasoning" does NOT mean non-stick. For example, I tried frying up potatoes the other day...things were just fine until I tried flipping them with a spatula, and instead of flipping, my potatoes clung defiantly to the skillet as if to say "Sorry, skillet wins. Now we will stick together and watch you panic as you frantically try to pry us apart. Muhuhahahaha..." Now the skillet AND the potatoes hate me. Same thing with ground beef, squash, and now even my beloved tortillas have joined the war. They all cling to her like their lives depend on it.

I've even tried to schmooze the skillet and only wipe it out with a paper towel instead of using water or soap...which still kind of grosses me out. Alas, it wouldn't fall for my gesture, and just tore up my paper towel and rolled the small pieces in oily wads and watched delightfully as I had to painstakingly pick out each one like tiny, little, 'F you' spit wads. So, finally I held up my white flag, gave the skillet another shellacking of oil and threw it in my oven where it now lives. Luckily, I have found as long as I keep her oiled up, she doesn't kill my tortillas...other than that she pretty much dead to me and stays in the dark oven cave.

After vowing to agree to disagree with my skillet, I hit the internets to find out what I was doing wrong. I found some really valuable tips that I never knew before. I may make friends with her after all...

Tips To Live By So Your Cast Iron Skillet Doesn't Hate You

  1. To season properly, coat skillet with oil or shortening, bake for 1 hr at 350 degrees. Or you can season by adding a thick layer of kosher salt in the skillet, putting a layer of oil on top of that (1/2 inch), heat skillet until oil smokes, pour out salt and oil, then wipe with a paper towel.
  2. Heat is important, make sure your skillet is hot before you put food in.
  3. Never put food straight from the refrigerator into the skillet, the drastic temp contrast causes food to stick. Food should be close to room temperature.
  4. Never boil water in your cast iron skillet, it will rust.
  5. Be patient, don't flip your food too soon. Wait until it gets a good sear on the outside, then flip to avoid sticking.
  6. Never put in the dishwasher.
  7. Always coat with oil when you are done (learned this from Grammy, not the internet).
  8. If your skillet is hot, don't put it under cold water, it could crack
  9. Wash with mild detergent and scrub brush if you have sticky stuff on the skillet, or wipe out immediately with a paper towel after use. If you let it soak the skillet will no longer be seasoned, so you'll have to season again.
  10. If your food starts tasting metallic, re-season your skillet.
  11. Don't store foods in your skillet, the acids will break down the oils.
  12. Cooking with an cast iron skillet adds iron to your food. This is good, and is a fun fact I never knew, however don't cook tomatoes in your skillet because the tomato's acidity will react with the iron which could cause your tomatoes to turn a dark color and taste metallic as it soaks up the iron. Share this tip with your anemic friends!
  13. Cast iron skillets can last a lifetime if they are properly cared for (my grammy still uses the cast iron her mom used), non-stick pans only last up to 5 years.
  14. Oh, and don't forget, the handle gets HOT, so use a mitt or pot holder :)
I'm going to try these tips, then maybe me and Skillet can be friends after all...


  1. Another good way to clean a cast iron skillet especially if it needs a good scrubbing is to get a thick paper towel and fold it up and put it into some tongs, the kind that lock closed work best, hold or lock the tongs closed and while the pan is still hot put in a generous amount of kosher salt and use the tongs with the paper towel to scrub. I do this on my skillet and it works great!
    I use my skillet for tons of stuff especially for fried chicken! My boyfriend likes it the way its made in the south so I stick to traditional soul food recipes when I make the chicken! :-)
    Hope this helps too!

  2. Oh this post truly amused me endlessly! And encouraged me to buy myself such a utensil, I'll make sure it's pre-loved and affectionate though (in other words, cheap.) :)

  3. Mine hated me too. Then it really hated my roommate when she washed it in the dishwasher!

  4. I've been told to only ever wash with water -- never soap. Also, what are you oiling it with? Butter or lard will work best, and definitely do it pretty much every time you use it (at least at first). There's kind of a breaking in period. Even if you oil it a few times, it's not "seasoned" until you can see a brown film over the whole surface. Once this film is achieved, the surface will be virtually non-stick. The most important thing, though, is always make sure to use low heat. Stuff will pretty much inevitably stick if you ever put the heat much higher than medium -- definitely never put it on high. The reason is that iron heats up much more slowly than your typical stainless steel/aluminim-core pans, but it also retains heat WAY longer! That's pretty much the extent of what I've learned from working at Williams-Sonoma and having my own skillet. We've made steaks, cornbread, and pizza in ours so far. John's mom cooks on nothing but cast iron, so keep at it and I'm sure you'll be able to conquer it! ;)
    P.S. I think I have a fairly extensive pamphlet on cast iron from Williams-Sonoma. I'll see if I can scan it and e-mail it. Good luck!

  5. I totally had to lol at the skillet waiting in its cave; it reminded me of the fluffy white rabbit from Monty Python's "Quest for the Holy Grail."

    -Barb the French Bean

  6. Lol--as usual, you have me snorting coffee--babe, you kill me! I fear I will never view the handle of my skillets the same way again...

    The love/hate thing is so true but when you break down and buy the mini skillets and make individual corn beef hashlets with poached eggs on top and melted cheese for all the men in your earn moocho brownie points! (three sons, one hubbie) Totally worth the 45 minutes of swearing afterwards...

  7. Hi Candice, sorry you haven't tamed your cast iron skillet yet lol. If you don't mind looking at other articles, please google "cast iron jackie clay". You should come to a link that says Cast Iron by Jackie Clay issue 118. She has some really good information on making your cast iron non stick. Don't give up, just re-season and start again! Hope you master her soon :)

  8. Thanks! That was a great article!

  9. happy I stumbled upon your blog! Love the writing, the humor & the content - I definately plan to make it a habit.

  10. Wish I had your tips a few years ago! I have ruined 2 cast iron skillets by not seasoning properly!

  11. One, you are cute as a button. Two, I feel the same way about cast iron anything! I love them and they are great for camping, but I get grossed out that you're not supposed to clean them out with soap and water. I had a cast iron dutch oven and it got really gross even when I cleaned/wiped it out as best I could.

    The same goes for all the stoneware that Pampered Chef sells. I can't keep that stuff because my kids have ruined each and every piece by leaving it in soapy water...YUCK!