Love Your Lodge with Proper Care
There is no doubt that Lodge cast iron pans are some of the most durable cookware items you can own, but even pieces as tough as these have their limits. However, by learning how to care for cast iron, you can keep yours in optimal condition. Cast iron cookware, when cared for properly, can last generations and be some of the most versatile pieces in your kitchen. Here are some care and maintenance tips to ensure your cookware's durability and long life.
Seasoning is a layer of baked-on oil on the cast iron that gives the metal non-stick properties. This effect is achieved by applying a layer of oil to your cast iron pan and heating it past its smoking point, either on the stove or in the oven. The heat causes the oil to polymerize, bonding to the cast iron and creating a layer of plastic-like material. Traditionally, this layer served to protect the pan from moisture, as iron rusts quickly, and it also worked to allow food to release from the pan surface more easily. However, Lodge now pre-seasons their pans, so the rusting is much less of an issue than it was in years past.
While Lodge's pre-seasoning protects the cookware from rust, the company suggests adding more layers to the seasoning to enhance the pan's nonstick properties. While some of this seasoning will come in time as you cook with the pan, you can add layers of seasoning before the first time you use the pan to speed up the process.
Cast Iron Seasoning Tips:
- Apply a thin layer of oil to the inside and outside of the pan. Lodge suggests using vegetable oils1, which is what the company uses in its factory on its pre-seasoned items, but many long-time cast iron users also use lard or bacon grease.
- Heat the pan in the oven at 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour with tin foil or a pan on the rack below to catch drips.
- Repeat three to four times to create a durable layer of seasoning.
- As you cook, the fat, oil, and butter used in the cooking process will help add to your layer of seasoning, making your pan more non-stick the more it is used.
Read KaTom's article on seasoning cast iron for a more in-depth guide on how to season your cast iron cookware.
Cast Iron Cooking
Cast iron cookware is hard and dense, making it a great material for retaining heat. These same properties can make the cookware brittle under certain conditions, meaning cast iron pans can crack or warp if handled improperly. Sudden, dramatic temperature changes can cause fine cracks in the iron or warp the bottom, either of which will render the pan unusable.
A cast iron skillet is one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you can own, allowing you to sear, fry, bake, and more all in one pan. However, you should avoid anything that will damage the layer of seasoning on the pan. Metal utensils can be used carefully if you avoid scraping, but stay away from anything with sharp edges that might easily scratch through the seasoning. Acidic foods can also eat through the seasoning, so avoid dishes heavy in ingredients like tomato or vinegar, and never deglaze with wine. These acidic ingredients can not only remove the seasoning, but will also react with the iron to impart a metallic flavor to the food.2
Cast Iron Cooking Tips:
- Heat the pan slowly by allowing it to preheat in the oven or by starting the burner on low before turning up the heat.
- Do not bring the pan to high heat while empty.
- Use a burner as close to the size of the pan as possible to encourage even heat distribution.3
- Don't scrape the pan with metal utensils or use utensils with sharp edges.
- Do not cook acidic foods, including tomato, vinegar, or wine.
- Do not cook spinach, as it reacts with the metal and will turn black.4
Clean Your Cast Iron
How easy your cast iron cookware is to clean will come down to how well the pan has been seasoned. A well-seasoned pan will release most food effortlessly, making cleaning quick and easy. To achieve that, simply rinse the pan with warm – not hot – water after it has mostly cooled from cooking, using your fingers to remove anything that sticks. When necessary, scrub with a non-metal scouring pad or scrub brush. Lodge also offers plastic pan scrapers that can help remove cooked-on food without damaging the pan's seasoning. The most important part of cleaning any cast iron cookware is to dry the pan thoroughly immediately after cleaning to prevent rust. After drying the pan by patting, not rubbing it, with a towel, you can warm it in the oven or on a burner to remove any residual moisture. Finally, wipe the pan with a thin layer of oil to get it ready for the next use.
Cast Iron Cleaning Tips:
- Never put a hot pan in water; this can cause cracks or warping.
- Do not allow a cast iron pan to soak in water to remove stuck-on food, as this promotes rusting.
- Heat-treated cast iron can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but this may remove any additional seasoning you have built up.
- Remove any stuck-on food with a non-metal scouring pad, scrub brush, or plastic scraper
- For stubborn cooked-on food, scrub the pan with salt. Coarse kosher salt is recommended.
- While many cast iron purists refuse to use it, mild dishwashing soap will not damage a good layer of seasoning.
- Fully dry the pan when it's clean with a towel and low heat from an oven or burner.
- Wipe pan with a thin layer of oil when dry.
Cast Iron Cookware Storage
Clean, seasoned cast iron can be stored anywhere dry. Pans that can nest can be stored that way with paper towels between them, but lids should be stored separately to allow air circulation. Many who collect cast iron pieces like to display them. Most display methods allow ample air circulation, so this is a great way to store your collection, but keep the weight in mind when planning how you will accomplish this. Wall hooks, a pot rack, or a baker's rack are all options to consider, but keep each shelf or hook's weight limit in mind and spread out your collection or limit how many pieces you display as needed.