Note: This is re-posted from March 2011.
I know that there are a lot of blogs that address cast iron cooking, but I thought I would share some of my tips. Using cast iron is very easy once you get the hang of it, and I find clean-up to be quicker than it was with my old Teflon pans.
Here are some tips that have worked well for me:
1. Shop at antique stores for pans. The older, American-made pans are of a much higher quality than the newer pans. Look for Griswold or Wagner pans. They will have a smoother surface than the newer pans.
2. Get the pan clean! It is probably covered in rust and old seasoning. We have taken a wire brush or sand paper to old pans. Under the grime, you will find a beautiful, very workable surface.
3. Once the grime is gone, it’s time to season. You’ll need some lard (we’ve had MUCH better success with lard than any vegetable oils) and a very hot oven. We’ve put ours in when it was on self-cleaning cycle (back when we had a self-cleaning oven!). Let it cool, wipe it off, and repeat. More tips for seasoning can be found here.
4. When you cook, be sure to use butter–and lots of it, at first! This will help maintain the seasoning.
5. For clean-up, just wipe the pan with a clean, dry towel. For sticky messes, use a wet washcloth or hot water. Set the pan on low heat to dry.
We used to have two cast iron pans–a skillet and a saucepan. They hung on the wall, along with our metal spatula, and traveled with us camping and on our boat. We discovered that the saucepan was not as useful as a stainless pan, since I mainly used it for stocks and applesauce (both of which turned gray and tasted like iron). Now we have a cast iron skillet and a stainless pressure cooker.
Cast iron pans can also be used for baking, although the clean-up will be a little more difficult.