The Ultimate Guide to Cast Iron Skillets & Cookware

Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: September 5, 2020
The Ultimate Guide to Cast Iron Skillets & Cookware

Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.

I love my cast iron skillet. Even though I have had it for just a few years, it is the most used piece of cookware in my home. Perhaps it is nostalgia for what I perceive to be the good old days – think Pa and the boys cooking up some chow on Bonanza – or simply a longing to, in some small way, shun our spit-shined, high tech society.

Whatever the case, I am now really “in” to cast iron.

7 Tips for Cast Iron Mavens - Backdoor Survival

Last month I needed to take my beloved 12” skillet down to bare metal and and re-season it anew. This made me think that perhaps it was time to share some cast iron tips with Backdoor Survival readers. After all, we all need a first-time intro at some point or refresher from time to time!

If you were lucky enough to get some cast iron cookware as a gift, you probably have some anxiety about using it. And even if your are a cast iron diva – well experienced in its glories – you may have some questions about it’s use and care for the long term. Today I offer some cast iron tips and suggestions that will guarantee your cooking adventures with cast iron succeed.

1. Seasoning is your friend

Cast iron needs to be seasoned in order to acquire non-stick capabilities. An unseasoned piece is a disaster waiting to happen. You food will taste like, well, rusty iron. Food will stick like crazy. And clean-up? Forget it.

Old rusty cast ironThese days, if you are starting new, you can purchase a pre-seasoned pan. That is what I did. Lodge as well as other manufacturers sell pre-seasoned pans for just a few dollars more than the unseasoned kind.

But not to worry if you acquired an old rusted out or unseasoned pan from a friend, relative or thrift store, you can find my instructions for seasoning a cast iron pan from scratch right here in the section below. (See pictures of some old, rusted cast iron skillets to the right. These are completely salvageable.)

The key to obtaining a slick, well blackened cast iron pan is to continually re-season. You do this by wiping a thin layer of vegetable oil along the inside after each use. (I use this little mop thingy. I purchased). I am still doing this to my skillet and it is getting nice and dark. I am sure that the time will come when I can give this up but for now, I like how nice and shiny the pan is getting.

Seasoning a new (or old unseasoned) pan

When you first get your pans whether new or second-hand, the first thing you should do is season them. To do this:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Wash your pan with a mild dish soap and a stiff brush to remove old food particles and loose rust that may have accumulated. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).Cooking with Cast Iron
  3. Rinse and dry completely.
  4. Using a clean rag, apply vegetable oil to both the inside and outside of the pan. You can use lard or melted shortening instead of vegetable oil if you like.Cooking with Cast Iron
  5. Place the pan upside down on the oven’s center rack.Cooking with Cast Iron
  6. Place a sheet of aluminum foil below the rack to catch any drips. I like to use a foil-covered cookie sheet for this.
  7. Bake for one hour.
  8. Turn off the oven and allow the pan to cool completely before removing it from the oven.
  9. Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.

2. Cook with a bit of oil

Or use cooking spray if that is something you use. Just like coating the pan with a thin layer of oil after each use, while the pan is new you should cook with a bit of oil. Of course you would not do this while frying bacon and, as a matter of fact, cooking foods with a lot of fat in them will simply accelerate the long term seasoning process.

Keep using that bit of oil while cooking until your pan has a dark, satiny patina. Then be brave and try cooking without. If you find you now have a non-stick pan, great! You can add extra oil only if you wish to add some flavor.

3. Preheat the pan

Ove glovesCast iron heats evenly; no hot spots or cold spots on this puppy. To take advantage of this even heat, preheat first. Be sure to let you cast iron heat up gradually as the burner or oven heats up since a cold pan on a fiery hot burner could break or crack from thermal shock.

And remember, that pot or pan will be very hot. Use mitts (or Ove Gloves) for protection.

4. Store cooked foods somewhere else

The acid in foods will break down the seasoning in your pan and impart a metallic taste. When the meal is over, take the time to store your food in a suitable container.

5. Never every use soap for cleaning, and dry thoroughly

How to Clean Cast Iron the Easy Way | Backdoor Survival
Soap will destroy that wonderful, non-stick patina. Don’t do it. Instead, scrape off the bits of food left in the pan and if necessary, use some salt and a tad of water as a scrubbing agent.

Whatever you do, do not allow your cast iron cookware to air dry. It will rust. Instead, dry it well and for good measure add that coat of oil we talked about in #1 above.

SurvivalWoman's Camp Stove
I used to have a scrubbing sponge that I used exclusively on my cast iron. When done cleaning, I would store it away in a Ziploc baggie so I did not mix it up with the day to day soapy sponge. Six months ago however, on a lark, I ordered this chain-like gizmo called “The Ringer.

The purchase was based upon one of those “just for you” suggestions and in a moment of weakness, I fell for it. Little did I know that cleaning my cast iron skillets would become so easy. Not that cleaning cast iron is difficult, mind you, but it can and does take some time.

Pre Ringer, I would add a bit of water and salt to the dirty skillet and scrub. If the pan was especially grungy, I would set it on the burner and bring the water to boil first. This, in itself, is an effective way to loosen those crusty bits of food from the bottom of a cast iron skillet or pan.

With the Ringer, I skip both the boiling water and the salt. Here are some photos so you can follow along.

How to Clean Cast Iron the Easy Way | Backdoor Survival

A crusty, dirty cast iron skillet. BTW, the burgers were delicious.

How to Clean Cast Iron the Easy Way | Backdoor Survival

This is what the Ringer looks like in use.

For really big messes, you can also add water to pan before scrubbing caked on food residue.

How to Clean Cast Iron the Easy Way | Backdoor Survival

My skillets have never looked so good. Not only that, I am not seeing any rust spots develop (it happens) and can only assume that the Ringer scrubs them away. Before storing the pan, I give it a very light coating of coconut oil and I am done. That’s it. Start to finish, two to three minutes and no elbow grease.

In order to build up to that nice non-stick finish, re-season your pan every time you wash. To do this, after you rinse your pan, heat it on high on the stove top. When the water has evaporated, add about a half of teaspoon of cooking oil and rub it around with a cloth, being careful not to burn yourself. Continue heating the pan until it begins to smoke, then rub just a bit more oil on it. Turn off the stove and let the pan cool completely.

Every time you use your cast iron with cooking oil, it adds to that non-stick finish. So the more you use it, the better your pan will cook. Cooking very acidic food, like tomato, lemon juice or vinegar, can wear down this finish.

If the surface starts to look dull and the food begins to stick to the pan, re-season it in the oven again. If your cast iron is not well-seasoned, things like eggs and fish may stick to the bottom.

6. Quality counts

The best quality pan is a pan that has been passed down from Grandma with a 50 year history of use and seasoning. Alas, not all of us can be that lucky. For the rest of us, a good quality pan will more than pay for itself. Look for a fine grain on the surface without a lot of pitting.

Equally important, make sure the cast iron has a uniform thickness and that it sits level on flat surface. No wobbles, please. (See the recommendation section below for my recommendations on the best cast iron cookwear!)

7. Have a blast!

Sure you may have some fancy, department store cookware in your cupboard. I do. And I must admit, it does a great job. But there is something rewarding in pulling out a pan that is steeped in tradition and history even if it is brand new.

Experiment cooking with your cast iron. Try oven frying and baking and whatever you do, use it often. Have fun.

Special Considerations for Cast Iron Cookware

Cooking with cast iron may take some getting used to! It’s comparable to switching from an electric range to a gas range. Cooking times and temperatures are slightly different. I burned the beans several times before getting it right.

Your cast iron cookware will retain heat longer. Therefore, use a hot pad and trivet to prevent burns, both on your skin and on the surface the pan is set on. A handy dandy cloth hot handle holder and a lid lifter are fabulous additions to your cookware set.

Although theoretically, cast iron will not become scratched up from metal utensils, my family is pretty hard on pans, so I’ve invested in some wooden utensils to use when cooking.

Cast iron is heavy. I’ve discovered that it is much easier to serve from the stove onto plates rather than carry the skillet to the table.

Cast iron is inexpensive and, with nominal care, practically indestructible. It can be safely used indoors or out, over gas, electricity or a campfire. With two or three pieces, you can cook almost anything.

What is not to like? As you think about outfitting yourself with gear, consider versatile cast iron.

One thing is for sure: it will not make you sick from toxic fumes or coatings that come off during the cooking process. And for that reason alone it is highly recommended.

I experienced a lot of trial and error as I learned to cook with cast iron. Probably the most important thing I learned was to wear gloves when handling the hot skillet or pot and also be make sure that the piece was completely dry before putting it aside for next time.

Final Word on Cooking with Cast Iron

There you have it, irrefutable proof that cast iron cookware is a must-have in your Prepper kitchen. I know I’m glad I made the switch. How about you?

Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

Keep reading, or see the sections below to learn my recommendations for the best cast iron skillet and other cookware, as well as how to cook some of my favorite foods using cast iron!


My Recommendations (Skillets and other Types of Cast Iron Cookware)

Survival Woman Reviews her new Lodge 12 inch Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge Cast Iron SkilletAbout six weeks ago I starting thinking about how I would cook over an open fire. One thing I knew for sure: I was not going to practice high heat, open fire survival cooking using my prized Analon non-stick cookware. No way.

So I brought in the old, woefully unused 10” skillet from the garage and used it to fry up a few burgers using the highest flame possible on my gas range. Yum, these were pretty tasty. Next I tried sautéing some veggies. Those were tasty too. But alas, this little skillet was only good for a single serving – or two pygmy servings in our household. Time to get a larger skillet I said to myself.

Circling back to the beginning of this post, I did a bit of research and ordered the Lodge 12 inch skillet which was pre-seasoned (Yay!). Not only that. it was within my under $30 budget. Compared to my Analon (non stick) skillet, this was a steal.

Now that I have used my new skillet, I can honestly say that this is one tool that will become a mainstay in my kitchen. I simply love this pan. So far I have used it for hamburger steaks, (a Survival Husband specialty), for stir fries, and for my very own survival stew (brown rice, garbanzo beans, canned tomatoes, onion, and a bit of chili powder).

castiron_2 castiron_3

Reasons to Love this Pan:

  • This skillet gets hot, really hot and retains the heat even after turning down the burner.
  • Adding food to a hot pan does not cool it down – not even a little bit. That means fried food continues to fry rather than steam.
  • It appears indestructible. It’s made if solid iron, for goodness sake.
  • Food does not stick. I have been using a smidgen (less than a teaspoon) of canola oil on the pan. I rub it around with this mop thingy (actually, a basting brush) and so far so good. It is my understanding that after a few months of use, I can forego the oil.
  • Food cooks evenly. I mean it. The iron is so thick and is such a good conductor that heat distributes perfectly across the pan with no hot or cool spots.
  • There is an “assist handle” on the opposite end of the main handle. If you’re like me, lifting up a hot, eight pound pan laden with food is not exactly easy. The ability to grasp both sides of the pan is a bonus.
  • It is made in the US.

Now to be honest, there are a few negatives to this pan:

  • It is very heavy, weighing in at 8 pounds. Ove Gloves Add a bunch of food and this is one heavy pan.
  • The handle gets hot. which could be a problem if you are not prepared. Me? I swear by my Ove Gloves and use them whenever I cook. The scars on my arms will attest to the number of burns I have from careless cooking these last two years. I purchased the Ove Gloves last summer and never looked back.
  • If not cleaned properly, cast iron will rust. This has not been a problem so far.


Because ordinary cookware cleaning techniques like scouring or washing in a dishwasher can remove or damage the seasoning on a bare cast iron pan, these pans should not be cleaned like most other cookware. Some cast iron aficionados advocate never cleaning cast iron pans at all, simply wiping them out after use, or washing them with hot water and a stiff brush. Others advocate washing with mild soap and water, and then re-applying a thin layer of fat or oil.

A third approach, advocated by television chef Alton Brown, is to scrub with a bit of coast salt a paper towel or clean rag. I like this idea since the salt gives a little boost to my elbow grease (see full cleaning instructions for cast iron earlier in this article).

About Lodge

According to the Lodge Manufacturing website:

When Joseph Lodge began making cast iron in 1896, he began a legacy that would create the foundation to an enduring standard of quality carried forward by four generations of family management. The resulting privately held metal formula, precision molds and exacting mold wall thickness are the result of years of dedication to improving quality that began with the first skillet from the first sand mold.

Not even the most expensive stainless and aluminum cookware can rival the even heating, heat retention, durability and value of Lodge Cast Iron. Its legendary cooking performance keeps it on the list of kitchen essentials for great chefs and home kitchens alike.

For more than four generations Lodge has been making cast iron cookware. And, much of the cookware made generations ago is still in the kitchens of fourth generation cooks. That’s why we say that when you choose Lodge Cast Iron Cookware, you’ve made a friend that will last more than a lifetime. The Lodge family appreciates your patronage and hopes that if this is your first piece of Lodge Cast Iron, it will be the first of many.

Lodge 12 inch Cast Iron Summary

Although I am still learning, I already love my Lodge cast iron skillet. It appears to be the perfect size, especially when you consider that the weight of anything larger would be too heavy for me to handle. Given its ability to withstand high temperatures and hold the heat, it will be perfect if we ever need to cook outside on our fire pit or over a campfire.

My only concern, to be honest, is that once I try making cornbread in my new skillet, I will have to go on a diet because the results will be so good!

Other Types of Cast Iron Cookware

There are a variety of different types of cast iron cookware, suitable for nearly all types of cooking. Here’s a short description of each type. Make sure you purchase those that best suit your cooking style and preferred recipes.

  • Waffle Irons: This essential tool will make that distinctively gridded breakfast delight. Electric cast iron models are available, but for Prepper purposes, I recommend the old fashion ones with long wooden handles. These beauties can cook waffles either on the stove top or over the open flame.
  • Panini Press: This cookware can be found with long handles similar to the waffle iron or as a squarish skillet-like pan with ridges that has a smaller lid also with ridges used to press the food flat as it cooks. It works great for bacon, grilled sandwiches, meat, and vegetables.
  • Crepe Makers: This pan is round and has no or a very small edge. This isn’t a pan you can prepare soup in. Crepes, eggs, pancakes, quesadillas, pizza, and hamburgers all can be made using a crepe maker.
  • Dutch Ovens: In some areas, this pot is called a casserole dish and can be found with or without legs. Dutch ovens range in size from 2 ½ quart capacity, which will hold up to 3 pounds of meat, to a whopping 20 ½ quart capacity, that will hold about 20 pounds of meat.

In addition, dutch ovens can be used as roasting pans or soup pots. They also work great for frying and bread baking.

  • Oval Roasters: These are primarily designed for use in the oven and are oval, as the name implies. They are available in 4 sizes ranging from 4 to 20-quart capacity. Think roast and bread for this one!
  • Skillets: Cast iron skillets also come in a variety of sizes, from a 6-inch diameter with sides 1 ¼ inch high to a 19 ¾ diameter with a side depth of 2 ½. You can find skillets that are round or square. Some have one long handle, others have two smaller handles.

Personally, I recommend a round skillet somewhere between 9-10 inches in diameter with a 2-inch depth and a long handle for stove top use. It’s a good size for cooking, frying, and baking a variety of dishes.

  • Branding skillets: These are skillets or grill pans, either round or square, which have grilling ridges on the bottom and are useful for searing meat and grilling vegetables.
  • Frying pans: These are essentially deeper skillets with a depth averaging about 3 inches. Dutch ovens are just as good for frying as frying pans and are more versatile. Really, the only difference between a Dutch Oven and a frying pan is the long handle on the frying pan.
  • Cooking-With-Cast-IronGriddles: This is a two-burner pan and is oval or rectangular in shape. It may be completely flat or have a small lip to keep grease from going over the edge. The griddle in my home is reversible. One side is flat and suitable for pancakes, eggs, sausage, and quesadillas. The other side has ridges and is great for grilling meat. We use this pan every day!
  • Tea Kettles: Be careful when purchasing a new cast iron tea kettle. Many newer models are glazed with enamel inside which would be damaged if you use your tea kettle to boil water. Find one without the enamel glazing. Cast iron tea kettles typically come with a tea strainer that fits under the lid for proper tea brewing.
  • Woks: Regular cast iron pans won’t work well for stir fry. So, if you love stir-fried meals, it is better to invest in a cast iron wok. If you can get a wok made in China, you will find it differs little from a steel wok in size and weight.

Woks made in other countries are thicker, take longer to heat and are more difficult to work with overall.


Favorite Cast Iron Foods

Cast Iron BurgersThere is no question that I have a love affair with my (now) four cast iron pieces: my Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned 15 Inch Cast-Iron Skillet. (also called a camp stove) and a smaller, 10” skillet. So what are my favorite uses for cast iron? Just for fun I will list them for you:

  • Hamburger patties: Fried in a bit of Worcestershire sauce they are perfect. The splatter does make a mess. Try this outdoors on your rocket stove.
  • Fried potatoes: Don’t knock it until you have tried it. I cut the spuds into wedges and toss them in about a tablespoon of oil. After preheating the skillet in a 450 degree over, in go the potatoes. These are sooooo good.
  • Biscuits: I cheat and use a mix Fisher’s. I drop them in the skillet (indoors) or Dutch over (outdoors) and bake. Great with soup.
  • Salmon fillet: Yep, even the salmon goes into the oven on my cast iron skillet. I add a bit of butter, garlic and basil if it is in season.
  • Pineapple Upside Down Cake: Wishful thinking since I actually have not made this myself but I have had it at a friends house. To die for.

But nothing beats the king of meats, the classic Steak.

Cooking Steak on Your Cast Iron Survival Skillet

castironsteak_3If you think grilling your meat is the way to go, I would like to challenge you to try something new. Grab that survival skillet – cast iron, of course – and prepare steak like you have never experienced!

Step by step, here is how you do it.

1. Put your cast iron skillet in the oven and pre-heat to 500 degrees. You are going to want to get that baby really really hot. Get out those oven mitts, or, better yet, those Ove gloves. I told you about awhile back.

2. Grab your piece of meat and pre-season with a marinade or with a paste made out of olive oil, kosher salt and a little pepper. Here is my favorite marinade in case you are interested.

Mix together 1 tablespoon each olive oil and soy sauce. Put your steak in a dish and coat each side by turning it over a couple of times. Sprinkle generously with Montreal Steak seasoning.castironsteak_0

Extra credit: Throw it all in to your FoodSaver Marinator and let it rest for 30 minutes or so while you are getting the rest of your dinner together. Here is what the marinator looks like loaded up and ready to go.

4. When the oven is up to temperature, take the skillet out of oven (with your Ove Gloves or other protective device) and put it on the stove. The burner should be set for as high as it will go. At this point it would be a good idea to turn on the fan vent in your kitchen unless you like to hear the sound of smoke alarms going off.

5. Take your steak and put it in the hot skillet. It should start to sizzle real nice. Now the hard part. Time this one side for 30 seconds – 40 max – then flip it over and do the other side, The steak should be nice and brown and crusty on both sides.

6. Now it is time to transfer the whole shebang back into that 500 degree oven. Close the door and set your timer for two minutes. Flip and cook for another two minutes. If you started out with a nice, 1” steak, it should be close to medium rare. I cheat and use one of these instant meat thermometers just to be sure.

7. You are not done yet. Take the steak out of the pan and place in on an upside down plate so it is a bit elevated. This is so it does not sit in its juices. Cover with a tent of foil and let it rest (poor thing) for 2 to 5 minutes.

castironsteak_5Done all that? You are now ready to eat the most delicious steak you have ever tasted. I think it has something to do with the high heat and hot skillet, Since using this method, we have not had a single, dried out piece of meat. Now try that will you BBQ grill!

Your skillet is multi-tasking. One other thing. Your skillet is as heavy as a brick. Actually, as heavy as a bag of bricks. Get used to hefting it and when the next zombie attack occurs, you can swing your skillet to defend yourself. The heck with the baseball bat.


Cast Iron Recap: Why Choose Cast Iron In the First Place?

1. Long-lasting

Generations of women have been using cast iron cookware primarily because of its durability. Cast iron will last for decades if properly maintained. So even after all the stores close and zombies are running amok in the streets, your cast iron will still be going strong.

2. Healthier

What you cook with can either detract or add to your food’s overall nutritional value.

Non-stick pans leech plastic polytetrafluoroethylene toxins into the air when heated which can cause potentially fatal polymer fume fever and are a contributing factor to increased perfluorinated carboxylic acid found in breast milk of women using this type of cookware.

On the other hand, cooking with cast iron cookware aids in the development of trans fatty acids in the cooking oil which might give someone pause.

3. Versatile

Cooking-With-Cast-IronCast iron pans can be used on the stove, in the oven, and over the campfire. There is a pan perfect for every recipe. Furthermore, cast iron pans are heavy and may be just the thing you need to thwak that unwanted intruder in the noggin when worse comes to worst.

Now that we understand cast iron is the way to go, let’s talk about which pans you should have in your Prepper kitchen.

Why Choose to Cook with Cast Iron Cookwear?

  • Cast iron can be used both indoors on a traditional stove or outdoors over an open fire, rocket stove or gas grill.
  • It conducts heat and gets really, really hot. And then it holds that heat for a long time which is important if you must conserve fuel.
  • A well seasoned (meaning well-used) cast iron skillet is extremely non-stick.
  • Any old utensil or spatula can be used without harming the surface. Shoot – you can even stir food around with a tree branch or twig without harming the surface.
  • Foods browns quickly. And browned food = flavorful food.

Cast Iron Macaroons

  • Cast iron is practically indestructible. There are no rivets, screws, or welded points that can fail. That makes it so durable that with proper care, it can be used for decades if not centuries.
  • It is healthy. A tiny bit of iron will leach from the skillet into your food. I am talking about a teensy tiny few milligrams which, in a survival situation, will be especially vital to your good health.

It Can’t All be Good Can It?

OK, truth be told, there are a few negative aspects to a cast iron skillet.

  • At 8 pounds, it is downright heavy and the handle gets extremely hot – burnable hot. You must be careful. I swear by my Ove Gloves and use them whenever I cook. A less expensive alternative are welding gloves that can be purchased for a very modest price either.
  • After cooking in it, you need to scrape out the leftover bits of food and rinse it out (without soap if you are a purist like me) and dry it really well so that it does not rust. A little coating of oil does not hurt either.
  • You also need to be careful that you do not remove your cast iron skillet from the heat source and plunge it under a stream of cold water. Doing so may cause it to crack or to shatter. Not pretty.
  • If not cleaned and dried properly, cast iron will rust.

For some, the cast iron skillet may be an ugly duckling. But I think the humble cast iron skillet is gorgeous!

Experiment cooking with your cast iron. Try oven frying and baking as well as pan frying. Whatever you do, use you cast iron skillet often. I guarantee that you will be hooked and will want to start adding to your cast iron cookware collection, one skillet and one Dutch oven at a time.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

From the Bargain Bin:

Below are some of my favorite cast iron items including some useful accessories:

Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet: This purchase changed the way I cook. I use my cast iron cookware for everything from salmon, to bacon and eggs, to biscuits. Don’t forget the Lodge Set of 2 Pan Scrapers, a must have for cleaning those food bits from your cast iron cookware.

Lodge Dutch Oven/Camp Stove: I originally purchased this Dutch oven because it was so darn cute. But over time, I have learned to love it for its versatility. Remember, a camp stove is designed so that you can bake with it by arranging charcoal on top of the lid as well as underneath the Dutch Oven itself.

‘Ove’ Gloves Hot Surface Handler: I cannot say enough about these hand and arm protectors. I have permanent scars from hitting my arm on the rack of my oven. I can only imagine what I would look like if I did not use these with my cast iron cookware. Forget the colorful silicon hot pads. These are 1000 times better!

Four Silicone Brushes: I call these”mop thingies”. Great for layering a nice thin coat of oil on your cast iron pans.

Lodge 5-Quart Double Dutch Oven and Casserole with Skillet Cover: This is another cool piece. This Dutch Oven does not have legs and is designed for indoor use – but it can be used outdoors too. Just don’t forget the Ove Gloves.

Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned 15 Inch Cast-Iron Skillet: Similar to the 12” skillet only bigger. Actually, quite huge (and yes, I finally have one!).

US Forge 400 Welding Gloves Lined Leather: These well-priced gloves provide complete heat and burn protection. They are made of soft and supple top grain leather for comfort and pliability, plus they have an internal liner gives more comfort and durability.

The Ringer Cast Iron Cleaner – Stainless Steel Chainmai: I purchased one of these in October 2015 and it is friggin’ fantastic. You will never ever have to scrub cast iron again. I can’t say enough good things about this gizmo. You want one.

Cast Iron Skillet with Hot Handle Holder: I feel that everyone should own a basic, 12” cast iron skillet. In spite of the myth, they are easy to care for and over time, will become a family heirloom. On grid or off grid, cooking with cast iron is the way to go.



Kala, A. A., Joshi, V. and Gurudutt, K. (2012), Effect of heating oils and fats in containers of different materials on their trans fatty acid content. J. Sci. Food Agric., 92: 2227–2233. doi:10.1002/jsfa.5638

Geerligs, P. D. P., Brabin, B. J. and Omari, A. A. A. (2003), Food prepared in iron cooking pots as an intervention for reducing iron deficiency anaemia in developing countries: a systematic review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 16: 275–281. doi:10.1046/j.1365-277X.2003.00447.x

Elevated levels of short carbon-chain PFCAs in breast milk among Korean women: Current status and potential challenges.Habyeong Kang, Kyungho Choi, Haeng-Shin Lee, Do-Hee Kim, Na-Youn Park, Sunmi Kim, Younglim Kho Environ Res. 2016 Jul; 148: 351–359. Published online 2016 Apr 23. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.04.017

Acute toxicosis of budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) caused by pyrolysis products from heated polytetrafluoroethylene: clinical study. R. E. Wells, R. F. Slocombe, A. L. Trapp

Am J Vet Res. 1982 Jul; 43(7): 1238–1242.

A case of polytetrafluoroethylene poisoning in cockatiels accompanied by polymer fume fever in the owner. Blandford TB, Seamon PJ, Hughes R, Pattison M, Wilderspin MP. Vet Rec. 1975 Feb 22;96(8):175-8. PMID: 1119084

Shimizu, Taro et al. “Polymer Fume Fever.” BMJ Case Reports 2012 (2012): bcr2012007790. PMC. Web. 12 June 2017.

Hamaya, Rikuta et al. “Polytetrafluoroethylene Fume–induced Pulmonary Edema: A Case Report and Review of the Literature.Journal of Medical Case Reports 9 (2015): 111. PMC. Web. 12 June 2017.



Quick Tips Summary Cast Iron Seasoning :

How to Re-season Cast Iron Pan? Here is what you do:

  • Wash the cookware with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. (It is okay to use soap this time because you are preparing to re-season the cookware).
  • Rinse and dry completely.
  • Apply a thin, even coating of MELTED solid vegetable shortening (or cooking oil of your choice) to the cookware (inside and out).
  • Place aluminum foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any drippings.
  • Set oven temperature to 350 – 400 degrees F.
  • Place cookware upside down on the top rack of the oven.
  • Bake the cookware for at least one hour. After the hour, turn the oven off and let the cookware cool in the oven.
  • Store the cookware uncovered, in a dry place when cooled.


What are the best oils for your survival kit? Here are my top picks.

9 Best Essential Oils for Your Survival Kit | Backdoor Survival

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102 Responses to “The Ultimate Guide to Cast Iron Skillets & Cookware”

  1. Well one to the wonderful world of cast iron cooking! I have CI pans that are over a hundred years old! They still cook beautifully. Don’t buy new, search yard sales and second hand stores for old CI. It can most always be recovered no matter how bad it looks. A quick scrubbing with a wire brush or as I have done with many pieces I have found, sandblasted them and a re-season.

    One caution, do not leave high acid foods sitting in the pan too long, it will give them a metalic taste in a couple of hours. There is also a side benefit to using CI cookware also, it adds iron to your diet.

    Happy cooking,

    • I read on the CL website that you can clean up an old rusty cast iron pan by putting it in the oven during the self cleaning cycle. When done, you have a pan that is like brand new and can start the seasoning process anew.

      — Gaye

  2. I love cast iron. I have a 12 pan that my mother left me when she passed away and I also got her cast iron roasting pan too! They are the best. I hear they have all the new pre-seasoned pan now. I grew up with seasoning it your self but it sure is a good idea because it does take a while to get the pan properly seasoned. Never, Never, wash those pans in the dish washer or they will lose their seasoning and rust. They are a hand wash only pan. Great post.

  3. Search “resale” or second hand stores for cast iron. I have never paid more than $5.00 for a good piece of cast iron. Most was given to me. I even found a huge set out at the young dump! Condition is not a big deal, most any CI piece can be saved.

    Be sure you get a couple of good “Dutch Ovens” for use with coals, I cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner for six in three Dutch ovens. I used Cornish hens instead of a turkey.

    • I wish I could be so lucky. I have kept an eye on Craig’s as well as yard sales but people are getting wise to the value of a cast iron pan that his blessed (?) with 50 years of seasoning. You are right about one thing – I need to check the local thrift store. I would even take an old rusty one for $5 since as you say, they are easy to clean up, especially if you have a self cleaning oven.

      — Gaye

  4. I’m a huge fan of cast iron cooking. I have several Dutch ovens. Primarily I make chili or stew in them, but my wife has made biscuits , greens, just about anything eaten in the South. No possum, though! I liked your posting and the presentation of your food was very enticing! I have picked up a good bit of cast iron ware from Sportsmans Guide, but also from a big flea market in North Carolina.

  5. If I had to evacuate, I’d take my cast iron skillet with me. It’s one of my favorite things. I will try your steak cooking method-I’ve cooked steak in the skillet several times, most of the time it turns out good but I’ve had a few misses. I’ve never tried switching to the 500 degree oven. This just might work. Thanks for sharing!

    • I was a vegetarian for about 12 years beginning in the 80s but now I try to include meat in my diet at least once a week. Making this decision is a highly personal one and everyone’s situation is different.

      — Gaye

  6. Good article. Thanks for posting it. I have been a cast iron maven for about 5 years now. Christmas Day 2011 our power went out here in Seattle for 8 hours. After the initial panic wore off (company coming and nothing to feed them) We pulled out all the lodge ware which includes 2 dutch ovens and various sized skillets with lids. We cooked everything in cast iron on the gas BBQ in the back yard including the turkey which fit (snugly) in the large dutch oven. By 6 pm we had a perfect dinner with the best turkey we have ever made.

  7. I just found a few really old rusted pieces of cast iron (skillets, but I dont know the sizes)!

    I super excited to start using them, I just have to go on youtube and find videos. lol

    I think I’m going to fry bacon and hamburger patties the first time! 🙂 thanks for the tips!

    • If you have a self-cleaning oven, you can run the old rusty skillets through a cleaning cycle and they will come out in “virgin” form and ready for seasoning.

      Good luck,

    • Carla Emory published an excellent seasoning method using beef fat to build up a really attractive and slick layer of polymerized fats. Used after the clean cycle stripping it works very well.

      I’ll paraphrase it here with my wife’s instructions:

      Seasoning Cast Iron

      1) grease thoroughly cleaned iron with suet (beef tallow). IT MUST BE BEEF SUET!

      2) Place in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes

      3) Regrease and repeat step 2 at least 3 times

      4) After the final coat, bake for at least 2 hours

      5) Turn oven off and allow to cool gradually. Or set “time bake” and let it cool in the oven over night.

      Over the years I’ve learned that using pieces of clean, torn up t-shirts works really well for greasing the pan. I use a small amount of grease (tallow, suet) each time I remove the pan from the oven. Rub the pan all over with the cloth piece. I also use tongs to hold on to the cloth as it gets really hot. Too much grease will cause streaks, which, while it doesn’t affect the usefulness of the pan, makes it less “pretty”.

      Another important time saver is to use your self cleaning oven to clean all the old grease off the pan. This should only be used when you’ve acquired a “new” pan from a garage sale or a dumpster dive. I don’t know about you, but I want all the stuff on that pan to be MINE, not someone else’s! Just put the pan in the oven and set it to “heavy” clean. A couple hours later and the pan will be ready to clean with steel wool. Once the rust and the rough spots are buffed out it’s ready to season.

    • Cast iron skillets are usually sized by the measurement straight across the pan, not including any handles.
      Get a NON soapy ‘brillo’ type pad (hardware store) and plain veggie oil. Put spoonful oil in pan and scrub away. Wipe out dirty oil with old rags or paper towels. Repeat til no more rust. Rinse with hot water. Rub with fat. Bake to cure the fat coating. The oil keeps it from rusting while you work on it.

  8. gaye

    Great site; you and Mr U really have useful info on so may subjects

    Regarding cast-iron … I place a vote for the small 6″ Lodge [or Wearevers if you can find them]. They would be part of any basic 1-person or small group kit for bug – out or relocation

    small, relatively light and with tin foil “lids” they’re extremely versatile

  9. Instead of gloves, I use a silicone handle sleeve which works well for handling hot skillets. Have been using Lodge for a couple of years and LOVE how it goes from the stove to the oven without any worries and no more black teflon flakes in our food. We use stainless steel cookware for our other needs. If food gets stuck, I just fill with enough water to cover bottom of the plan and put back on the warm burner. Comes up with very little effort.

    Another tip is to use a wet tea bag to prevent rust. After washing and drying your cast-iron pot, wipe it out with a brewed tea bag. The chemical compounds in the tea will create a rust-preventing layer in the pot.


  10. I have a couple of those handed down after 50 years skillets so they are not about 70 or so. They are wonderful. I also have a chicken fryer, a deeper version of a skillet, a griddle.
    Pineapple upside down cake is one of the easiest there is.
    Melt butter in the bottom, a good glob, pineapple rings with a cherry in the middle first, cover good with brown sugar, you want the butter to be absorbed by the brown sugar. Use a yellow cake batter. A mix works or scratch always better. Only fill the skillet up half way with batter or it will run over when it cooks.
    Be sure to heat the butter in the pan on top of the stove, you want the pan about the same temp as the oven when it goes in so it cooks evenly. So have the batter ready before you melt the butter.
    You know how long it takes to heat a cast iron skillet. The top cooks before the sides and bottom otherwise. That’s all there is to it. Enjoy. Thanks, great article!!!

  11. I have used CI for many years. One of my favorite pieces is the corn stick pan. If you like cornbread this is a great way to cook it.

  12. I’ve been using cast iron for years. I have my Mom’s Griswold #9 in which she always made fried chicken, and fried potatoes. I have a newer 6 inch which is seasoned enough to fry eggs with no sticking. I agree with everything you have said. No soap, oil after every use. I dry them on the warm burner before applying oil, and then just turn off the burner and let them cool. I’ve heard that you actually get a little iron in your food, which the body needs, but not sure if that is true. Keep up the good work.

  13. I have used cast iron for many years, I was passed on many pieces from my parents. One thing i have noticed is that the older cast iron is finished much better than the new stuff. All my old skillets have an inside cooking surface that had been machined from the foundry. It is nice and flat and cooks well. The new cheap (never again!) stuff from China, has a rough finish as it is just “sand” cast and has very minor grinding and finishing. Not even the better brands are immune from this, I have several new Lodge 12″ dutch ovens that don’t have a very smooth finish, better than the Chinese, but not near as nice as the stuff that’s 70-80 years old.

    Great article!


  14. Definitely going to get one of these! Do you think having it “live” on a boat will speed-up the natural rusting process? If so, do you think this pan is a bad idea for my circumstances?

  15. You should get one. Keep it well oiled after each use and it will be fine. I know those stove top burners on a boat are small but the cast iron skillet will get super hot throughout (and stay evenly hot)regardless. I never use my $150 skillet anymore.

  16. A good place to get an iron skillet is eBay. Don’t get a new one with a rough surface. Stuff will stick. Also, nothing seasons like beef tallow!
    I have two iron skillets. One I use exclusively for eggs. That keeps the finish mirror smooth. The big one is for everything else.

  17. I have several cast iron pieces I’ve used for 15-20 years. I love using cast iron, but I wash mine with soap and water every time. I have had old ones and started fresh with new ones. I’ve treated them the same. Cook in them, wash with Dawn and water, and treat them with oil before storage. The old one’s seasoned up fine as well as the new one’s. I have a dutch oven I’m using right now that is new and in the process of seasoning. I love to cook my bacon in the oven in my cast iron. I also love to make cornbread in my cast iron. I know they say not wash them, but I do and it’s worked wonderfully!

    • You are not the first one to mention washing cast iron with soap and water. I thought I had scraped off my seasoning last week so I called Lodge to ask them about it. They highly recommended no soap plus told me I had to start all over with my seasoning (by going back to bare metal). I ignored them and just added more oil, baked the skillet in the oven a bit and it is perfectly fine.

      They also said a big no to metal spatula’s and although I have always used plastic, I am starting to use metal with good results. Think about it – in the pioneer days there was no plastic!

      I am still learning but am beginning to believe that there is no right or wrong way to use cast iron cookware.

      — Gaye

    • My favorite dish is blackened salmon. I do it on the stove out side to make my neighbors jealous. Let that skillet get real hot. My tip is to get the Red Fish seasoning from // It is the best. I even use it on other dishes for seasoning.
      My wife & her mother wash with soap. That will just have to be one of those things that I will let slide.

    • When I married my husband, I also married his cast iron skillets. My mom and grandma had cooked on cast iron, but I had not. It was a learning experience, but I love it. He told me to always dry with a towel and then on a warm burner before rubbing with a bit of oil. I wash in soapy water, but I don’t scrub too hard and you can see the water beading up on the finish. I tried your tip about using salt to scrub with and it really works well. I always use metal utensils. Why abandon Teflon because of it coming off in your food and then use plastic spatulas and spoons that melt on the hot surface? I find cast iron to be pretty forgiving as long as you keep the finish oiled before storing it away. I agree with the comment about the old pieces having a better cooking surface. I got a long griddle from Lodge for Christmas last year to use on the wood cook stove. It was pre-seasoned and is pretty much non-stick, but the finish is rough and pebbly. Nothing like the old timers I already had.

  18. We mostly use lard in our cast iron. hit up garage sales for the best cast iron. We got 3 griswalds for $5 and one was 13″. We found a wonder mill for $3 and the owner wanted to give us a sofa painting of and old buccaneer ship with it. Best to garage sale in upper class areas.

    • @Jerry – You are so lucky. I need to go garage sale shopping with you! The Griswold’s on eBay are very expensive. Was the Wondermill in working condition. Like I said – you were so lucky 🙂

  19. Have been using cast-iron for decades. I have an electric stove with the electric-clean oven feature (super heated). I have used this successfully to strip seriously rusted pans down to bare metal—it basically burns off all the old coating and leaves a powdery rust-colored coating which rinses right off (no heavy scrubbing). Most of my ironware has been scavenged from thrift shops and was in bad condition when I got it.

    • @Linda – I also use the self-clean feature of my oven to strip down old cast iron. When I talked to Lodge about this, they suggested running the old pieces through self-clean twice but I have never found the need to do that.

      All of these comments have me inspired to scrounge around for more pieces at thift shops or garage sales.

  20. I have my Mom’s #9 Griswold. It was always the Sunday fried chicken pan, and she always made the best fried potatoes in it. I can’t get my newer ones seasoned like this, but I’ll try starting over like you suggested.

    • Another thing I do is store my cast iron skillet in the oven. If I am cooking or baking something – and not using the skillet – I add a small coat of oil to the empty skillet and let it bake/season some more.

      But still, I bet the your Mom’s Griswold is better than mine will ever be 🙂

  21. I just brought back an older cast iron pan that was nice and rusty when I got it… 10 minutes with some steel wool and two coats of crisco each with one hour baking in the oven at 350 degrees and it is as good as new… I mentioned it in my last video (click my link and in the video for the Drip-o-lator I bring it out) I posted to youtube…

    the older pans are nicer then the newer lodge pans that I have… the cast iron is smoother… if you get a chance get a old griswold… I have one… the ground the cooking surfaces very smooth… I have not seen a modern equivalent that comes close to them…

    • @Chris – Nice pictures and a nice treasure hunt. The cabin looks pretty cool too! I am on the lookout for a Griswold – no luck so far. And they are getting huge $$$ for them on eBay.

  22. The only skillets I grew up with were cast iron. I have some other pieces also. However they are not indestructible. One skillet cracked when I was using it. It was from the 1930s. Sounded like a 22 rifle going off beside my ear. Another skillet same vintage, was dropped on the kitchen floor with the handle being broken off. However, regardless what other cookware one has, nothing beats cast iron.

  23. Be sure you buy only US made cast iron. Some discount stores sell cast iron made in China and other foreign countries. Some of it is very porous, of uneven thickness, and some is even made with scrap iron containing poisonous heavy metals. In Scouting, I have seen bad experiences with cheap foreign cast iron.

    If you are lucky, you can find old Lodge or Griswold cast iron in antique shops that has a milled interior. It looks almost polished, with concentric circles. No one I know of does this any more. You can get a near non-stick cure inside these.

    I have over 50 pieces of old and new cast iron, and I use it for nearly all my cooking.

  24. I cook on bare iron. I have none of the problems you describe. Every cast iron utensil I have has cooked an egg over hard as its first test. I get back 95% – 100% of the egg. Hamburger, potatoes,and other foods fry up well with just a little olive oil. A peeling Tefloned wok returns roughly 70% in scrambled-only form.

    My latest iron cookware is a lightweight 12.5″ wok. Probably restaurant style, it is machined both sides to nearly sheet metal thickness. It’s been over an electric stove, a Rocket Stove (it accomodates the round bottom), my tiny SOLO Stove (boiling water for pasta, little waves would threaten to tip it over first one direction and then the other as they moved back and forth) and a campfire. I’ve experimented with using it for up to 3 meals a day. I’m not afraid to take a Brillo pad to any discoloration and boiling water in it keeps it clean. Oh, and hold out for a round bottom for a real wok experience. Cast iron cooks.

    I once bought a small skillet with a perfect seasoned finish of polymerized animal fats and it performed perfectly. Then I gouged it with some energetic scrubbing and it continued to perform flawlessly. So I scrubbed it down to the bare metal, oiled it up and it cooks as well as it ever did. Don’t be a slave to your iron.

  25. Just another heads up on cast iron. I have several skillets and 2 dutch ovens that are at least 50 years old and older. I have been cooking on them for 40 plus years. I love them very much and all your tips are great. Just be aware that cast iron is brittle. Many a nice piece has been damaged in the shipping (ie ebay purchase) due to a handle etc getting bumped from poor packaging. So, a certain amount of care should be taken…….just saying.

  26. my wife got me the #12 dutch oven for x_mass and we both really enjoy cooking with it. we both have old cast iron handed down from our families and still use them all the time. i can remember as a young boy at my grandmothers as she made corn bread in her old skillet and grandpa having corn bread in milk with honey, boy, those we,re the good “ol day,s.!!!!

  27. When my Grandmother died, the family was allowed to remove two items for memories. The two items I chose were her Wagner 12″ deep frying pan and stove top dutch oven. I remembered the meals she made when I was younger and her children, raised as migrants crop picking in many locations were served meals in those tent camps. Long after she had left us, the memories of those meals and the sight of those cooking implements makes happy memories.

    Cast iron is great.

  28. I LOVE cast iron, I cooked an ENTIRE Thanksgiving dinner in cast iron Dutch ovens one year. However, my wife can’t stand it. She thinks they’re too heavy (they are) and she absolutely refuses to wash them without using soap. So I am relegated to kitchen duty when we use cast iron. I have a lot of it also.

  29. About 15 years ago, we inherited my mother-in-law’s cast iron chicken fryer. It sat among her things for several years, then one day Hubby pulled it out and said, “Hey, let’s use this.” I didn’t know a thing about cast iron, so I left it for him to figure out. LOL!

    Hubby used that cast iron fryer to fry burgers, scramble his eggs, make biscuits, etc. The only thing he didn’t use it for was frying chicken. We still love and use that pan!

    After researching how to clean the pans and prevent rust (duh, Lainie), I started using our few pans. I liked the results! But new pans were outside my budget, so my daughter and I kept our eyes open for used pans at thrift stores and yard sales. We found a few! I also let my adult kids know that cast iron was a thoughtful Christmas gift, and they have obliged a few times. Lucky me!

    Several years ago, the husband of my best friend decided he wanted new pans for his backyard grill. He’s quite the cook and grill-master. When he replaced his old cast iron pans with new ones, he put the cruddy-looking old ones out in the recycle bin. He thought I was a little “tetched” when I dived into the bin and fished those cast iron pans out and took them home. After grinding the caked on fry grease off the outsides of the pans, and seasoning them, I’ve been using them DAILY. Those two frying pans are my absolute favorite. I managed to get a round griddle that day, too. Woohoo!

    Don’t get me wrong…I had nice cookware at home. About 30 years ago, I dumped Teflon. I just didn’t feel “safe” using the stuff. So I replaced all my old Teflon with new stainless steel copper-bottom pots and pans. These are the “Made in USA” version, not the newer “Made in Indonesia” type. And I love them!!! But since I adopted cast iron frying pans, I haven’t used my stainless steel frying pans at all.

  30. Grandma Chilan brought her cast-iron skillet from Hungary to the United States! I now possess the family heirloom, and it will be passed down and treasured more than her jewelry! LOL!

  31. I admit it, I’m a snob when it comes to cast ironware. Growing up with it; my grandmothers *all 3* had them. Currently, my set has several pieces I have had for 40+ years. Can’t imagine camping w/o them. I use them for sauces, baking, and anything else since that post you did about baking in them. If I get something which sticks, I simply fill the cookware with plain water to boiling, let it boil for a few minutes, pour it out and wipe it dry……then while it’s still hot, I oil it with coconut oil because coconut oil seems to penetrate better than other oils I’ve tried. I don’t grind when they get crusted, I simply toss them into a fire and reseason.
    I have been known to gift people with a piece of my cast iron. When I do, the receiver knows how much I care about them since I don’t do it often and they know how I care for my cast iron.
    O and the snob thing? Well I browse the thrift stores for ‘good’ cast iron. That doesn’t mean the condition it’s in when I spot it, but it means I *and my daughter now* know what to look for and the feel to know it’s “made in America.” I have two pieces I’m wanting, a folding one for my BOB and a square griddle. I’m put out hints for Christmas gifts. 😉 Santa can be nice can’t he!

  32. My mother gave me a piece or two of cast iron. My friend gave me a Dutch oven belonging to her grandmother. I was given some free stuff on Freecycle. The woman said she put more out and I HAD to take it. Lucky me–there were about 8 pieces of cast iron. I love cast iron. It is getting to heavy for me to lift, but I will not get up. I just try harder and use some of the smaller pieces. I love my six-inch skillet for scrambling my two eggs.

  33. I got several cast iron pans from my folks that were really rusted, Debra, I had my dad sand blast them, all rust gone, then started the seasoning process from scratch. They work great now.

  34. Old cast iron skillets are the greatest. To clean an old pan put in a self cleaning oven for the cycle. It will come out rusty looking but clean. You can also turn it upside down over a good bonfire. Wash it well with soap and water and dry it. Coat it in shortening or oil and return to a hot oven 350 works. Leave it in till smoking hot. Remove and oil again. It can be reheated. After it has been re-seasoned, oil and store. I usually do all of the iron skillets at one time. unclean cook wear kinda freaks me out so I wash as I would any cook wear, even in the dishwasher when I have one.

    ALWAYS pre-heat the skillet with some form of oil before adding food to the skillet. That in itself is a type of seasoning. Food in a cold skillet will always stick. Happy cooking.

  35. Became interested in cast iron after reading about old Griswold and Erie skillets. Purchased my first Griswold about a year ago. A month later, I found a WagnerWare #7 at an antique store in central Indiana. The price was $15 and the cooking surface is like glass. It is a beautiful piece of equipment.

  36. great article, & i agree for most part that cooking with cast iron is the bomb.


    if you are going to simmer soups & stews for extended periods of time, especially with some acidity involved (tomatoes, etc) raw cast iron is the absolute the worst choice, you will not only trash your seasoning, but your resulting stew will totally suck, with metallic “flavors” at the forefront. that’s not to say cast iron cookware can’t be utilised, far from it, they actually excell in such applications, but you need ceramic coated dutch ovens like what le creset or fontignac offer.

    the proper tool for the job. that’s why i have an inordinate amount of cookware in my kitchen.

    good eats to all, eric

  37. love the commentary, but your website is kinda weird. coming from a long time IT dude, your click-thu “or not” could use a bit of clean up.

  38. Whatever you season (or cook) with, do NOT use “solid” (hydrogenated) vegetable oil except coconut oil. Not fit for human consumption. Same w/most vegetable oils sold in the supermarket. They are GMO and/or extracted with solvents such as benzene.
    The gentleman that suggested beef tallow was on the right track.

  39. Cast iron does indeed add iron to food. How seasoning works: iron has microscopic pores and when it is heated these pores expand allowing the oil to enter and upon cooling entraps the oil in the surface. How cool!

  40. Regarding “The Ringer” — she speaks the truth. I also bought one just a couple weeks ago, and I am stunned at how easy it is to clean my cast iron pans now. No more greasy, plastic scrubbers that never again feel clean. The Ringer is a gem! A little pricey but worth every penny. I’m going to buy more for gifts.

  41. Yes this thing really works. Have a not so high quality cast iron pot to hold water on top of my wood stove. It rusts and pits pretty easily. As I was cleaning and closing up the wood stove for the summer, I tried the Ringer on the water pot. ZAP! It was clean and smooth again. WOW. Love it.

  42. Wow! A blast from the past. I haven’t seen one of those in decades but my dad had one (or something very similar) that he used on his cast iron. As a little kid I like to play with it because it “felt weird”. I had forgotten all about it. Thanks!

  43. i have had one for a couple months now and absolutely love it too. been thinking about getting a backup one.

  44. I have had one for about 6 months and cannot imagine having cast iron without it. It really does get the pan clean without damaging the seasoning finish. Also, I have learned to keep a rag tucked into a plastic bag in my cupboard next to my oil. When my pan has been cleaned, I grab this cloth rag (actually it’s a piece of terrycloth sock!), heat up the pan just a bit, and use the rag to apply just a bit of oil before storing. The heat makes it easy to spread just a bit of oil and the rag makes it easy to apply it just right. Don’t know why I had never thought before to use a dedicated rag to spreading the oil on cast iron …

  45. If you have a bunch of new cast iron one of the best ways to season it is deep frying. Offer to buy some new oil for a local restaurant (get something good with a high ignition temp; grape seed if you can afford it) and trade the oil for the use of their fryer for an hour or two when they’re not using it. Obviously oil gets all over the entire piece of cookware, and the oil on the outside will need to be cleaned off before you cook, but it’s worth the extra hassle to get a well seasoned interior quickly. Make sure you use new oil and a clean fryer though. Don’t just throw your pan in the fryer at the local greasy spoon at closing time. Do it right and you get quality, consistent results. The ignition of grape seed oil is about 420F IIRC, so if the fryer is set to 375-85F (10-20 higher than most restaurants since they use cheaper oils) you should be good to go. Check the temps with a reliable thermometer, since the “on board” fry temp indicators are often inaccurate. Of course take the necessary safety precautions, and if you don’t know how to safely do it, then don’t do it. You can hurt yourself very badly, and or burn down the building if you screw up.

  46. People are saying that this does not remove the pan’s seasoning. But the last photo looks so shiny. I suppose I am looking for some assurance. More questions. If metal is ok to use on cast iron, can other metal items work? such as steel wool? If not why not. TIA

    • I contacted the manufacturer and here is what he said:

      “The Ringer will be the last pan scrubber you buy for a few great reasons:

      Firstly, the stainless steel ringlets of The Ringer are very smooth compared to the sharp texture of steel wool or copper scrubbers, which tend to dig into and remove the hard earned seasoning on the pan. The ringlets of The Ringer simply glide over the seasoning rather than cutting into it. They are also machine soldered together, which removes any sharp edges that are normally found within crimped ring chain mails, further protecting the seasoning and adding to the durability of the product.

      Secondly, the stainless steel ringlets do not bend and flex when they encounter tough grit and grime on the pan. Steel wool and copper scrubbers end up getting pulled apart during tough jobs, and they remove the seasoning in the process. The Ringer plows through stubborn grit much faster and with minimal effort, all while preserving the seasoning.

      Lastly, The Ringer is much easier to clean. Food particles simply rinse right out of the Ringer with hot water. It can also be used to “self-clean” by adding some dish soap, folding it over on itself, and scrubbing the two sides together under hot water. To top it all off, the premium stainless steel of The Ringer is dishwasher safe :-)”

      So there you go 🙂

  47. There’s science behind using the right oil to season your cast ironware. For a good, hard seasoning for your cast iron, use flaxseed and these instructions:


    It’s a bit of work, but you’ll be so glad you went through the effort.

  48. Do you have any idea where I might buy cast iron bread pans? I had ordered from Ka-Tom but after six months, they cancelled the order. I guess they didn’t have the bread pans!

  49. I’m in love with cast iron pans! We fry with mostly olive oil or butter in our cast iron pans. After the food is removed we then carefully add water to the warm pan and leave it to set while we eat. Almost always the pan washes out with the swish of the dish cloth. We use only virgin coconut oil for seasoning. Leave on a warm burner for a while. Don’t understand the science behind it but the coconut oil has someting to do with easy clean up. And there is no build up of gunk in the pan, no rust ever and always keeps its seasoning. It works like magic!

  50. I was given a cast iron dutch oven, I seasoned using the instructions on that tag (wipe with veg oil cook upside down for 2 hours) but it has brown streaks. How do I get rid of them or are they ok to live with?

    • Lucky you to be given a cast iron Dutch Oven. You should be fine. It sounds as though the oil clumped in spots and left a coating on the surface. It happens. The first few times you cook with your Dutch Oven, continue to use oil to season the surface and over time, it will blacken and become smooth. BTW, I use coconut oil on my cast iron pieces.

  51. This whole thread is hogwash, just an advertisement. You NEVER use water to clean cast iron. NEVER. If you season your pan properly in the beginning you will NEVER have stuck on food. Whatever this product is, don’t buy it. Learn how to season and clean cast iron, you will be happy.

  52. My cast iron skillet got left out in the backyard unintentionally for several days. Now it’s very rusty all over, inside and out. Can I still re-season it, or just I just buy a new one?

    • LOL because I have been there and done that. If you have a self-cleaning oven, run your skillet through a cycle then reseason. Otherwise, scrub it down to bare metal and re-season. Either way. it will be as good as new. //

  53. I purchased a ringer. It does not seem to work as well as I hoped. A paper towel under running water worked better to remove the grease and oil on the surface. The ringer had a difficult time with small stuck on particles that the ringlets just passed over. But in the process of rubbing harder to get these tiny pieces, I scraped off some seasoning. For stuck on food, I found that heating the pan really hot, and then pouring water into it so that the water initially immediately boils, and then bring it back to a boil, breaks up stuck food.

  54. I tried many times to cook with cast iron but just couldn’t get food to not weld itself to the pans. 2 things helped: cook with a lower heat setting, and buy a chainmail scrubber for cast iron (Amazon is where I found mine). I will never again cook in cast iron without the chainmail scrubber – it’s what made my cast iron adventures successful.

    • TexasScout, exactly. Stuff like that makes me wonder what the author even knows about the subject. For example: seasoning cast iron need not be done in the oven, and vegetable oil is less than desirable..animal fat, like lard is the best I just heat it up on the stove and rub it down with a small bit of bacon fat inside and out,
      then let it cool down before putting it up.
      (no need to worry about drips, I don’t use that much.)

  55. Not mentioned – this is a certain category where ”Buy American” means more than an economic patriotic message – there’s offshore cast iron copies of the venerable Griswolds and Lodges coming in with questionable metal content – that cheap 6” skillet could prove dangerous to your health ….

  56. I don’t have any recipes to share but, I have used cast iron only for over 10 years, including camping with my 75 yo Griswold skillets. I admit I struggle for this illustrious “patina” that is supposed “to increase with usage”! I cannot achieve this personally!
    I have found though that to remove cooked on crud that you put it in the self-cleaning setting of your oven, then after cool, I wipe on my oil, when the pan has warmed a bit, then re-wipe some of it off, and then bake for however long you wish. I prefer a higher temperature as I believe just using any pan for cooking removes this glaze when you cook in it! Repeat a few times and you may have a good coating, but mine never seem to last, even avoiding soap and of course drying and re-seasoning on the stove. I love all Name-Branded Cast Iron: Not the chinese branded Iron that maybe came from our “Cash For Clunkers” vehicle turn-in we had here in California!!! You know, like maybe there are transmission parts or engine iron…Joke!

  57. You should never use vegetable oil for anything, but especially to season your cast iron. Corn, canola and soy oil are all extremely unhealthy. The best oil for creating a good surface on cast iron is flax oil.

  58. I’m from a small rural town and people have cooked with cast iron for generations. Everyone seasons it with pork grease / fat. ie – lard or drippings. Cooking bacon or sausage everyday for a couple of weeks is a good way to season them.
    to remove rust – use veg oil and plain steel wool. After you are done, rinse in hot water to remove most of oil. Then apply lard. If on outside surfaces, bake. It not too much on inside, just cook, cook, cook. Everyone has a favorite skillet that lives in the oven when not being used. I do not wash mine unless I make gravy, or other soupy saucy stuff. I just wipe out bits with paper towel or rinse with hot water.
    Cast iron is NOT good for ‘fat free’ cooking.
    Oh yes, the great big one is a baby cooker. Pigs, that is!

  59. The best source for cast iron is usually antique or junk stores. They can be had for a reasonable price if you look hard enough. Lodge USA also still makes a pretty good product. I’ve found old iron with years of caked on grit and grime that I have been able to clean and get to looking (and cooking) like new. It has taken a lot of elbow grease, wire brushes and wheels, and sanding, but I was able to get it clean and start the seasoning process anew. I personally like to use olive oil when seasoning. Just do it a few times to get it started well, then cook as usual.I’ve got Lodge’s, Wagner’s, Griswold’s. My favorite is a #8 Wagner skillet that has a surface like glass. Much better than teflon. A lot of good information out there on the internet.

  60. Use to watch my grandma cook on a wood stove using cast iron cookware. That was 60 some years ago and still recall the type of cookware she used – Griswold (not the chevy chase namesake). I was fortunate enough to acquire some of it from her assortment – a 10 inch skillet and a dutch oven. They are not as heavy as the newer stuff I see in stores nowadays but seem much better made and cook really well.

  61. Dutch Ovens’ always have legs and a flat lid with a ring to hold coals. The pans with out legs and a flat lid at just deep pots.

    There is another use for a cast iron skillet – My father was a mean drinker and hit my mother once in the kitchen. This was dumb what he did next was really stupid he turn his back on her and she hit him in the back of the head with a 8 inch cast iron skillet. She took my sister and me out to the A&W for a root beer. We stepped over my father laying face down on the kitchen floor. He hit my mother once so she hit him once. He NEVER hit my mother again and stopped drinking.

  62. Damn straight about the ferrous fryers, Gaye! The best. My old camping pot does not get a lot of use at home but out in the bush, nothing to compare with it.

  63. When I was a boy scout a hundred years ago (or the 1960’s whichever was first) we scrubbed our iron when necessary using wadded up aluminum foil. I still do to this day (NO soap)

  64. Is it safe to use cast iron on a glass cook top? My concern is that it could scratch or crack the glass.

  65. I did not read all the responses so if this is a double I am sorry.
    The most rust, nasty cast iron can be soak for a couple days in apple cider vinegar and then a light brushing and it will look brand new. …oh course season it after the cleaning.

  66. I had no idea that cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned to have the food taste good. My dad loves to grill and BBQ, so I want to get him something for his birthday. I’ll be sure to pass this tip along to him after I find him a grill.

  67. I primarily use a Lodge 10 1/4″ skillet on my Weber Q-200 grill to cook bacon or sausages at least 3 times a week. It cuts down on grease spatter in the kitchen. I also have some Lodge 3 1/2″ mini skillets that I cook eggs in for McDonald’s type breakfast sandwiches. My wife laughed at them when I bought them, but now she enjoys the sandwiches.

  68. I have several pieces that I would love to put into rotation because I LOVE cast iron but they are in horrible condition; appears they have 50 years of built of residue on them…. I will not own a self cleaning oven due to having birds in my house so that is a no go by way of cleaning them so help! what else can I do to bring these back to base metal? I am afraid just scrubbing hasnt done much good…

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