How to Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet

Though it takes a bit longer to heat up, cast iron will diffuse heat quite well and retain heat extremely well. While other pans will lose heat when you place food in them, cast iron skillets will not. Since heat fluctuates less, use a cast iron skillet to cook dishes that need consistent high heat. Further, seasoned skillets will sear and brown foods without allowing the food to stick to the skillet’s surface. Take note of the particular advantages offered by cast iron, and always be sure to wash you pan carefully after each use.[1][2]


[Edit]Cooking Certain Foods in Cast Iron

  1. Sear meat in your skillet. One of your skillet’s greatest assets is its ability to give meats a high sear without scorching them. For instance, steak and roasts come out great. Slowly heat the pan over a constant flame by turning a burner on low, and periodically increasing the flame size every few minutes. Once the burner is on high, add a piece of steak and cook until its surface is deep brown. This will happen before any burnt, black bits accumulate in the pan. Searing times will vary based on the type of meat you're cooking.[3]
    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • Similarly, sear the outer edges of a meatloaf before depositing the skillet in the oven to bake, per a specific recipe.
    • Burgers cooked on cast iron will also develop a crispy, delicious crust along the entire outer surface - not just the grill rack. [4]
    • Larger steaks will admittedly fit better on a grill, but you can cut them into smaller portions to fit into your skillet.[5]
  2. Roast or char veggies perfectly. You can use your cast iron as a small wok, another type of dish prized for the ability to retain heat. The key to a great stir-fry is a hot enough skillet to crisp the rice and meat, but doing so in a time frame that allows the veggies to retain a desirable crunch. Cook to whatever level of roast or char your prefer.[6]

    • More specifically, your veggies will get that perfect, golden hue and crispy exterior layer by coming into direct contact with the steadily high heat of a cast iron surface.
  3. Fry eggs in your cast iron. Once your skillet is well-seasoned, it will cook some prime fried eggs. However, hold off on eggs until you can easily clean your skillet simply by wiping it with a towel. This indicates it is seasoned well enough to cook eggs and prevent them from sticking.[7]

    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • Watch out cooking scrambled eggs or frittatas on cast iron, as they are more likely to stick than other dishes.
  4. Bake the perfect crust. Frankly, proper corn bread should only ever be cooked on cast iron. As with all cast iron dishes, preheat the skillet first over a slowly increasing flame while the oven gets up to temp. Note the sizzle of the skillet as you pour in the batter - that’s the sound of crunchy golden crust developing quite nicely.[8]

    • Since cast iron excels at evenly distributing heat (once heated), the surface is perfect for creating an evenly-textured crust on baked goods generally.[9]

[Edit]Cooking Wisely with Cast Iron

  1. Preheat your skillet. Never place food in your cast iron before heating the skillet up first. Doing so will likely cause the food to stick. Preheat slowly, and be aware that the skillet will heat unevenly until the whole thing becomes extremely hot. Start preheating on a low heat and slowly increase to medium-low, than medium, and so on over the course of a few minutes. This will allow you to control the level of heat in the skillet itself if you want to stop short of searing temperature.[10]

    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 5 Version 2.jpg
  2. Note the effect on your iron intake. The food you cook in your cast iron skillet will have higher iron content. This comes directly from the skillet itself, so the longer food is in the skillet, the more iron it will absorb.[11] While iron is an essential nutrient, it can be dangerous to consume too much. That said, eating from a cast iron skillet will usually only add a few mg of iron to your meal.
    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 6 Version 2.jpg
  3. Cook fish carefully. There are better options for cooking fish, such as tilapia, that has a high likelihood of breaking apart if it partially sticks to your skillet. If you do want to cook fish in your skillet, opt for a thicker cut, and cook it skin-side down.[12]
    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • As a caveat, cast iron skillets offer perhaps the best way to blacken the outer edge of a cut of fish while leaving the inside moist and tender. Preheat the skillet for a full five minutes on a constant flame before putting the fish in the pan. You can perfectly sear scallops in this manner as well.[13]
  4. Cook only what you’ll want to taste again. There is another reason you may not want to cook fish in your skillet: your skillet will take on flavor from the dishes you cook in it. This could be problematic if you follow a fish dinner with a fruit cobbler, because desert may taste a bit too much like the main course.[14]

    • If you want to cook both savory and sweet dishes regularly, consider getting separate cast iron skillets for each purpose. You can make one work, but be sure to give a solid salt-scrub and a re-seasoning before baking something after a differently-flavored dish.

[Edit]Caring for Your Cast Iron Skillet

  1. Clean the skillet immediately after using. After plating your meal, rinse the skillet with hot water. To remove any cooked-on food, try using a kitchen towel or nonmetal brush with a mild abrasive, like coarse salt. Do so while the pan is still warm. The goal is to preserve the nonstick surface a “seasoned” pan has built up. If necessary, use a few drops of a mild dish soap on a sponge - but only do so occasionally. Never bleach your skillet or wash it in a dishwasher.[15][16]

    • Never allow your skillet to soak. In short, scour, rinse, and dry the pan as soon as is convenient after cooking.
    • Use steel wool only to remove any coating that becomes sticky, or to remove any rust deposits as soon as they develop. Re-season the pan in these scenarios.
    • If you’re serving directly from the skillet, be sure to clean it immediately following your meal. Never allow anything wet, such as a fruit pie or frittata, to be served from the skillet. Transfer the food to another dish and wash the skillet immediately.[17]
  2. Dry the skillet thoroughly.[18] Your skillet’s greatest enemy is rust. The greatest risk of developing rust is related to insufficient drying after cleaning. There are several theories about the best way to dry a cast iron skillet. At a bare minimum, thoroughly wipe down the inside and outside of the skillet with a dry towel.[19]

    • Designate one of your kitchen towels to be used exclusively to dry your cast iron. This will prevent other towels from getting heavily smudged, and will ensure you’re not dirtying your pan with unknown towel contaminants.
  3. Re-season your skillet.[20] Every couple times you wash your skillet, wipe down the well of the skillet with fat, such as flaxseed oil or lard after drying. This will likely be enough to keep your seasoned skillet’s non-stick surface in good shape. In those cases where you have to remove some of the coating to remove stickiness or a bit of rust, do a more involved re-seasoning.[21]

    • Apply a film of fatty material - ideally flaxseed oil - to the entire surface of the pan, inside and out. Bake the pan at 350˚ for one hour, with foil or a baking pan on the rack beneath it to catch drips. Allow the pan to cool completely in the oven.
    • A teaspoon of flaxseed oil is plenty for a 10-12in (25-30cm) skillet. Apply whenever the skillet looks visibly dry.[22]
  4. Store cast iron carefully. Putting away other pans that are still wet may wind up getting water on your cast iron and causing rust. Prevent this by storing your cast iron separately, perhaps by hanging it up. If you do store your skillet with other cookware, place a sheet of paper towel in the well of your skillet to collect any water that sneaks into it.[23]
    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 12 Version 2.jpg
    • Always let the skillet cool to room temperature - in part to absorb any added oil - before putting it away.[24]
  5. Do not boil water in your skillet. This is pretty much the only thing you shouldn’t ever use a cast iron skillet for. Boiling water will increase the likelihood of your pan rusting, the cast iron worst case scenario.[25]
    Cook in a Cast Iron Skillet Step 13 Version 2.jpg


[Edit]Related wikiHows


[Edit]Quick Summary

  18. [v162094_b01]. 26 October 2021.
  20. [v162094_b01]. 26 October 2021.
  22. [v162094_b01]. 26 October 2021.