My Mamaw Maggie passed when I was only six months old. I didn’t get to create my own memories with her, but I felt as though I knew her as everyone I met had a fond memory of her and a story to share. One of the very few items I have of my Mamaw Maggie’s is her cast iron skillet. When I was younger I only really used it when I was feeling nostalgic, and would bake up some cornbread. When I was little my Mom always said cornbread, soup beans and buttermilk was her favorite meal. But as I got older, I began to discover the pan’s varied uses.
If you are not familiar with cast iron pans, they can seem intimidating. All that talk of properly seasoning it, how to wash it (or not wash) it, seems like too much work. But trust me, the benefits of the cast iron pan far out way any care concerns. When seasoned correctly, a cast iron skillet will work better than any non-stick pan in your cupboard. They heat evenly and beautifully, and when properly cared for, they will last a lifetime. In fact, Mamaw Maggie’s pan has lasted several lifetimes!
For Christmas, I received another vintage cast iron skillet from my boyfriend’s family. Since I need to season it, I thought that I would just share with you all the secrets I learned from my Mom – who just happened to learn from her mom- Mamaw Maggie!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- If you have purchased a brand new pan, chances are it will contain a coating of wax. To remove the wax, you will want to thoroughly wash the inside of your skillet with warm soapy water to remove the coating, and rinse it extremely well. Please note that this will be the ONE and ONLY time that you will ever use soap on your pan. After you season it, you will only want to wash with hot water. Since my pan is vintage, and does not have a wax coating, I am just going to wash the pan under hot water for several minutes. It is imperative that you understand that a cast-iron skillet is not dishwasher safe, nor is it made for soaking. For best results, always rinse the pan with hot water immediately after cooking. If you have some stuck on food, try scrubbing with coarse salt or a nonmetal brush.
- Be sure to dry your skillet thoroughly with paper towels, or if you want to dedicate a kitchen towel to your pan, you can. The main thing is to get it completely dry immediately. Never let it air dry or it will rust.
- Dampen a paper towel with a vegetable oil such as canola oil, lard, or a shortening such as Crisco, and wipe your skillet thoroughly. I always use Crisco, because that is what my Mamaw always did, and I rub the entire thing down with a nice even layer. Note: You don’t want the grease to pool up, but you will want to create a nice sheen or glisten to the pan.
- Place the pan upside down on the top rack of a preheated 350° oven. Set a baking sheet, or spread a piece of heavy aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any grease drippings.
- Let the pan bake for 1 hour.
- Cast iron skillets get very hot so use caution and oven mitts when removing and place on a safe surface for cooling. (In fact, another awesome present they got me was my Lodge Handle Mitt. I love it!) Cool for 30 minutes or more until the pan is cool to the touch.
- You will reinforce the nonstick coating every time you heat the Crisco in the skillet, so I like to repeat this process two or three times.
- Rinse and dry skillet thoroughly like mentioned above (no soap).
- Before putting your pan away, be sure to give it another light coating of oil or shortening to protect it from rust and corrosion. I also like to cover it with a paper towel to protect it from dust.
Some other important things to note:
- After you have seasoned your pan, you should avoid cooking anything acidic the first couple of times. In fact, you should try cooking up some bacon, or some other high-fat food, to help build up the surfaces high gloss.
- Once you have achieved that ultimate gloss, you can cook up just about anything. The only thing you should never try is to boil water. That will cause your pan to rust.
- Don’t let the cast iron sit too long without using it, if you do it may become a bit rancid. If this happens, clean and re-season the pan (no soap).
- Always remember to give the pan a light coat of grease after cleaning the pan and storing.