Food & Nutrition

Here’s the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Cast-Iron Skillet

Want to know the best secret for caring for a cast-iron skillet? The answer is simple—use it! Frying and sautéing as often as possible helps keep the cast iron’s seasoning at its best.

Cast iron skillet on rustic wood tableArina P Habich/Shutterstock

Cast iron is back! Twenty-first century cooks have rediscovered the workhorse of Grandma’s kitchen, and while the mysteries of seasoning cast iron and safely cleaning it are known, Grandma knew how to care for cast-iron skillets the best and easiest way. She used them—a lot. Here are 36 everyday kitchen staples you’ve been using wrong.

She didn’t have to remove rust from them because they were always on top of her stove or in her oven. Caring for cast-iron skillets was as easy as frying a batch of chicken or crisping up some bacon for breakfast. By doing so, she wasn’t just showering affection on her family and friends; she’d be giving her skillets a little love as well. The frequent heating of oil in cast iron keeps the protective seasoning intact, darkening it to a beautiful black patina over prolonged use. With frequent use and proper care, your cast-iron skillet will be just as nonstick as any Teflon-coated skillet. This is the easy way to restore a rusted cast-iron.

What to cook in your cast-iron skillet

So, in order to keep the skillet I inherited from my grandma at its best, I often cook these recipes in it. Each one helps restore its seasoning and keeps my skillet in tiptop shape.

  • Gentleman’s Whiskey Bacon Jam: This sweet and savory jam should be slathered on everything. I mean everything.
  • Gram’s Fried Chicken: Any time your pan needs a little seasoning boost, make fried chicken.
  • Pork Schnitzel: You don’t need a lot of fat to make your skillet happy. I often make this schnitzel for a quick and easy dinner my family (and my skillet) will love.
  • Potato Latkes: Is anything better than crispy golden brown potatoes? A cast-iron skillet keeps the frying oil hot, resulting in amazingly crisp potato pancakes.
  • Sage-Rubbed Salmon: Cooking fish in cast iron is one of the best ways to seal in flavor and moisture without overcooking. Start it on the stovetop and finish it in the oven.
  • Skillet Steak Supper: Ready in less than 20 minutes, this one can be served right from your trusty skillet.
  • Skier’s Skillet: The aromas of sausages and apples sizzling in a cast-iron skillet are sure to wake even the sleepiest family member.

I could go on and on. In fact, here are 48 more cast-iron skillet recipes to keep you cooking.

Obsessed with your cast-iron? We went behind the scenes to see how they’re made.

Impressive, right? Once you have a well-seasoned piece of cast iron like this one, you can cook just about anything in it. Ooey-gooey mac and cheese will slide right out, and cornbread ends up golden brown and super moist. Even something as sticky as banana upside-down cake is no match for it. Isn’t it time to show your cast iron some love? Next, check out these 32 secret uses for ordinary kitchen gadgets.

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