It's no wonder a cast iron pan is one of the most highly prized kitchen tools, often getting passed down through several generations in a family. A cast iron skillet set is a great investment, as cast iron is incredibly durable and a well cared for piece can last one hundred years or longer.
Although cast iron is a very tough material, it can be intimidating to use if you are unsure how to care for or how to clean cast iron.
Can you ruin a cast iron skillet? The short answer is YES.
But there are easy ways to prevent that from happening. Let us help you figure out what troubling signs to look for, how to prevent them, and how to properly care for your cast iron to avoid any future issues.
If you're new to cast iron cookware and used to non-stick or stainless steel pans, you may not know how your cast iron should look and feel. A well-seasoned cast iron pan should be dark black, shiny, and smooth to the touch. Unseasoned cast iron has a rough look and feel until it is properly seasoned. Here are some sure signs of damage and misuse:
It's covered in rust. This is the most common issue with cast iron and unsurprisingly, the culprit is always moisture. Excessive water + cast iron = bad news. The good news is it is fixable and you should not get rid of your pan, but it does require some work to restore the cast iron to its original state.
It's cracked. You can crack cast iron by repeatedly heating it up and rinsing with cold water before it has cooled down properly. There have also been rare cases of cold cast iron cracking on electric burners that don't distribute heat evenly. This phenomenon is called thermal shock, and it happens to rock, glass, and other hard materials.
It has a hole. It's incredibly hard to make a hole in cast iron. This would be caused by major misuse, allowing rust to form and deepen. If the rust has created a hole that goes through the pan you should consider investing in a new piece.
It's warped. This is another issue that arises from cooking in a pan with extreme temperatures on electric stoves, which tend to heat the pan less evenly than a gas range. The uneven heat causes unevenness in the pan itself, which can make it difficult to use for cooking. This doesn't mean the death of a dish, but it can be very hard to reverse so it may be time to retire the pan.
It's dusty. If your cast iron has been collecting dust in a cupboard unused or looks like it is covered in black residue, it's absolutely not ruined. Take some coarse salt, mix in a bit of water and use a towel to rub the mixture around. Rinse afterward, and be sure to dry the pan fully with a clean, dry cloth in order to prevent rusting.
The seasoning got stripped. Although it is frustrating to lose the seasoning, the cookware is still fully usable. It will take some time and effort but you can absolutely re-season your pan.
These basic care tips are an integral part of maintaining your cast iron. Cast iron pans are the most versatile cooking tool you will ever own with its ability to transfer from the stovetop to the oven with ease and cook a variety of different dishes. However, there are some foods that are best not to be cooked in your cast iron.
There are plenty of delicious cast iron recipes online, and many foods really shine when using cast iron cookware. These are some of the foods that are best cooked in iron:
We hope you use some of these tips to enjoy cooking in your cast iron and keep it going strong for many years to come!
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