Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Caring for cast iron cookware

Cast iron is the original nonstick cookware that can withstand extreme temperatures even in the oven. It comes in all types from regular skillets, grill pans, to griddles. Your grandmother used one way before nonstick coatings became all the rage. Then we found out the older nonstick pans were actually toxic. The pans made today are safe but do not offer the versatility of cast iron nor its’ heat resistance.

Cast iron does need a little extra care but it will last for years with proper seasoning. Seasoning is what happens when fats are heated to a point where they reorganize into something that bonds to the metal and gives you a nonstick surface. Oil is the best friend to the cast iron. It keeps it protected, keeping rust causing moisture away. Heat plus oil builds the patina and acts like moisturizer on your skin. 

Some new cast iron comes pre-seasoned, and you can cook on it right away. Test for it by heating a tablespoon of oil for 3 minutes then cooking an egg. No major sticking? You’re good to go. Seasoning an older skillet can take more times for the best results. Older skillets have smooth surfaces whereas new ones have a slightly pebbled surface. The pebbled surfaces are said to hold onto seasoning better. 

Contrary to popular opinion you can use a little mild soap to clean a skillet. Nor will metal utensils damage your surface. Cast iron will put up with a little abuse, it’s been around for hundreds of years. It is easy to maintain the surface of your cast iron. After cleaning return the pan to medium low heat. Rub it down with paper towels until it is smooth and shiny with no visible residue. You can also heat in the oven at 200 degrees for 15 minutes. Non saturated oil is best. Sunflower and soybean are affordable options. If you are short on time and cannot reheat at least wipe a thin film of oil to protect the surface, buffing till all greasy spots are gone. 

Lodge is a good source for cookware and all the knowledge you need to cook with and care for your cast iron. Go to and click on cast iron 101 for all the information you need.  

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago