I've got a set of methods I use in my daily routines. They're constantly changing and improving. Nothing is nailed down or written in stone. As I look at where I started, I'm happy to see things have come a ways since then. My hope is that method posts like these offer you encouragement in the processes you've started or are interested in. Take them, adapt them, and celebrate the progress as it happens. Then let's compare notes, I'd love to hear your stories along the way.
I grew up using cast iron pans, it's seriously all we had. This should come as no surprise to you, I always wanted new shiny pans, why must my parents have old ugly stuff?! I hated cleaning them, I hated lifting them from the drawer beneath the stove, I hated the way scrambled eggs smelled when they burned to the bottom. Now, as an adult, all we have are cast irons. Why must I always love old ugly stuff? Kidding. I have no idea how I ended up loving them but I do know what has happened with the cleaning and lifting frustrations. Here is how I handle cast irons:
Pick Your Size
Cast irons, as far as my experience says, are just like regular skillets. So if you want a little 2 egg size one or a huge one, it's totally your call. They make deeper ones, ones with ridges, ones with low sides, ones that are easy for frying, ones that are easy for pancake flipping. Seriously doesn't matter what size you get or have, they all work the same. I have two vintage #3 (one thrifted, one gifted) a medium sized one, and two larger ones. They nest well together which I appreciate. My collection may grow as my cooking skills develop and I am always hunting for unique ones at antique stores, like the corn bread one!
Cooking & Seasoning
If you are lucky and have been gifted or have thrifted cast irons than I will assume those are well seasoned. All that means is they have a thick, plastic-like coating from oil and use. Cast irons work great, similar to a non-stick pan, when they are well seasoned. To do this simply oil your cast iron and bake in the oven on 350 degrees for 1 hour. There are tons of tutorials online if you need support. I cook everything in them from veggies to meat to brownies. If you are really stumped, google "_____ in a cast iron" and chances are you will find something. Trust me, I've done it. You can use cast irons on the stove, in the oven, or on a camp fire (YAY)! They are resilient pans which is why you can often find them at antique shops and garage sales!
Growing up my mom's number one rule was never never never use soap on the cast irons! Because soap is designed to clean oil, it could ruin a not-well-seasoned pans progress. I struggled with the cleaning progress for a while, I lost several scrubby sponges because they couldn't hang. My scrappy thing, you know the ones from Pampered Chef that's brown, got all chewed up. I've stained countless wash cloths. I've thrown away tons of paper towels and then... I bought this which changed my life! A little hot water and circular motions I can clean just about anything! I use paper towels for the occasional bacon grease. Once the pan is clean, I dry it with a towel (air drying overtime will rust your pan). After it's dry, I oil it. We bought organic spray olive oil we use for easy re-seasoning. You can use olive oil, veggie oil, coconut oil, or whatever oil you are cooking with. Rub it in and you are good to cook or store for later use.
You've heard the saying "pumping iron"? Well when you have a cast iron pan, your wrists and arms will get really strong from the lifting and pouring and scrubbing. I won't say Cale hasn't caught me in the kitchen lifting pans above my head to strengthen my triceps! Enjoy your new found strength and delicious meals!