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Cast iron is hands down my favorite cook ware. It can go from stove top, to oven, on the wood stove, and to our outdoor fire pit. Plus, it’s a bang up weapon if you need one, just don’t drop it on your toe.
Every pioneer home had a cast iron skillet. No matter how poor or rich, they all cooked their food with a cast iron pot or pan. Every meal, no matter if over an open flame, a burner, or in an oven, could be prepared in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven.
And I firmly believe every home should still have cast iron cookware.
Cast iron is superior to other metals because it distributes heat evenly and can go directly from stove top to the oven. Today’s Teflon coated pans, when scratched or exposed to extreme heat, release a chemical proven to cause cancer, immune system problems, and birth defects. DuPont, the manufacturer, states their product is fine when used according to directions, but I’m not willing to take the chance, especially when cast iron is a much more efficient pan.
When seasoned properly, cast iron is non-stick. I cook pancakes and eggs with nary a problem. To ensure your cast iron pan remains non-stick and seasoned, here’s some tips.
1. Seasoning– After purchasing a new pan or one at a garage sale that needs to be re-seasoned, slather it with a thin layer of coconut oil or lard and stick it in a preheated 400 to 500 degree oven for a couple of hours. As the oil cooks, it fills the pores of the pan, allowing a nice black looking finish (this is where stick-free comes in). Don’t be alarmed if it smokes, just turn on your fan.
Even if a pan says pre-seasoned, I still season it myself before use. Sometimes twice if need be. This momma doesn’t like her eggs sticking.
2. Cooking– When cooking eggs or pancakes, make sure to melt butter or oil first.
3. Cleaning– Never, I repeat never, use soap to clean your cast iron. Don’t pour cold water into a hot pan…it can crack. Use hot water and wipe out your pan with a non-abrasive cloth. You don’t want to scratch that seasoning off. If you have baked on food, use table salt and scrub off the sticky parts. The heat in the pan will kill any bacteria; soap will destroy your seasoning and cause your pan to rust. Wipe dry and recoat with a thin layer of coconut or olive oil.
4. Storage– Your cast iron will store best in the open. If you must stack them, always place a towel in between the pans to absorb moisture and prevent scratching the seasoning.
Cast iron will last a lifetime if cared for. Some of my best pans have been ones I’ve picked up at thrift stores or garage sales. A little bit of salt scrubbing and re-seasoning and they’re better than the new ones
.For more good old-fashioned living, check out The Made-From-Scratch Life.
This 3 Quart Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven is 58% off, and the lid doubles as a skillet! Lodge brand is made in the United States, not china, and is a quality product. I have several Lodge brand cast iron skillets and love it.
25+ Cast Iron & Dutch Oven Recipes – everyone needs some good from scratch one pot meals… and desserts.
11 Ways to Without Power (hint, almost all of them use cast iron!)
Do you cook with cast iron? Are any of your pans passed down from family members?
The other cookware you’ll find in my kitchen is stoneware for baking my fresh bread in less than 5 minutes a day.
We’ll be opening the doors tomorrow for just 3 short days of the Pioneering Today Academy and starting our new series on using and cooking with cast iron, including outdoor cooking with Dutch ovens and open fires. To get on the notify list click here
Originally published in The Concrete Herald February 2012 issue
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.