Cleaning after daily use.
Gently clean your skillet after each use with hot water and try to avoid using soap. Soap cuts through oils and the oil needs to remain inside the cast iron to preserve it. Use the firm scrubbing side of a sponge instead of an abrasive metal scrub when possible. After you finish washing the cast iron, dry it thoroughly with a towel. It is best if you can put it into a warm oven for 10 minutes or heat it on the stovetop to remove any leftover moisture. Remove it from the oven or stovetop and use a paper towel coat the entire surface with a very thin layer of canola or vegetable oil. It is best to add the oil to the cast iron while it’s hot so the oil undergoes the chemical reaction to become a polymer that protects the surface. Store in a dry place.
Seasoning a cast-iron skillet.
Place your cast-iron in a sink and fill with a enough water to coat the bottom. Add a generous amount (1/4 cup) of salt to the skillet and use a non-metal scrub to scrub the salt and the water into the surface. The coarse texture of the salt helps remove the impurities stuck to the surface. Rinse out the skillet and dry with a towel. Place in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes to dry thoroughly. Remove from oven, increase oven temperature to 450°F, and rub the surface of the cast iron with just enough oil (like canola) to completely coat the metal. Flip the skillet upside down and place it in the oven on a tray or piece of aluminum foil to catch any oil that drips off. Allow the pan to heat in the oven for 1 hour. The pan should no longer have a sheen, but will instead have a matte finish. Add another small amount of oil and rub it into the hot surface. Allow to cool before storing in a dry place. Remember you do NOT have to do this after each use, only when you first get it or if you’ve had it for years and it needs to be reseasoned. Seasoning, especially in the early life of a pan bakes right into the iron, filling in those pores and smoothing everything out into an even surface. Seasoning refers to the pans ability to remain non stick. A well seasoned pan is one that doesn’t stick.
My personal opinion on the matter.
I don’t feel it is necessary to purchase the expensive spray protectant that I have seen a large company advertising. It does not work any better than regular non-stick cooking spray. There wasn’t a special spray back in the old days, there was lard, and it worked just fine. I have used regular non-stick canola oil cooking spray when I didn’t have time to dig the canola oil from the pantry. I like to recommend what works for me. I grew up watching my mama care for cast-iron that was passed down to her from her mama, and now she has passed it down to me. I sometimes wish the cast-iron skillet could talk just to tell me stories of what it has heard, saw, and recipes that my great-grandmother used back in the late 1800’s up until her passing in 1972.
If you were to look at your cast iron under a microscope, you would see that its surface is bumpy and porous. The pores expand once the pan is heated. Pores shrink as the pan cools and the oil that has filled the pores helps to protect it. You should not cook food like tomatoes, anything with wine, or vinegar in your cast iron skillet until it’s very well-seasoned. Even with a seasoned pan the acidity can take away the coating you tried so hard to achieve. I don’t like to cook fish in them because of how delicate it is and it tends to flake although my mom fried fish many times in it.
Be sure to always hand wash and don’t ever put cast iron in the dishwasher, it will cause it to rust. Never soak cast iron. Never store leftovers in your cast iron, you want to always keep it as dry as possible. Use only hot water, running a hot skillet immediately under cold water can cause it to crack. A great way to store cast iron is placing a piece of cardboard or paper towel in between each piece. This will help keep it dry and will keep one pan from scratching another. Cast iron is made to last forever and with proper care, it will.
If you do have a rusted pan, you can save it with some steel wool and a lot of elbow grease. You will first want to scrub it with a piece of steel wool or a tough scrubber, a little water and a tiny amount soap to get down into the pores. This will remove the seasoning, but you can season it again after all the rust is removed by following the steps above.