Cast iron pans retain and diffuse heat better than any other pan, and that translates into less fuel burned when cooking for long periods. The hot surface also imparts a yummy caramelized crust to many foods. However, cast iron requires special care. Cast iron pans are "seasoned," or coated with a thin layer of oil and then heated, creating a natural non-stick surface. Cast iron can't be soaked for long periods or put in the dishwasher. In fact, soap and water are enemies to cast iron.
Tips & Warnings
If the skillet is really dirty or the food is really stuck, you can clean it with soap and water, scrub it with a steel wool pad or scratch-free cleanser, or even soak it for a few hours. Just be as gentle as possible and remember to re-season the skillet afterward. You won't ruin you pan by using soap and water on it as long as you re-season.
When seasoning your skillet, leave only a very thin coating of oil on the surface. A thick coating of oil can turn rancid and impart a terrible taste to your food. If you're using a skillet that hasn't been used for several months or more, wash it with mild soap and water and re-season before cooking.
Don't leave food, especially high-acid food, in your skillet for very long because chemicals in the food can damage the skillet's surface.
Although it's important to protect a skillet's oil coating, it's equally important to remove all food bits, as any food left behind can spoil and breed bacteria. Put the empty skillet on a hot fire for a few minutes if you think it needs to be sanitized.
Article Written By Marsha Maxwell
Marsha Maxwell has been a professional writer and editor for since 1988. Her work has appeared in "The Valley Journals," "Classical Singer," "NetWare Connection" and Trails. She also teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. Maxwell has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Chicago.