I threw away my cast iron skillet! Yes, it is true, two years ago I threw away my cast iron skillet. For many chefs it’s a travesty, as there were no chips or cracks; merely rust. I have lived with this guilt for two years.

Let me explain, weeks before our first child was born we purchased a cast iron skillet. Gabe did much of the research on caring for the pan, finding out how to season it, cook with it, care for it, and clean it. This pan really took on a life of its own. Then after Lua was born, me tending to this skillet was out of the question – I had a baby to take care of, not a cast iron skillet.

So Gabe took over and did a good job of keeping that bad boy going, however after a year of not keeping up with proper seasoning or washing and infrequent usage rust began to form at the bottom of the pan. Still being sleep deprived, there was no way I was going to research how to bring our beloved pan back to life in the kitchen. It sat and it sat and it sat, rusted and all.

Then came moving day where we packed up our things and were headed for England. Gabe pleaded to save the pan, promising me that the rust problem could be taken care of, but in a moment of being overwhelmed with moving I refused and did the unimaginable. I tossed it in the trash! I can hear all of the “No’s” now. I know, I know.

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So here we are 2 years later and my friend Jenna seeks out advice from me about how to season her brand new cast iron pizza pan. Funny she should ask, so here I try to redeem myself and clear away all of that cast iron skillet guilt. Now I actually have time to research. Here is what I found.

The very first words of advice I read are:
NEVER THROW AWAY A CAST IRON SKILLET! (unless it has cracks or chips) Ouch!

To season a cast iron skillet preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease pan with an oil that can reach a high smoking point. Coconut oil works great, If you don’t have coconut oil you can use a vegetable oil like canola or sunflower or lard. Wipe off any excess oil that may still be in the pan with a paper towel.

Then place the pan UPSIDE DOWN on a piece of aluminum foil in the oven for 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the pan cool to room temperature inside the oven. You can repeat this process until seasoned to your liking. Some do this 3 to 4 more times.

This “seasoning” process fills the cavities of the pan with oil, creating a natural non-stick surface.

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To clean your cast iron skillet, first let the pan cool. Then use warm water to wash thoroughly and dry immediately. *Note: here is where a debate ensues – whether or not to use dishwashing soap? There are some who are thoroughly against the idea due to chemicals seeping into the pan. And at the other end of the spectrum those that use just a little soap do so to wash away any rancid oil left on the pan. No matter what you decide, it is important to thoroughly dry the pan after washing. First wipe off with a towel, then place on a hot burner for a couple of minutes to make sure the pan is completely dry, then add a small amount of oil. Remove pan from hot burner and wipe off excess oil with a paper towel. And you are done. Another note: NEVER PUT YOUR CAST IRON INTO THE DISHWASHER

What if, no matter how much time and seasoning you put into your pan, it starts to rust? DON’T THROW IT AWAY! Instead, scour it with steel wool until all rust is removed. Then wash, dry and season again.

One other common issue is if your food starts having a metallic taste. This happened to us and it made me feel ill, another reason why my, albeit poor, solution was to toss the thing. There seems to be a couple of causes to this problem. The first is that the pan is not properly seasoned. So start back to square one, wash, dry, then season in the oven. And another cause is leaving food in the cast iron skillet. We never stored food in the skillet, but food would sit in it for a while. This causes the acid from the food to breakdown the seasoning of the pan and creates a metallic flavor. So immediately after cooking food, remove food from pan. Let the pan cool, then wash, dry, and season.

Wow, that was so useful – thanks for your inquiry, Jenna! I now feel so confident in keeping my next cast iron skillet alive and well seasoned. When we get back to London, there is a cast iron skillet calling my name.