Cast iron is the icon of outdoor cooking. Whether over a campfire or camp stove, it’s the cookware of choice! But cast iron skillets and dutch ovens are one of the most preferred cooking vessels amongst acclaimed chefs and homemakers However, though it’s tough as steel, there are some things you should not do to cast iron for a variety of reasons.
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10 Things You SHOULD NOT DO to Cast Iron Cookware
Why Cast Iron is so popular for cooking?
Cast iron is the most ideal cookware to use for cooking indoors and outdoors over a campfire or camp stove. And that’s because the entire piece of hearty cookware is made of hard metal; including its’ handles and lids.
The three best cookware pieces I highly recommend at least starting with are a good quality skillet and dutch oven. Oh, don’t forget a pudgie pie iron too!
Personally, I love the quality of the old school Griswold skillet. But, since they stopped manufacturing them in 1957, they’re a hard to find or they’re priced out of this world.
However, my close second favorite is the Lodge brand. Lodge Cast Iron has been making heirloom-quality cookware and accessories since 1896. They’ve been operating two foundries in South Pittsburg, Tennessee since the very beginning.
With over 125 years of experience, each Lodge piece is crafted for durability and versatility to be passed down for generations.
Cast iron is essential for cooking everything from breakfast bacon and eggs or stir frying vegetables. And they’re perfect for cooking delicious soups and stews over a campfire on a cold day.
Even The Pioneer Woman herself Ree Drummond, loves them!
According to the Food Network’s Star Kitchen interview with The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, she revealed (or reveled?) that she owns more than 25 cast iron skillets. “What I love about them is how timeless they are,” she says. “Whether they are new or 40 years old, they look and cook the same.”
Having been a cast iron owner for several decades myself, I totally reverberate her sentiments. Due to their ageless durability, effectiveness when cooking on or in high heat sources, they can last a lifetime!
This type of rugged cookware is known for its’ excellence in cooking on a camp stove and campfire or at home on your range cooktop and even in your oven.
But also, cast iron can be used on your induction cooktop since it’s made of a magnetic metal. It’s instrumental in cooking food evenly and holding heat even after removing it from any heat source.
But unfortunately, there are several things you should not do to cast iron; whether it’s cooking in it or taking care of it.
So, we’re going to share all the mistakes people make using their cast iron. Let’s see how you can avoid making the same mistakes!
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ Why Cast Iron Cooking on Campfires is a GOOD thing! *Myth Buster*
1. Not season your cast iron
One of the most important things you should not do to your cast iron is to not season your cookware properly. This is will cause your food to stick while cooking in it; no matter over which type of heat source.
The initial seasoning is the most important thing you can do to preserve your cast iron but make cooking so much more fun.
Your skillet or dutch oven will season over time. But only if you properly clean it, season it with oil and store your cooking vessels properly.
The secret to keeping food from sticking to your cast iron is all in the seasoning; the type of oil and heat.
According to the experts at Lodge Cast Iron, the best oils to season your cast iron are vegetable oil, melted shortening, canola oil or their own seasoning spray.
They are effective and have a high smoke point. Also, they are affordable and easy to get from every grocery store.
Once you season your cast iron skillet or dutch oven properly, they’ll provide the ideal non-stick cooking surface to cook your food beautifully.
3 Easy Steps on How to Season Cast-Iron
- Apply a thin even layer of melted shortening, canola, vegetable oil or seasoning spray to the inside and outside of your cast iron. Be aware, if you use too much oil, your cookware may become sticky.
- Place the cookware in the oven upside down. Place a large baking sheet or aluminum foil on the bottom rack. Bake at 450-500° F for 1 hour.
- Leave cookware in the oven to cool.
But, an important thing to remember is you will have to repeat the seasoning process occasionally to keep that perfect cooking surface that helps to prevent food from sticking. In other words, you simply don’t want to allow your cookware to rust.
2. Wash your cast iron with soap or use steel wool
Another of those things you should not do to cast iron is clean the pans the same way you do your dishes. You should never wash your skillet or dutch oven with soap of any kind and here’s why.
Do you remember the Dawn dishwashing liquid commercial where wildlife biologists cleaned oil off of little baby ducks after an oil spill?
The ingredients in Dawn (and any dish soap) are intended to dissipate the grease and oil from the item you’re cleaning.
That’s exactly what happens when you wash your cast iron pans with soap. The dish soap is removing the oil from the pan; just the same as it does those adorable baby ducks.
For the same reason, you should never use steel wool in your cast iron. Steel wool is too harsh of a scrubber. Scrubbing your skillet or pot with steel wool will remove the seasoning which will result in your food sticking.
So, don’t be overzealous with cleaning all that gunk out of your cast iron. A properly seasoned pan shouldn’t be that difficult to clean.
After you’ve finished scarfing down all that delicious food, allow your pots and pans to cool completely.
Then, use a combination of a scraper and chainmail scrubber with plain hot water (not boiling) to scrub out the left over food particles from inside the skillet or dutch oven.
Now, just a little hint. Since we don’t have a chain mail scrubber, our Scrub Daddy or Scrub Mommy works just as well without ruining the seasoned cooking surface. (Psssst! Those are the best kitchen scrubbers!)
Once all the food is gently scrubbed out, rinse your skillet or dutch oven well. Then, dry it immediately so it doesn’t rust.
Then, using a soft cloth, very lightly coat your cast iron with oil (mentioned above) before putting it away in your camp box or kitchen cabinet. Again, not so much to make it sticky.
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ 15 Best Pie Iron Recipes for Camping & Backyard BBQs
3. Leave your cast iron pan sit in water
Take it from me, I’ve made this mistake only once. I committed one of the cardinal sins against owning cast iron cookware.
One of the things you should not do to cast iron is letting it sit in water very long, especially for several hours or even overnight. Otherwise, your skillet will start to rust.
Rust forms when the cookware is exposed to moisture for extended periods of time. While not harmful, it does affect the seasoning of the pan; inside and outside!
So, as soon as it cools after cooking, promptly give it a gentle scrub with just water, rinse and dry it thoroughly. Then follow up with a very light oil coating to prevent it from rusting.
4. Allow your cast iron to air dry or put away wet or damp
Another one of the things you should not do to cast iron is leaving your skillet or other cooking vessels outside when it’s humid or during the night in the presence of dew.
Within 24 hours of moisture exposure, the surface properties will change significantly.
Anytime moisture or water is introduced, oxidation starts almost immediately. Pay particular attention to how you store it.
Also, certain substances such as salt in particular, may accelerate moisture around the metal. This will cause it to rust even more quickly.
5. Put your cast iron pan in the dishwasher
Recently, I saw this picture of a cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. I just about had to call the ambulance because of a coronary event. Not really but you get my drift.
Why would anyone disrespect their cast iron skillet like that is beyond me. I’m hoping they just didn’t know?
Well, let’s set the record straight. Just like you shouldn’t use soap and water to clean your cast iron in the sink or camp wash basin, the same principle applies to not putting it in the dishwasher.
The appliance dishwashing method removes the necessary seasoning from your cast iron just the same as handwashing with soap and water. And you already know what will happen after.
So, just wash it exactly as described in the preceding section.
6. Put cold water into a hot pan
One would think that cooking in cast iron can take the brunt of serious heat and cooking. While yes, your skillet can take the rigors of camping.
However, one of the most important things you should not do to cast iron is put cold water into a hot skillet. Doing so will cause your pan to either warp or even crack.
So, when adding water or any liquid for that matter, make certain it’s either luke warm or tepid temperature.
7. Cook certain foods in cast iron
People believe that you should be able to cook anything in cast iron. I’m here to tell you, based on personal cooking experience, that’s not entirely true.
Actually, there’s certain foods you should not cook in your skillet or dutch oven and here’s why.
You should avoid cooking fish directly in your skillet because it’s notorious for sticking; especially the skin. This makes it difficult to flip or turn over your fish in the pan. In turn, won’t make an appetizing dish.
So, reserve cooking your salmon or other fish in a good quality stainless steel fry pan or nonstick skillet.
Cooking eggs in your cast iron skillet could leave you frustrated for two reasons. First, no matter how they’re cooked, eggs stick to the pan. But also, you’ll end up with one heck of a mess to clean out of your skillet.
Even if you crack your eggs in a load of bacon grease thinking you’re going to get some amazing sunny side up eggs, think again. Those over-easy eggs will end up broken and over-hard because the pan retains such hot temperatures thus, overcooking them.
So, if you have any plans of making breakfast at camp, again bring a separate nonstick skillet instead. You’ll thank me later for that suggestion.
America’s Test Kitchen, through a variety of cooking tests in cast iron, found that acidic foods such as tomatoes tomatoes or those containing citrus juices, vinegars and wines break down some of the molecules in the pan. This results in food acquiring a metallic taste.
But also, cooking acidic foods in cast iron may contribute to some health concerns. Foods containing acids leach excess amounts of iron into your food.
Remember earlier I mentioned earlier that Ree Drummond owns 25 cast iron skillets? Well, I’m assuming the reason why isn’t just because she loves collecting them.
Just a wild guess, maybe it’s because she can make multiple dishes in her skillets at one time.
I’m also thinking, it just makes sense to have separate skillets for savory versus sweet foods.
Which leads to reasoning that the cast iron pan surface absorbs flavors from previously cooked foods. While minimal, do you really want to bake sweet brownies in the same pan after cooking meat doused with garlic and savory seasonings?
But here’s another thought why you shouldn’t cook desserts in cast iron. Unless your skillet is well-seasoned, do you really want to be cooking sticky desserts in your skillet or dutch oven over high heat?
Desserts containing high concentration of sugar or syrups will burn quickly and harden. This will not only make your desserts taste burnt but also, it will be a tedious mess to clean.
But, all is not lost. If you really insist on using the sam pan to make make delicious desserts as you did that tomato and basil spaghetti sauce dish, try lining your pan with parchment baking paper before placing your food in it. I’m not saying it works but others have and said it does. So, there’s that.
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ 15 Cast Iron Skillet Recipes – Cook on Campfires, Stoves or Ovens
9. Use a sharp knife to cut food in it
Yes, cast iron is one of the most rugged and hardest metals used to manufacture cookware. However, scraping your pots and pans with a metal utensil or cutting food with a sharp knife will remove the seasoning.
And that just makes more work for you (because you’ll have to re-season it) which you should be out there enjoying the campfire instead.
✰✰ READ MORE ✰✰ Top 10 Portable Camping Grills for RVs, Overlanding & Tailgating
10. Not use it
Want to see an acclaimed chef or campfire cook cry? Just don’t use your cast iron skillet or dutch oven as it’s intended.
Some people may be intimidated by even breaking their cookware because they don’t know to care for it let alone how to cook in it. But hey, there’s so many different recipes and ways to use your cast iron on the internet. The shouldn’t deter you from at least trying it.
Which leads me to our last of the worst things to do with cast iron is to ditch it, sell it or give it away. Or, out of sheer frustration, chucking it into the woods or deep six’ing it like an anchor at sea. This is no joke, I’ve seen people actually toss their skillet with the food in the middle of cooking in it.
And, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to yard sales only to see stacks of rusty skillets laying on the ground with a cheap asking prices.
Now there is one viable
excuse reason for not keeping their heavy cast iron pans.
Some people who camp in RVs just can’t afford the extra weight. For example, when we downsized to our tiny motorhome, both my skillet and dutch oven had to go. Because of our much lower weight rating, I had to opt for lighter weight cookware that’s made for RVs and boats.
On a good note though, I refused to totally get rid of them. I neatly tucked them away in our storage unit until the day I can break them out to cook in them again.
Final thoughts on things you should not do to your cast iron cookware
Why on earth would you NOT use your skillet or dutch oven is beyond me. Seriously, cast iron is meant to be used often. It’s not like fine China you pull out only to use at holidays or special events.
In fact, the more you cook in them, the better your food will taste! Plus, there are some great health benefits as mentioned in our “Why Cast Iron Cooking on Campfires is a GOOD thing!”
So, let’s get cooking those mouthwatering one pot wonders and cast iron skillet recipes!
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