While cast iron requires a little different care from your more traditional cookware, it’s a worthwhile investment. Let us share some tips on how to make the most of out this kitchen staple.

We’re the first to admit that for years we were intimidated by the thought of owning and caring for anything cast iron. It always seemed like it would be more work than it was worth. Were we ever wrong.

Now, as the proud owners of a handful of cast iron skillets, we wonder what took us so long to jump in. Cast iron, if cared for properly, will last you a lifetime. The best part? It’ll actually get better with age.

When you bring home your brand new cast iron, whether from a store or your local antique store, the first step is to clean it, of course. Just simple hot water and a non-abrasive sponge will do the job. If you’d like to use a little mild soap during the first cleaning, you’re more than welcome to, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Give your cast iron a good scrub then rinse and dry it well.

The second, and maybe the most important step, is to season your skillet. Not with herbs and spices but a nice light oil. While most new cast iron comes pre-seasoned, you’ll still need to season it yourself with a small amount of cooking oil on a paper towel or dish cloth. Rub the oil all along the inside of the pan and place in a 350°F oven for one hour. Seasoning your cast iron helps to build up a nonstick surface along with preventing it from rusting. Be sure to let your skillet cool completely before storing it, with a paper towel on top to soak up any remaining moisture. If your cast iron has a lid, be sure to remove it before storing.

After using your cast iron, you’ll need to clean it and season it once again. A simple cleaning with hot water and your handy dandy non-abrasive sponge is all it needs. You’ll never want to put your cast iron in the dishwasher or let it soak in water. You’ll also want to be very careful about using cold water when cleaning if your skillet is hot. It can cause the surface to crack. If you’re having difficulty getting rid of some stuck-on food, gently scrub a little coarse salt and hot water on the skillet and then rinse. Make sure you dry your cast iron completely, as any remaining moisture will cause your cookware to rust. After it’s dry, rub a little vegetable oil all along the inside of the pan.

While not necessary after each use, feel free to place your cast iron back in the oven at 350°F for one hour to essentially “deep clean” it. This would also be helpful if you notice food sticking to the skillet when cooking or if it’s starting to rust.

Don’t let this kitchen staple intimidate you like it did us. Once you begin using cast iron, you’ll be so glad you did.

ORANGE & FIELD TIP: When cooking with cast iron, always be sure to preheat it, whether on the stove or in the oven.