I love using my cast iron skillet. It's amazing for frying eggs, bacon or peppers and onions on the grill and it's also quite awesome for searing steaks. Certainly grilling steak over the coals is incredible but sometimes (maybe it's raining?) you want to use the indoor stove top for your steaks. I find my main use of my cast iron skillet for weeknight steaks or burgers where my goal is to create that high end steak house experience or the greasy burger from a griddle.
The problem that I have always had is how to clean the cast iron skillet. It can be a pain. Rules such as no soap and don't scrub too hard are always in my mind. It turns out that a cast iron skillet is only annoying to clean if it isn't seasoned well. By no means am I an expert with cast iron skillet cleaning and restoration but I will say this: I got my pan to look amazing and it was simple. Just use bacon grease to cook a few times and lightly rub the grease on it before storage. If only someone told me that seasoning a cast iron skillet with bacon grease was the easy way to have a shiny and usable cast iron skillet.
Here's what my skillet looked like a few months ago.
I tried seasoning that thing, per these cast iron skillet seasoning instructions and I had no luck. Certainly I didn't try the Lye or the battery charger hook up. I think if I was that down and out I would just buy a new pan. I was looking for something simple. If these skillets were fully in use back in the day, why in the world is it so hard to season this thing now!?
Here's my guess. Back in the day, a hundred or so years ago, people cooked with real fat. None of the processed industrial seed oils were around back then. So when I was told to use vegetable oil I thought nothing of it. I coated my pan, baked it for a while in the oven, it smoked, set off the smoke alarms, then repeated the process over and over. It didn't work. It was also really annoying.
After doing some of my own weight loss research (i.,e, I have been enjoying a low carb high fat ketogenic diet) I learned not only about saturated fats but also about the benefits of various oils, I learned that vegetable oils aren't very good for you in terms of inflammation. The replacement for these vegetable oils is natural animal fats. HEY SOUNDS GOOD TO ME. So in my kitchen there is a little cup of bacon grease that I have been cooking with (frying eggs, etc.).
Have you ever baked bacon in an oven (375F for 15 min)? It's easier and results in less mess and better bacon, in my opinion. Regardless, after you pull your bacon off, just pour the grease into a cup. It can sit on the counter for a long time without going bad. It's amazing how natural fats last long.
A light bulb went off: try lightly coating my pan with this and see what happens. So I grabbed a glove and put two fingers into the grease and lightly rubbed it around.
It immediately looked so different. I cooked burgers and steaks a few times. After each cook I would lightly coat the pan with grease. It totally worked. Those chips in the above photo appear to be gone and now the skillet is really easy to clean. Hot water and a plastic spatula will get melted cheese and fried bits of fat right off.
Wow look at those burgers and ribeye steaks. After each cook these pans were rather easy to clean. A light coating of bacon grease and it's ready to sit for my next meal.
Do you have any cast iron skillet seasoning tips? Please share!