I do not own a single pan that is not cast iron. Cast iron is the only thing we use. For everything. So any rule you have ever heard about what not to cook in cast iron… I ignore it. There are a few basic guidelines for cooking with cast iron, but once you get started there is really nothing to it.
Rule #1: Season your pan. This is probably the most important and complicated step. New purchases such as from lodge will be pre-seasoned and you will be able to get started with it right away. Depending on where you got the pan (yard sales!) you might have to do a little stripping before you are ready to get to the seasoning. My preference is to completely strip the pan down to the metal using a self-cleaning oven. Put your pan in the oven upside down and set the oven to clean. Voila. Stripped cast iron. You are ready to season. This is a pretty good starting point for seasoning a pan. Seasoning is probably the most important and complicated step. But once it is done you are good to go!
Rule #2: Cook bacon. Often. The more you use your skillet the better it will get. Stick with it. Cooking fatty meats and dishes with lots of oil will improve your pan’s seasoning.
Rule #3: Be mindful of metal cooking utensils. You want to be careful not to scratch the surface of your skillet. I have found that even a metal spatula is fine so long as you use it in a way that you evenly scrape the surface and do not create dings and gouges. Most of the time I prefer to use a softer wooden spoon, but I have never had a problem using a metal utensil.
Rule #4: Wash your pan. Do not use regular dish soap, but do clean your pan each time you use it. You can use hot water and a dishcloth, a plastic sponge, or any other non-metal scrubber. I have not found my perfect pan cleaner just yet, but I do really like this Norwex dishcloth.
If you are battling something really super stuck on, sprinkle a bit of salt in your pan and then scrub it. It works wonders. For the most part, as long as you clean it right after you use it and it is well seasoned well, not much will stick.
Rule #5: Dry it. Everytime your pan gets wet, make sure you get it completely dry. Just set it on a low-temperature burner until the water evaporates, or thoroughly dry with a clean towel.
Rule #6: Oil it. If the surface looks a bit dull or dried out add a splash of your favorite fat, heat it up, and wipe your skillet down. I tend to use olive oil, but lard would work well if you have it on hand.
That is pretty much it! Get ready for delicious caramelized onions, perfectly seared steaks, and fried eggs that slide right out of the pan.