Timber 2 Table Wilg Game Recipes

5 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Cast Iron

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes

Want to keep your cast iron skillet in great shape? Don't do any of these.

Cast-iron cooking utensils have been around since 513 B.C. They became popular in England around 1100 A.D. and came to America with the first settlers. While its popularity dropped a bit 20 to 30 years ago with the advent of space-age non-stick surfaces, cast iron is currently experiencing a resurgence in today’s kitchens. That kind of staying power doesn’t happen without good reason. Of course, outdoorsmen and women have known all along that cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens make the best food around. Deer camp wouldn’t be the same without it.

While your cast-iron skillet might be tough, it isn’t indestructible. There are a few surefire ways to ruin the seasoning, or worse, destroy your cookware entirely. Avoid these pitfalls to keep your pan in tip-top cooking condition. 

Keep your skillets clean and dry to prevent rust.

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1 | Don't let it rust. Photo courtesy of A. Maxwell

Don't let it rust. Leave even a well-seasoned skillet out in the elements and it will rust. Let it get wet and store it for a long period, and it might rust so bad that no amount of elbow grease will bring it back. When you finish using your cast iron, clean it, dry it out completely with a rag, a couple paper towels, or even over low heat. Wipe it down with a thin layer of oil to protect it till you need it again.

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DON

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2 | Don't put it in the dishwasher

Don't put it in the dishwasher. Nothing will strip years’ worth of seasoning from a pan faster than putting it in the dishwasher. The combination of harsh detergents, heat and long stretches in a damp environment will transform a pan that used to see a fried egg slide around like it was on ball bearings turn into a bare piece of metal with the non-stick ability of duct tape. 

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Be careful not to overheat your cast iron when using it on a campfire.

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3 | Don't overheat your cast iron.

Don't overheat it. Sticking your skillet into a roaring fire might seem like a good way to heat it up in a hurry, but overheating or uneven heating can cause your skillet to take on a permanent warp, or even crack. Same goes for pouring cold water into a red-hot pan. Don’t do it. Let the pan cool a bit before you wash it. 

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Take care of your well-seasoned cast iron. An inadvertent bump from counter to floor can shatter cast iron.

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4 | Don't drop your skillet on a hard surface or knock it off the counter.

Don't drop it. Cast iron may seem indestructible, but if you drop it on a hard surface, you might lose a handle or chip the edge. Hit it just right, and you might end up with nothing more than a handful of worthless cast iron pieces. Use a towel or pot holder when moving your pan. Don’t set your cast iron near the edge of the counter where it might get knocked off. You worked hard to build up that non-stick seasoning on your favorite pan. Take care of it.

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Clean your pans well. If you feel residue when you run your fingers over the pan

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5 | Not cleaning your pan can ruin your seasoning layer. Photo courtesy of The Ringer

Don’t leave cooked-on food on it. Seasoning in an iron skillet is a micro-thin coating. Anything left on the pan that you can feel when you run your fingers over the surface isn’t seasoning, its crud. And crud isn’t non-stick. Use a plastic scrubber or a chain mail pad like The Ringer specifically designed for cleaning cast iron to get any bits of leftover food.

If you still see or feel residue on your pan after scrubbing, try adding coarse salt to a damp pan and scrubbing again. If that still doesn’t get it clean, pour in a bit of water and simmer over low heat for an hour or two to soften any leftover bits. Remember to add a thin layer of oil to your clean pan before storing it away. 

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