Dear Nigella and Team, I want to purchase a cast iron frying pan but I hear complaints that everything sticks to it. How can I stop food sticking to the cast iron skillet?
Cast iron will last for generations if looked after properly and should not stick if you stick with some basic maintenance. Many cast iron skillets are sold already seasoned but if it isn't (or if you have inherited one and it needs some maintenance) then you do need to season the skillet before use. First preheat your oven to 150c/Gas Mk 3/300F. Clean the skillet with hot water (no soap or detergent) and a stiff brush then dry with a cloth and leave in the oven to dry for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet and let it cool a bit, then rub the inside with solid vegetable shortening (such as Crisco or Trex). Put the skillet back in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the skillet inside until until cool. If possible try to repeat the seasoning process 2 to 3 times as the more you can season the pan, the better the non-stick surface will be. The first few times you use the skillet try to cook fattier foods to help the seasoning coat build up a little and try not to cook acidic foods (such as tomatoes) in the skillet as the acid will also strip away the seasoned surface.
After using the skillet wipe it out with a piece of kitchen paper (paper towel), it may not need any more cleaning than this. If you do need to wash it then use hot water and a stiff brush only. Do not use detergent as this will break down the non-stick surface that has built up. If you have to scrub the surface then do so only very lightly. After cleaning the skillet dry it with a clean cloth and then let it dry in a warm oven ( an oven which is switched off but still warm is ideal) for an hour. Wipe the inside surface with a little vegetable oil and store in a dry place (if it has a lid store with the lid off). If the pan has been stored for some time you may like to give it a rinse in hot water and a wipe with some fresh oil before using.