Another common question among cast iron users is what should I cook first in new cast iron? While there isn’t necessarily one right answer, we’ll give you some tips to point you in the right direction. First, we’ll need to address using cooking oil in your cast iron skillet.
Cooking Oil for Cast Iron
We’ve received a number of questions about using cooking oil in cast iron and how this relates to cast iron seasoning. While cast iron skillets are renowned for their natural non-stick properties, a brand new cast iron skillet, even a machined-smooth one like a Stargazer skillet, will not be completely non-stick right out of the box (depending what you’re cooking of course; some foods stick more than others). For proper use of your cast iron skillet, you'll want to to make sure to use sufficient cooking oil for the food you’re making. It’s a good idea to use a little extra oil for your first few cooks with a brand new (or newly seasoned) skillet.
Depending on how hot your skillet gets while cooking, cooking in oil does not necessarily mean you’re adding seasoning to the skillet. If the skillet gets hot enough and the oil is cooked long enough, then yes, polymerization will take place and you will begin to build up your seasoning right away. If you’re cooking something on a lower heat or using a cooking oil with a higher smoke point, then you may not be adding seasoning to the skillet during that specific cook.
Don’t Forget to Preheat!
Properly preheating your skillet is also essential for maximizing its performance. We know our skillet looks so good that you want to just dive right in and throw a juicy steak on it, but you’ll want to make sure the skillet is ready to accept your delicious offerings. Proper preheating (along with adding the right amount of cooking oil) will help reduce sticking and seasoning loss, especially on your new (or newly seasoned) skillet.
A good way to test whether or not the skillet is fully preheated is to flick a few drops of water into it. If the drops sizzle and dance, then it's good to go. If the drops just sit and steam, it needs to heat a little longer.
The Bacon Problem
We’re not entirely sure why, but bacon seems to be the go-to food to cook first in new cast iron. We are certainly not trying to stop you from frying some delicious bacon, but it’s not the best food to cook in a new skillet. Many people will cook bacon by placing it into a cold skillet, and allowing the fat to render as the bacon heats up. And with good reason! This is a great way to cook bacon, but not the best method of breaking in a new skillet
Starting out with meat on the cold skillet can make the food more susceptible to sticking. And like we mentioned above, it’s best to use a little extra oil in a new skillet, which most people do not do (again, rightfully so) with bacon, because it is already fairly greasy. Most bacon also has sugar in it, which can leave a sticky residue regardless of cooking technique.
So What Should You Be Cooking in Your New Skillet?
There isn’t necessarily one perfect food, but you’ll want to use something that accepts more liberal amounts of cooking oil. Stir fry some veggies, sauté some mushrooms or fry up some potatoes. These kinds of foods stick less, and depending on what type of oil you’re using, you can get the skillet hot enough to start building some seasoning right away.
We know that eggs are another popular item to cook first in new cast iron, but you’ll want to stay away from foods with a high water content like eggs that can also be prone to sticking and aren’t typically cooked with a lot of oil. Also, try to avoid sauces, deglazing, and acidic foods, at least until the seasoning develops a bit.
We’ll talk about this more in a future post, but when it comes to the seasoning on your new skillet, especially a machined-smooth skillet like a Stargazer, you should expect to see the color change (usually unevenly) as the seasoning builds up. It will darken more uniformly over time as you continue to use it.
That’s all for today’s post, and we hope you enjoyed our discussion about what to cook first in new cast iron. We’ll check back in soon with some more thoughts on cast iron seasoning and cooking. As always, we welcome any thoughts, feedback our questions, so don’t hesitate to leave us a shout in the comments below.
Class dismissed! 🕒