by Kae Lani for USA TODAY 10Best

10 things to know about cast iron cooking

Here are a few things you need to know about using and caring for cast iron skillets, according to Peter Huntley, owner and imaginative designer behind Stargazer Cast Iron.

1. Consider the design of your skillet

Cast iron skillets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which can impact how the skillet is used.

One thing to consider when looking at the design of your skillet is the handle. Because cast iron retains heat, those handles can get really hot, even if it’s not directly over the stove burner.

2. The seasoning is renewable

"I think people get overly hung up with what the rules are when it comes to seasoning," says Huntley, "but people just need to keep cooking with it. Most cast iron problems fix themselves.”

To season your skillet, all you have to do is coat it with a thin layer of oil and heat it hot enough and long enough to fully smoke it off.

3. There are a multitude of oils you can use to season your skillet

"We use canola, grapeseed, and sunflower oils at our facility. Any of those are fine," says Huntley. "Some people are all about flaxseed oil as well."

4. Yes, you can use soap

According to Huntley, you can use a little dollop of soap to clean your skillet. Just be sure to dry it off immediately after cleaning to prevent your skillet from rusting.

Never put your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. The dishwashing detergents may strip away your built-up seasoning, making it easier for rust to form.

5. Acidic foods won’t ruin it

"If you cook with acidic ingredients, yeah, it’s going to deteriorate your seasoning to some degree," says Huntley, "but the seasoning is constantly coming and going.”

6. Don’t skip preheating

Because of their weight, cast iron skillets can take a little bit of time to heat up. Huntley recommends heating up your skillet 10-15 minutes before you put anything in it.

7. They're great for cooking more than just meats

"It’s great with meats, but cast iron is just as good at browning meats as it is browning potatoes and Brussels sprouts,” says Huntley.

8. They're also great for baking

You can make breads, brownies, cookies and cakes all in a cast iron skillet. You can even make pies – cast iron skillets are perfect for baking evenly flaky pie crusts.

9. Cast iron skillets are incredibly versatile

You can cook, sear, caramelize, bake, brown, sauté, make game day dips and snacks, and cook casseroles with a cast iron skillet.

"You can really bring it back from anything," says Huntley. "Even if the seasoning gets stripped off. The material is really durable. It is really difficult to total a cast iron skillet."

10. Skillets are a gateway into the world of cast iron cookware

Cast iron Dutch ovens are perfect for baking homemade sourdough bread. If you really enjoy grilling and searing meats, try a cast iron grill pan.

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