Phyllis, many times cast-iron skillets are handed down from generation to generation. In fact, I have my grandmother's and mother's. If yours is an old skillet, wash (no metal brushes or scrubbers, and just a drop of soap) and dry. Rub the inside, outside and lid (if it has one) with a very light coat of shortening, lard or light cooking oil. Aerosol spray should probably not be used due to the additives, which can cause the pan to become sticky.
If the skillet is new and has a protective coating on it, use a steel-wool scouring pad, soap and the hottest water possible to scrub it off, but only the first time.
Place the clean, oiled skillet in the oven upside down on an aluminum-covered baking sheet to catch oil drips. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Carefully use a dry cloth or paper towel to keep the surface evenly coated with oil. After baking, let the skillet cool in the oven.
When cleaning a cast-iron skillet, be sure it is cool before doing so, and use a nonmetallic scrubber. Many people use salt as a scrubber or use mild dish soap (only before seasoning, not after every use, most professionals agree), rinse well and dry. Do not soak, let water sit in it or put iron cookware in the dishwasher.
If food is sticking, it is not seasoned correctly. If the food turns black, it's time to re-season.
Store skillets stacked with a paper towel or paper plate between each one to absorb moisture, and leave the lid off. Keep your skillets clean and seasoned, and they will last for generations to come. Heloise
Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; fax: 210-435-6473; e-mail: [email protected] © King Features Syndicate Inc.