I don’t know about you all, but I have always had a bit of a love hate relationship with my cast iron skillet. While I love the way food tastes when prepared in one, I always feel like I need to give it a good cleaning before I use it. I often feel like I just don’t know how to clean it properly, so I inevitably just end up using one of my nonstick skillets because I just know how to use and clean it more properly than my cast iron.

I’ve decided that I want to pull out my cast iron, wipe off that dust (not really, it’s not really dusty, just hasn’t been used in a while), and get to cooking!

Before beginning a love affair with my cast iron skilled, I need to learn how to feel more comfortable using it so I’ve researched high and low for the best methods of cleaning, seasoning and cooking with cast iron. After all, it can’t be that difficult. It’s been time-tested and loved from pioneers to professional chefs throughout the centuries!

We need to learn how to season and clean our skillet before we jump into this lifelong relationship!

Let’s begin with the first step, which is seasoning our skillet.

Here’s how to season your new cast iron it to give it a natural nonstick finish:

1. When you first get your skillet, gently scrub the entire pan with warm water and a little dish soap. Rinse and let it dry completely.

2. While it’s drying, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the sheet on the lower rack of your oven.

3. Using a paper towel, wipe your pan evenly on all sides, both inside and out, with a very thin, light layer of oil. You’ll want to be sure to only use an oil with all fats and a high smoke point so the pan bakes cleanly and not sticky. DO NOT use olive oil or butter to season your cast-iron pan. You can use them to cook with but not to first season the pan. Use vegetable oil, canola oil or melted vegetable shortening.

4. Next you will place the pan upside down on the top rack of the oven and bake it for one hour. Turn off the oven and leave the pan in to cool completely. This is a process of baking on a layer of oil which in turn creates a nonstick finish. Repeat as desired, however a single round of seasoning is enough to get you started. (A seasoning tip; cook bacon, thick pork chops or a fatty steak in the pan when you use it the first time. The natural fats in these meats will help with the finish in this beginning process of seasoning the pan)

Here’s how to clean your cast iron:

1. After using your skillet each time all you need to do is simply rinse it under very hot water using a CLEAN washcloth or soft sponge to wipe it out.

2. Dry thoroughly. Then to give it a little extra love (remember, we are trying to form a love relationship with our pan!), rub the clean, dry pan with a very light layer of vegetable or canola oil.

3. Place your pan over medium-low heat for a few minutes and voila! Your pan is ready for your next cooking session!