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potatoes in cast iron skillet

Ramona King

Patatas bravas served in a cast iron skillet

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Southern Kitchen's guide to cooking in, cleaning and loving your cast iron skillets

Whether you're baking cornbread, frying chicken or simply making Wednesday night supper, chances are, you're using a cast iron skillet, the workhorse of the Southern kitchen. And no matter how frequently you've got it out on your stove, there's always something more to learn about this key kitchen tool, and we've got you covered. Read on for our complete guide to cast iron skillets.

Four ways to season a cast iron skillet
While there are certainly countless ways to season and maintain a cast iron skillet to keep up its shiny patina (looking at you Grandma Sue), we have a few methods that we prefer here at Southern Kitchen. Learn three Southern restaurant chefs, plus our own chef Jeffrey Gardner, season their skillets at home. 
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Here's how we clean our cast iron skillets, each and every time
With regular use and proper care, your cast iron skillet can last a lifetime. But they're not always the most intutitve pans to clean once the table has been cleared. Raise your hand if you've read more than one contradictory guide to cleaning cast iron. Us too. Here's the thing: Cast iron isn't a precious little snowflake. It can handle almost anything you throw at it, and you can even use soap and hot water to clean it. Yep, you read that one right. 
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And how we restore them when they're rusted and busted
We've all been there. Your previously well-seasoned cast iron skillet gets in the hands of someone who forgets to dry it thoroughly and sticks it deep into a cabinet. Or maybe you've picked up an old, neglected skillet at a yard sale and you're ready to give it some love. As rusted and busted as your skillet may be, you can always get your cast iron back to its shiny glory. All you need is some elbow grease and patience. 
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How to care for and use premium cast iron
If you’ve recently upgraded to premium cast iron cookware, or have recently considered the investment, you understand and appreciate why it makes sense to spend a little extra for a product that will last generations in your kitchen and family. Well-maintained cast iron will give its owners years, decades and even generations of flavorful, gorgeous food. Still, you probably also want to see a little delicious ROI on your dinner plate sooner rather than later. Like any worthy investment, the more you use and take care of it, the better it gets with time.
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What makes high-end cast iron worth the price?
We’ve come to understand that a top-shelf cast iron cooking vessel is worth a somewhat-higher investment on the front end. You just have to look at the extra cash you’re spending on higher-grade cast-iron cookware like it’s actual food you’ll prepare in it: What you put in will always be worth more by the time it’s coming out. Here's what you’re getting when you upgrade from a hardware store skillet.
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3 cast iron myths that are totally busted
From cleaning to everyday care, here are the three things that most people get wrong about cast iron skillets — straight from the lips of a true Southern chef.
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Our 10 absolute favorite foods to cook in cast iron
Cast iron isn’t just for cornbread. Don’t get us wrong — cooking this Southern dish in a cast iron skillet is a classic combination for a reason, but your cast iron cookware is far more versatile than that. And you don't have to brainstorm new ideas yourself — our chefs are constantly dreaming up inventive ways use cast iron. Here are 10 of our favorites.
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And five we (almost) never do
With proper care and upkeep, cast iron skillets can survive generations, and in some instances, even centuries of regular use. And while we love to cook just about anything in our skillets, there are a few foods we always avoid. There are two main reasons why you'd want to avoid dropping a food in your cast iron. Some foods will react with the actual metal, which can strip seasoning and impart an undesirable irony flavor in your food. Other foods will, quite simply, stick to the skillet, even when it is well seasoned. 
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Get schooled in the history of American cast iron
Whether you've snagged a brand-new Smithey or dug up an heirloom Griswold at a garage sale, acquiring a cast iron skillet (or three) is a time-honored tradition of American cooks. But while so much of today's quality cast iron comes from the U.S. of A, this cookware material had a long history before it even reached our shores.
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What's the difference between cast iron and its sporty cousin, carbon steel?
Cast iron and carbon steel are kissing cousins. Both are hard-working, heavy duty pans that will stand the test of time. We use and love both styles. But is there a good reason to spend your money on both types of pans? When should you pull out your cast iron and when should you reach for slimmer carbon steel? Is there anything carbon steel can do that cast iron can't? The answer: Yes, but the differences are subtle.
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Why cast iron may (or may not) cook dinner better than your other pans
Does it make sense to cook everything under the sun in a cast iron skillet? Will your Lodge skillet work better than a large All-Clad skillet? We put our skillets to the test with a week's worth of recipes to find out.
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Want even more cast iron recipes? Head here
Or try these six decadent cast iron desserts

Photos (cleaned cast iron, rusted skillet, cornbread, soapy cast iron, eggs, chicken liver skewers): Ramona King
Photos (pizza, spaghetti): Kate Williams
Photo (frying chicken): Ryan Hughley
Photo (row of skillets): Courtesy of Smithey Ironworks