So I need to confess. M has a very expensive fantastic cast iron wok. I washed it, several times. I scraped it with a metal spoon and I washed it, many times, with soap. I truthfully didn't believe him that you shouldn't use soap. It very quickly started to be less than non-stick and turned a bit gray down in the bottom. Then I got my own cast iron skillet and read the maintenance manual and realized what horrors I'd inflicted upon his wok. No wonder I couldn't fry tofu anymore.
Luckily this is pretty easy to fix. You just have to re-season it and unless your cast iron skillet, wok, or whatever is over 60 years old and full of family seasonings from years past, you may want to repeat this step about once a year or any time you notice it starting to stick a bit or gray or rust looking patches appear. If you properly maintain it - we already know I don't - and it's decent quality, you may never need to re-season your pan. This will also let you season a pan for the first use if you've just bought one and it isn't pre-seasoned.
(Re-)seasoning a cast iron skillet/wokfrom Joy of Cooking, 1975 edition1. Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C.2. Clean your pan with soap (heaven forbid!) and scrape away any left over cornbread, stuck on tofu stir-fry, etc.3. Smear a good coating of vegetable shortening on both the inside and outside of your pan.4. Pop it in the hot oven and let it sit there for at least an hour, preferably two.5. Let your skillet cool with the oven open before handling it.6. For good measure go whip up something extra fatty or oily, like fried eggs. Supposedly bacon is really good for this step - I wouldn't know.
Depending on the state of your skillet you may need to repeat this process.
Maintenance:For the future, don't wash your cast iron skillets and woks. Rinse them out while still hot with water and use a plastic scrubby or wooden spoon to scrub away anything stuck on them. For particularly stuck on stuff try boiling water in them. Most important: Dry your skillet and wok! Water+iron=rust=not so non-stick. After drying, rub a light coat of oil over the skillet.
That's it! Actually not so high maintenance after all when you think of all the wonders you can cook with cast iron skillets and woks! P.S. there seems to be evidence that cast iron gives you an added iron boost to your diet. For most people great news.
So next time, anyone asks what's for dinner, you can say ....
© 2010 Nicole