I was given a new iron skillet, what do I do to it so I can use it.
Dear Marie -
The first thing you need to do is read the instructions/literature that came with your pan. Some new cast-iron pots and skillets have a waxy protective coating on them, which must be removed. If your skillet has this coating, scrub it with a stainless steel scouring pad (steel wool), using mild dish soap and hot water.
Next you need to season your cast iron pan prior to using:
1. Rub it with a thin coat of vegetable oil.
2. Place the cast iron pan, upside down, in the oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom to catch any drips. Heat the pan for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Once done, let the pan cool to room temperature. Repeat this process several times to create a stronger "seasoning" bond.
Your skillet will be a little discolored at this point but after you use it a few times it will turn black which is the sign of a well seasoned iron skillet.
A few notes on caring for cast iron:
Never put cold liquid into a very hot cast iron pan. It will crack on the spot!
Be careful when cooking with your cast-iron on an electric range, because the burners create hot spots that can warp cast iron or even cause it to crack. Be sure to preheat the iron very slowly when using an electric range and keep the settings to medium or even medium-low.
Unless you use your cast-iron pan daily, wash it briefly with a little soapy water and then rinse and thoroughly dry in order to get rid of excess surface oil.