Caring for Your Iron Skillet (& a Southern cornbread recipe with Rebecca Gordon!)


In the South, there are few items that can hold a candle to a belle’s iron skillet. When making out her will, a grandmother may pass down her iron skillet with as much intention as the family china. Why? An iron skillet isn’t just a cooking vessel–it’s an investment of time, a reminder of the care put into it, and a history of everything that the vessel has held before.

A good iron skillet is well-seasoned. That is, over time a surface of lard has built up making the pan non-stick as well as adding a very distinct flavor. Yes, I know your skillet says it’s pre-seasoned but, trust me honey, it’s not. Here’s how to do it right!

To season your iron skillet…

  • Preheat your oven to 300°F.
  • Thinly coat the inside of your pan with Crisco or canola oil. These are my favorites because they don’t add any particular flavor, and they won’t go rancid on the pan.
  • Leave your skillet in the 300° oven for 3 hours, then let cool completely.
  • If this is your first seasoning, repeat this process 3 times.
  • After the initial seasoning, do this about once every month or two.
  • It’ll really start to feel like yours after the first few batches of bacon. I always make these first after seasoning because it adds another layer of flavor.


Cleaning your iron skillet…

Here’s the key: Don’t let it sit. I am one of the worst when it comes to fixing a big meal, and then going straight to bed without cleaning up. This is no way to treat your iron skillet. First of all, the longer you let things sit, the harder they’ll be to clean off. Second, the fat on the bottom of your skillet can begin to pick up flavors you don’t want as it sits.

The other key: Never. EVER. use soap. NEVER! As I said before, the iron skillet is all about the surface. That’s what gives your food flavor and, in turn, that’s what makes your skillet so valuable. So don’t wash it off! Instead…

After you cook, assess your pan.

Is there anything stuck to the bottom?

  • Fill your skillet halfway with water, and bring it to a boil for a few minutes.
  • Then, empty the water and use a rubber scraper to remove anything that is stuck to the surface.

Everything out, and it just needs to be cleaned?

  • When your pan is cool to the touch, throw in a handful of kosher salt.
  • Gently rub it in with a rag. (You can use paper towels, but I prefer a rag because paper towels crumble with the salt scrubbing.)
  • You’ll see the remnants of dinner being soaked up by the salt.
  • Rinse out the salt with water. Dry your skillet. And coat with a thin layer of canola oil or Crisco.
  • Store in a dry place. I actually keep mine in the oven.

And now, Iron Skillet Rehab

When a friend brought me a rusty iron skillet a couple of weeks ago, I decided that I’d give it a little rehab and then do a blog post. Little did I know, the rusty surface was thick and flaky so ‘a little rehab’ turned into a Sunday afternoon.

In retrospect, I do not endorse trying to save an iron skillet from the grave. When iron turns to rust, it makes terrible pock marks that can totally ruin the even cooking surface you get with a good skillet. However, if there’s a smaller amount of rust you should be able to use one of the items below, in order of lightest to most abrasive…*

  • kosher salt
  • steel wool
  • a paste of baking soda and water (I rotated this with boiling water and the rust just lifted out.)
  • fine grain sand paper

*Note: Using any of these will ruin any seasoning already existing on your skillet.

I think it must be in a belle’s blood to not let an iron skillet die. In the words of a co-worker, “Can’t you buy a new skillet for like $11?” Yes. Yes you can, but that’s not the point. Southern allegiance to your skillet is very real so when you get a skillet of your own take care of it. Cherish it. If you’re good to the skillet, the skillet will be good to you.

Now… what to make in the skillet?

My friend Rebecca Gordon is the most fabulous of cooks! You may remember that I met her in September when we visited with Southern Living in Charleston. We’ll chat a little more with Rebecca later today but, for now, hop on over to Rebecca’s blog Buttermilk Lipstick to get her recipe for the perfect Southern cornbread!




Get Rid of That Vintage Smell

Love getting a new vintage frock, but hate the stench that comes with it? Well, today is your lucky day! Husband is sort of like the Goodwill Whisperer. While getting his MBA, he also acquired a closet full of sport coats from the finest tailors in town–all for a going rate of about $5 each. But the vintage smell (don’t act like you don’t know) was a bit much, so, after doing some research, he found a great solution.

The secret? Vodka. It’s not just for martinis anymore…


  • Mix 2 parts vodka with 1 part distilled water in a spray bottle.
  • Spray on your garment.
  • It will dry quickly. Then, just take it to the dry cleaner for cleaning.

On second thought, the real Secret of this Belle may just be to get yourself a husband that helps with the laundry after making you a martini.

A Sick Day Calls for a Hot Toddy

Today, I took a sick day (as did many in America if you watch NBC News). Tomorrow, we will be back to your normally scheduled programming. In the meantime, how about a little hot toddy? Sure to cure all your coughs, fever, aches, & pains.

Just what the Dr. ordered: A Hot Toddy  |  Secrets of a Belle

How to Make a Hot Toddy

1. Boil water, and make yourself a cup of tea.

2. To that add: a squeeze of lemon, a bit of honey, and a shot of bourbon.

Small Steps a Beautiful Life

Secrets of a Belle is all about simple moves you can take to create the beautiful life we all desire. Today’s small step is so simple, but I can tell you that it has had a definite effect on my peace of mind. We subscribe to both The NY Times and the Wall Street Journal, but up until recently we were spending more weeknights watching shows in our Netflix queue than reading. So at the beginning of the year, I decided that I would try to read a bit of each paper in the evenings, and then boldly attempt the Times crossword. A simple act that’s had a big impact. I feel a lot more calm reading the paper at the end of the day rather than staring at my computer screen and (*bonus*) I feel a little smarter too. If you’re stuck in a rut, as we were, let me suggest closing the laptop or iPad and picking up the paper.