Not getting the desired results when baking with cast iron? This smart tip changes everything.

Dutch baby pancake in a cast iron skillet prepared for serving.LENA GABRILOVICH/Shutterstock

The best thing you can do for your cast-iron pan is pretty simple—use it! But for best results, you still need to make sure you’re using it properly. When baking, knowing how to preheat a cast-iron skillet like this one can make a world of difference. Here’s why.

The benefits of preheating

We love baking in cast iron for a number of reasons. The skillet holds heat better than other materials, is incredibly versatile and actually adds a bit of iron to your diet. But despite some popular cooking myths, cast iron does not heat evenly—or quickly.

That’s why preheating is such an important (and often overlooked) step. Whether you’re baking, searing, frying or roasting in the oven, preheating the pan will help your food cook faster and more evenly—but that’s not where the benefits end.

Preheating will also keep dough from sticking, help to caramelize the bottom of a tart or cookie, and create a bit of char on protein (like this gorgeous steak) if you’re going savory. Plus, it’s a super simple step!

How to preheat cast iron

In the oven

While you preheat the oven for your recipe, just put the pan inside as you prepare the recipe. When it’s time to remove the skillet, do so carefully—it’ll be scorching hot. (These handle hot pads will help.)

On the stovetop

First, find out if your stovetop will support cast iron. Heat the pan gradually—about ten minutes is recommended—and rotate it on the burner every few minutes so the heat is evenly applied. Same with the oven-heating method: Be careful!

If you get distracted and forget to rotate the pan, let it cool down and start again. Remember, cast iron retains heat beautifully—whether you want it to or not—so it’ll take a bit to lose the hot spot.

So, now that you know the secret, go bake up one of these amazing cast-iron skillet treats! Next, find out about 10 foods you should always cook in a cast-iron skillet.

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