To get the most out of your cast iron pan, it's important to preheat it on low (3-5 min) before cooking.
1. Preheat for even, maintained temperature.
While cast iron retains heat very well, it doesn't conduct heat quickly. Preheating allows time for heat to fully penetrate so the entire pan reaches the desired temperature. Adding food cools the pan slightly, but preheating builds up enough heat energy to minimize temperature drops and recover quickly. This prevents hot/cold spots and maintains optimal cooking temperature.
2. Preheat for better nonstick.
Adding food to a hot pan also helps prevent sticking. When cast iron is ripping hot, the Maillard reaction that browns and sears foods happens almost instantly. Fast browning means foods release easier before they have a chance to stick. High heat causes protein in foods like eggs and meat to coagulate and firm up rapidly. Less time spent in a loose, tacky state means less opportunity for sticking.
3. Preheat for building seasoning.
The last step of our recommended cleaning approach pan instructs to coat the pan in a very thin layer of seasoning oil. This protects the pan between uses, but also becomes part of your seasoning. Preheating your pan gives this oil a chance to polymerize, creating an even and slick layer of durable nonstick seasoning.