My father didn't get angry with me often when I was young, but I remember two distinct times when he was furious with me. Both involved trying to save his life. One time he asked me to get his cigarettes for him, and I ran the entire pack under the kitchen faucet before I gave them to him so he couldn't smoke them. The other time, I submerged his cast iron skillet in the water and washed it with soap.

Maybe if I'd had this infographic, which illustrates how to properly clean a cast iron skillet while preserving the seasoning, I wouldn't have gotten into so much trouble.

cast-iron-skillet-infographic (Photo: yumi sakugawa)

But back to that story about trying to save my dad's life, a little more detail is in order.

Everyone in the house knew to not use soap and water on his cast iron skillet. It was probably a bigger sin than touching the damn thermostat. (When the settings mysteriously changed, it was never just the thermostat; it was always the damn thermostat.) But that day in health class, when the teacher talked about food poisoning and how important it was to properly clean your dishes, pots and pans, I raised my hand and told her about my dad's skillet that only got wiped out with paper towels after use. She told me my whole family could die from how dirty it was.

I was 9 years old. I didn't want to die, and I didn't want my family to die, so that night I scrubbed his cast iron skillet in a sink full of soap and water and destroyed the seasoning he'd built up over the years, one slowly cooked piece of Scrapple at a time. If you were alive around that time, you might have heard the yelling from wherever you were.

My dad's insistence that water or soap never come near his skillet probably did create an unsafe food environment in the pan, but my complete submersion of the skillet and the vigorous scrubbing I gave it were unnecessary. There's a happy medium when it comes to keeping your cast iron skillet clean and preserving the seasoning that takes many uses to build up.

A well-cared for cast iron skillet can become a family heirloom, and it can certainly be used for more than the Scrapple my father cooked in his.

(And it sure makes for a good childhood memory to share.)

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.