Here's everything you need to know to properly clean and maintain your cast iron skillets and cookware.
Cast iron cookware is one of the greatest pieces of cookware in the kitchen, and because it requires some special care, passions can run high. But the truth is that maintaining cast iron cookware isn't much of a chore at all, and many of the stricter rules that people insist on needn't be so strict.
Step 1: Wash the Cast Iron Pan Well
Once you're done cooking in your pan, go ahead and wash it with some warm soapy water, wiping it with a kitchen sponge. If there are a few stubborn burnt-on bits, you'll be fine using the synthetic scrubber on the back of many kitchen sponges, as it's not as harsh as steel wool.
If, for some reason, you've scorched some nasty stuff into the pan, you can pour salt into it, set it over high heat, then rub the charred gunk out with some paper towels. The salt acts as an abrasive that's safe for the seasoning, while the heat can help carbonize any remaining bits of food, making them easier to scrub away. Then just rinse out the salt, wash the pan with warm soapy water, and continue to the next step.
Step 2: Dry the Cast Iron Pan Thoroughly
Water is the enemy of cast iron, so the last thing you want to do is leave it dripping wet post-wash. Sure, the seasoning will prevent any rust from forming right away, but if the pan is left to stand with water in it, even those tough layers of polymerized oil won't be enough to stop the relentless oxidative skirmish between iron and H2O.
So make sure to dry the pan thoroughly with towels right after washing. Even better, once you've hand-dried the pan as best you can, set it over a high flame. The heat will speed evaporation, driving off any last bit of moisture and guaranteeing that the pan is totally dry.
Step 3: Oil Lightly and Heat the Cast Iron Pan
The last step is to prime the pan for its next use by laying down one bonus layer of protective seasoning before putting it away. To do that, just rub the pan very lightly all over with an unsaturated cooking fat, like canola, vegetable, or corn oil, making sure to buff away any visible greasiness so that the cast iron almost doesn't look like you've oiled it at all.
Then put the pan back over a burner set to high heat, and leave it for a couple of minutes, until the pan is heated through all over and lightly smoking. You could do this in your oven for more even heating, à la the initial seasoning process, but I find that too cumbersome as part of a daily ritual; for just one quick final seasoning step, the stovetop works fine. (Note that if you rub the pan with oil and put it away without heating it, the oil can become sticky and rancid before the pan's next use, which is a real bummer. If you've accidentally let this happen, just wash out the pan with soap and water to get rid of the gunk, then dry it and heat it, and you should be good to go.)
And that's it—easy enough that anyone can do it, without resorting to fisticuffs.
Post time: Oct-30-2021