Cast iron pans and skillets are a budget friendly and sustainable kitchen item that you should have in your home. These versatile pans can be used on the stovetop, in the oven and even over a campfire. Learning how to clean and season your cast iron pans is essential for cast iron skillet maintenance.
How to Clean and Season Your Cast Iron Pan
If you’ve recently purchased or inherited a cast iron pan, proper maintenance is essential to the best performance of these pans. With proper seasoning, these pans will become non-stick over time. There is a bit of a learning curve when cleaning cast iron, and it takes a bit of patience. Once you start using cast iron, you’ll never go back.
What You’ll Need to Season Your Pan
- Hot water
- Scrubby sponge
- Lint-free dish towels
- Oil – vegetable oil, Shortening, Grapeseed or Flaxseed oil. Use an oil with a low heat index. Olive oil will cause smoke
- An Oven
What is Seasoning a Pan?
Seasoning a pan is baking oil onto a cast iron skillet through a process called polymerization. This will protect your pan from rust and also make it naturally non-stick without the toxins.
Can You Use Soap on Cast Iron?
The short answer is, yes.
Cast iron pans will not be ruined if you use dish soap, such as dawn, on your cast iron pans. Originally soap was made with lye, and lye is was ruins cast iron pans. Dish soap will remove some of the seasoning on your pan, so you will have to re-season your pans whenever you use dish soap.
If your cast iron pan is already properly seasoned, you just have to be sure to care for it after every use to maintain that wonderful non-stick finish.
Once you are done cooking in your cast iron pan, allow the pan to cool and wash it under warm water. Remove all the food residue until the water runs clean. Dry out your pans completely with a lint-free hand towel and rub the inside of your pan with about 1 tablespoon of oil.
Cleaning Your Cast Iron Skillet
If your skillet has food stuck to it, and you’re having a hard time removing the food there are a few methods to cleaning your cast iron pans.
Method 1: Boiling Water in The Skillet
One method is to add water to your cast iron skillet and heat it on the stove until the water begins to boil. This will loosen the food that is stuck to your cast iron. Allow your pan to cool so that it can be handled and then wash your pan with hot water in the sink.
The food should come off easily. However, hot water can negatively affect the seasoning on your pan and the cast iron pan may need to be seasoned again.
Method 2: Soap and Water
It is rumored that you cannot use soap on cast iron. Although soap can remove some of the seasoning on your pan, it will not harm you pan in the long run. If you need to use soap to remove food from a cast iron skillet, be sure to re-season your pan to maintain the cast iron properly.
Method 3: Salt and Oil
Another method to cleaning your pans is to use coarse salt and oil. Using the salt to scrub your pan this method will clean off stuck on food without harming your seasoning. You can remove the salt and extra oil with a lint-free rag.
The salt and oil method will also remove minor amount of rust from your pan. If you have a cast iron pan that needs more work, check out How to Restore a Cast Iron Pan.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron Pan
How do you know if your pan needs to be re-seasoned? It may not have an even, shiny black coat on it, or, you’ll see some discoloration or grey areas.
This happens if you cook something acidic that will eat off the oil, or leave food in your pan overnight and the food eats away at the oil. This can also happen if you use soap on your pan.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Oil your cleaned cast iron pan with a small amount of oil (2 teaspoons to about 1 tablespoon). The amount will depend on the size of the pan.
Place your oiled cast iron pan into the oven and bake for 30-60 minutes. Once the pan has been baked, turn off the oven and open the door slightly. Allow the pan to cool in the oven.
Once the cast iron pan has cooled, it should have a nice sheen to it. This is the polymerized layer of oil that will create a non-stick finish to your pan. Store away from moisture of any kind.
Learning to clean and season your cast iron pan is a great way to maintain and use cast iron in your kitchen. If you want more information on cast iron pans, check out Why You Should Switch to Cast Iron. Cooking with cast iron is a great way to live sustainably too.
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