Cast iron has always been a noble, durable material and now we see skillets in every chef’s social media. If you’ve followed the recent boom of popularity for cast-iron cookware and you’re thinking about buying one, or already did, find out ingredients and supplies you should (and shouldn’t!) use to make it last for decades. However, cleaning your cast-iron skillet involves a special process you’ve probably haven’t heard of until you own one of these.
Let’s see a few steps to make the most out of it and make sure you’re using it the right way.
Season Your Cast Iron With Oil
For everyday cleaning, you’re not supposed to clean your cast iron skillet with water and soap as you do with everything else in your kitchen. That’s because iron doesn’t get along with humidity and chemicals and is therefore very sensitive to rust. With a cast iron cookware, you need to take a much more “traditional” approach and use oil for seasoning.
That’s right, you normally “season” your cast iron pan. It’s just that you don’t use spices and seasonings but just plain oil. The goal here is to create a layer of polymerized oil. That is oil that has turned into more of a plastic than a fat and, when adhering to the skillet, it will create a non-stick surface.
This way, the food doesn’t get in direct contact with iron, and therefore it won’t be necessary to scrub it and apply chemicals for removing food scraps.
Avoid animal fat at all costs for seasoning. it will get rancid and create an acidic environment that can ruin the seasoning. It’s best to use unsaturated oil such as corn, flaxseed, or canola oil.
Remove Rust from Cast Iron Using Salt
Particularly, kosher salt. The salt is abrasive, which means that is capable of removing material when being rubbed. If your cast iron is rusty (which will happen from time to time if you don’t keep it dry as much as possible), just sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt over it, and scrub using paper towels.
This technique will have you removing food scraps fast and without using steel wool, which can damage your seasoning.
Apply Baking Soda to Remove Flavors and Odors
Baking soda is, as you already know, a great all-purpose cleaner. And it’s also helpful for cleaning your cast-iron skillet! It works in a similar way as salt. It also has antibacterial properties and will remove persistent flavors and odors.
After using your skillet, rinse in warm water, sprinkle with baking soda and scrub gently.
Use Heat to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet
Heat will be necessary for preserving your pan after it’s been used. It will eliminate all possible bacteria. You will need to use either a stove or your oven. Your stove will do fine for your everyday cleanse, and your oven is ideal for seasoning a new pan.
A “hard” seasoning can be done by applying vegetable oil (just a thin coat) and then place it inverted in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for an hour, allowing it to cool down inside the oven before storing it back.
Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet With (A bit of) Soap
Contrary to popular belief, you can use a bit of mild soap. This won’t be necessary every time you use your cast iron pan, but it’s not forbidden. Avoid putting it in the dishwasher or soaking it though because that’s when the rust starts to appear.
Just rinse with warm water and some mild soap, scrubbing with a nylon sponge. Then, follow the custom seasoning with oil.
Bonus Tips for Cleaning Cast Iron
Because the raw material is in close contact with your food, you do get a bit of iron added into your meals. If you have iron deficiency, this will work out great for you! On the contrary, if you have excessive iron buildup, it’s best that you avoid cooking on cast iron.
Avoid using ingredients with high levels of acidity such as tomato and wine, because it will spoil all the seasoning you’ve built over time. The same goes for boiling water: when it reaches a boiling point, it will get inside your cast-iron surface.
Even though boiling water is usually a good cleaning ally, it will do the opposite here: with time it will create rust, so make sure you don’t cook meals that require boiling water first, such as pasta.
Don’t use harsh scrubbers, a soft sponge or scraper will do just fine.
Always dry immediately after cleaning, and don’t forget to put it in the stove or oven.
Cast iron is a great material that can last for years if you take good care of it. It can look great in your kitchen even as a décor. Make sure to remember the essentials: don’t soak it, don’t use too much soap, don’t use animal fat for seasoning.
Your cast-iron cookware might be tough to take care of, just like the rest of your kitchen. If that’s the case, just remember to hire a cleaning service and get rid of tedious hours and hours of cleaning.
Even though you may think it’s just too cumbersome to preserve them, they’re also resistant and will make you prepare a ton of delicious meals.