How to Clean Your Cast Iron
I’m often asked about how I clean and maintain my cast iron. It is really much more simple than you might think, and is just as easy to maintain as pots and pans you throw in the dishwasher. I greatly increased my cast iron stash recently and purchased a pretty impressive set from Lodge Cast Iron in Pittsburg, Tennessee. I’ve been streamlining and improving my cast iron maintenance techniques ever since.
The Cleaning and Maintenance Process:
1. When cooking with cast iron always be sure to use enough fat (oil, butter, lard, etc.) to inhibit excess sticking of meats, breads and vegetables. If things are sticking to your cast iron (or other pans) the pan may not be hot enough and you may not be using enough oil. Hot oil keeps food from sticking.
2. Clean your pan after it has completely cooled. Do not soak your pan in water unless you absolutely must. Allow to soak with hot water only (no soap) for a short period of time and only if there are chunks that are too stuck to come off with a scrub brush. Ideally, you don’t want to soak your cast iron, as your pan is more likely to rust over time.
– Sprinkle coarse ground sea salt in empty pan.
– Add hot water.
– Scrub with brush until all debris is removed and scrubbed free.
– Rinse with hot water.
– Dry pan completely with a towel.
4. Continually “Season” your cast iron or, in other words, make sure it has a good base coat of oil. The oil soaks into the pan, keeps the metal from becoming too dry and elongates the life of the pan. You can keep cast iron for a hundred years or more when it is properly oiled.
– Pour a small amount of oil, Vegetable or Canola, into the center of the pan. *If your cast iron sits without use for longer periods of time you may want to use Mineral Oil instead of a standard cooking oil.
– Tilt pan and allow oil to run to the edges.
– Ensure there is an even, thin coat of oil over bottom and lower sides of the pan.
– Use a paper towel to spread oil around if needed. Mop up excess oil with a paper towel if there is too much oil or the layer is too thick. (You want a thin coat of oil, otherwise the pan will become sticky when the excess oil can’t soak into the metal.)
Note: This is not the process for initially seasoning your cast iron. That process requires oiling the pan and baking it in. Visit Lodge’s website for details on how to season cast iron for the first time or re-season after significant damage.
5. Properly store your pans to protect the season and finish. Keep cast iron in a mostly dust free area, just a cabinet with closed doors will suffice. I’ve found that layering paper towels in my cast iron helps maintain the finish and give the metal access to a little oil if needed. I stack my various cast iron pans by size and buffer each with a layer of a few paper towels. This soaks up any excess oil while keeping an oily layer in the pan.
A few additional pointers:
1. Don’t put soap on your cast iron if you can help it.
2. For amazing biscuits, melt butter in your pan in a hot oven. Lay the biscuit dough directly in the hot pan and bake – Heaven!
3. Use your cast iron. It likes to feel loved!
If you have tips for how you maintain your cast iron, please share them here. I’d love to have your secret tips.