A good cast iron pan is a workhorse, and an essential tool in any well-appointed Kitchen. Cast iron distributes heat evenly and lasts forever if you take good care of it. But how do you do that, exactly? There are differing opinions about how best to keep your cast iron clean, but as it turns out, the simplest method is actually the best.
HOW TO CLEAN CAST IRON
Get it while it’s hot!
The good news about cleaning cast iron is that you can treat it just like every other pan…almost. You have to be careful about scraping it because you can damage the surface. Wash cast iron while it’s still warm. The heat will help to lift off any crusty bits. If you can’t wash it right away, at least put it in the sink with a generous dollop of mild dish soap and HOT water. Let it soak until you can come back and scrub it.
Choose the right scrubber
DO NOT use a scouring pad or steel wool. Reach for a good, stiff brush that will scrub without damaging the surface instead. This pot scrubber is made from strong Mexican Palm fiber and fits nicely into your palm so you can get right in there.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
If your cast iron is still wearing remains of the last meal, you can hit it with a sprinkling of salt to add some oomph to the scrubbing process. This won’t damage the surface as long as you keep using a palm fiber brush. If that still doesn’t work, you may have to fill it with soapy water, heat it up in the oven or on the stove, and repeat this process. NEVER PUT YOUR CAST IRON IN THE DISHWASHER.
This is not a dish that you should “let dry.” Cast iron must be dried immediately after washing, or it can develop rust, which will degrade the surface. If rust develops, you have to wipe it down with oil and paper towels and start the washing process all over again (I know). So don’t go there! Dry it properly. BTW: Even clean cast iron will leave black smudges on your dishcloth, so I keep an old dish towel (or a dark-colored one) that I use just for my cast iron. Wipe it dry on all sides, including the lid and/or handle. Some people even put cleaned cast iron back in the oven or the sun to make sure it’s dried completely, but I trust you.
HOW TO SEASON YOUR CAST IRON
Before you store your freshly cleaned cast iron, you have to re-season it. My Staub pieces came pre-seasoned with an enamel coating, but if you have a classic cast iron piece (like my favorite Lodge griddle), you should re-season them in the oven from time to time. A full re-seasoning session goes like this:
Preheat your oven to 350*F. Take your clean and perfectly dried cast iron and coat it all over with a thin layer of vegetable oil (canola or olive are fine). I use a paper towel, wet with oil to get the bottom, sides, handle, lid…everything. I place my oiled-up cast iron on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for about an hour. TOP TIP: use a timer, turn the oven off and let it cool where it is before you take it out, because it will be crazy hot!
HOW TO STORE CAST IRON
Once it’s seasoned and cool enough to handle, wipe off the excess oil and store it in a cool, DRY place until you need it again. Remember, you don’t need to go through the whole re-seasoning exercise unless food starts to really stick on, or it’s showing signs of wear on the surface. Just wipe it down with a little oil between seasoning sessions. I use my same cast-iron towel to cover while not in use because the oily surface tends to attract dust on my low, open shelves.