Cooking with cast iron pans has become very trendy lately. They are great at searing meats or browning vegetables. But they also require special care. If you don’t take proper care of them, they can rust and ruin your food.
Cast Iron skillets are prized possessions. They are durable and long-lasting, and they come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. The only real problem is that they can be a little cumbersome. So, how should you clean them properly?
There are several ways to clean a cast-iron pan but the wrong methods could massively reduce the lifespan of your cookware and leave you with a pan that doesn’t work at all.
In this handy guide, we’re going over all the best methods for cleaning a cast iron skillet in a way that will leave it looking brand new and ready for action again!
First Thing’s First
Before we take a look at some of the best methods for cleaning your cast-iron skillet, let’s go over what you need to do to prepare for cleaning.
The first thing to consider is how soon you should clean the skillet after cooking in it. In general, it’s best to clean the skillet as soon as possible after using it.
When a pan is still hot, or even just warm, the food that gets stuck to the bottom of it will release much more easily with the application of your cleaning agents.
One thing you should never do with a cast-iron skillet that you might with other types of cookware is left it to soak for a prolonged period of time. While this might work well for an aluminum frying pan to loosen some really tough bits of burnt food, the prolonged exposure to water will end up causing a cast-iron skillet to rust, leaving it worse off than before you started.
Some other pieces of equipment you’ll want to avoid using on your cast-iron skillet are soap and steel wool brushes. These can both also have detrimental effects on your cookware.
Regular dish soap tends to damage the surface metal of the pan, removing any seasoning or non-stick properties. Similarly, steel wool or abrasive brushes will scratch away at this surface and leave you with a pan that gets food stuck to it much more easily.
However, you can use small amounts of dish soap on your cast-iron skillet sometimes and it won’t always ruin the pan’s surface. As long as you dilute it with enough water and don’t use too much in the first place, you should be alright.
Now, let’s go over some of the different methods for washing your cast-iron skillet effectively.
Method 1: Routine Wash
This is the method to go for if you’ve just cooked a small meal in your cast-iron skillet and there isn’t too much food stuck to the bottom of it.
For this method, you simply need to wash your cast-iron skillet with some hot water and a sponge. Feel free to use gloves if the water is too hot for you or turn your taps down to a slightly more manageable temperature.
While doing this, you’re trying to scrape off as much of the food particles left in your pan as possible. If this is only a routine wash, there shouldn’t be too much really tough food stuck to your pan so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Once you’ve got all the food particles to lose, simply rinse the skillet off with running water and gently brush off the food until your pan is looking clean again.
Method 2: Thorough Cleaning
This method is for when you have some slightly tougher burnt food stuck to your cast-iron skillet. Simply using water on its own isn’t always enough to loosen all of the food particles so it’s time to step things up a notch.
For this method, you’ll need to break out the baking soda from your kitchen cupboard. Start with the pan still warm but not too hot and pour some baking soda into it with a little warm water.
The aim here is to create a thick paste with baking soda and water which will loosen the food particles without scratching or damaging the surface of your pan.
You should then use a stiff brush or scouring sponge to mix up the paste and rub it over your cast-iron skillet. Scrub the surface of the pan the same way you would clean anything else and don’t be afraid to press down hard to remove some of the really tough food.
Then, the process is the same as before. Simply rinse off the baking soda paste and any loosened bits of food or grease. It might take a couple of tries for particularly tricky cleaning jobs but that’s as simple as remaking the baking soda paste and repeating the whole process after rinsing it off.
Eventually, you should be left with a cast-iron skillet that looks just as good as when you bought it!
How To Dry Your Cast-Iron Skillet
Remember what we said before about not soaking your cast-iron skillet because it can cause rusting? Well, the same thing could happen if the skillet is stored improperly with water still on its surface.
It’s surprisingly important to make sure your skillet is dried properly to make the most of its durability and long lifespan. If you don’t do it properly, over time your pan will become more and more sticky for greasy foods and will get even harder to maintain.
One way to ensure your skillet is thoroughly dry is to use a regular cloth as you would normally use, as well as some paper kitchen towels. The issue with using a cloth is that it will absorb moisture, become damp, and then spread that moisture across the surface of your pan, rather than actually drying it.
The paper kitchen towel will do a better job of absorbing the moisture and it will be much clearer whether you’re spreading the liquid around the skillet’s surface.
Alternatively, a great method for drying a cast-iron skillet is to leave it in a warm oven for a few minutes. By doing this, you’ll evaporate all of the moisture on the pan’s surface, as well as anything that has sunk in a bit more.
You won’t need to fully bake your skillet or anything. Leaving it in a low-heat oven for around 15 minutes should be enough time for all the remaining moisture to have evaporated after you’ve hand-washed and dried the pan.
Should I Season A Cast-Iron Skillet After Every Wash?
For those that aren’t aware, seasoning is a very important process to go over for any cast-iron cookware. This isn’t the same as seasoning food with salt and pepper but refers to maintaining the non-stick properties of your pan. Over time, washing your cast-iron skillet will gradually remove the seasoning so you will need to reseason the skillet at regular intervals. However, there’s no need to reseason the skillet every time you wash it.
As a general rule, you can tell when a cast-iron skillet needs to be reseasoned just by looking at it. The seasoned areas of the pan’s surface will appear shinier than other parts, so if you see any dull spots you know it’s time to reseason.
You can also tell by how slippery the surface of the pan is while you’re cooking. A really well-seasoned skillet will have food sliding across its surface with relative ease. Therefore, if your food is sticking to the pan’s surface, it’s a good indication that you should reseason it.
Whilst you don’t necessarily need to season after every wash, there’s no harm in doing it that often either. Some people choose to re-season their cast-iron skillet after absolutely every use and this doesn’t actually do any harm to the pan.
Essentially, the decision is yours for how often you want to reseason your own cast-iron skillet.
How To Season A Cast-Iron Skillet
If you didn’t already know how to season your cast-iron skillet, here’s a handy little guide to the process. Bear in mind that this process will be exactly the same if you’re seasoning a new skillet for the first time as if you’re reseasoning an old one for the hundredth time.
- Always start with a completely clean and dry skillet before beginning the seasoning process.
- Start by applying a small amount of cooking oil to the surface of the skillet.
- Using a paper towel, spread the oil into a thin layer across the entire inside surface of the skillet.
- Finally, leave the skillet in a 450°F oven for roughly 30 minutes.
- Leave the skillet to cool and then store it away with some paper towel on the freshly seasoned surface to stop other pots and pans from scratching it off.
According to some parts of the internet, there are a million different ways you can damage your cast-iron skillet, even by the tiniest of mistakes.
However, there’s no need to be afraid of looking after your skillet and it really isn’t as difficult as some people make out.
As long as you follow the simple steps we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll have no problem making your cast-iron skillet last a lifetime!