A good cast iron skillet is a must have tool in the kitchen. Unlike non-stick pans, they’re non-toxic while still yielding great results. Once you know how to clean cast iron and properly care for it, you’ll get a lifetime of use out of your skillet.
If your cast iron is in really bad shape, then you’ll want to strip it and reseason from scratch. Once your pan is properly seasoned, just a few simple tricks will help you maintain that glossy, black finish.
Cast iron care tips
- Don’t ever let food or liquids sit in your cast iron for prolonged periods. This will quickly cause it to rust and eat away at the seasoning.
- Acidic food like tomatoes and vinegar will also quickly damage the pan.
- It should never be soaked in water for hours or overnight.
- Frying a skillet full of bacon is a great (and delicious) way to build up the seasoning.
How to clean cast iron
Cast iron should be cleaned immediately after it’s used, preferably while it’s still warm. Do not use soap as this can damage the seasoning. If there’s food stuck to the bottom of the skillet, I’ll use this method:
- Add ½-1 inch of water and heat it on the stove over a medium heat.
- Use a wooden spoon to scrape the food off as it heats.
- Using oven mitts, dump the contents into the sink and rinse the skillet out well
- Use a brush or scotch brite pad to remove any remaining food, then rinse thoroughly.
If the food isn’t caked on, which it shouldn’t be with proper care, then I’ll just use the scotch brite and rinse well. Most sources say that soap should not be used on cast iron as it can damage the seasoning. I generally avoid using soap when I clean my skillet, but if it’s caked in gooey grease, I’ll resort to using soap on a scotch brite. You can also use coarse salt mixed with some olive oil to clean the skillet.
The best way to dry cast iron
Place the skillet over a medium low flame for several minutes. Wipe the pan as it heats. This ensures that the skillet is completely dry, preventing rust. Never air dry cast iron.
Oil it up
With the skillet still on the stove, add a small bit of coconut oil to the pan and rub it around with a paper towel. I use 1 tsp of oil for my 12 inch skillet. I don’t usually use paper towels, but these can be composted.
Turn the heat off. After the skillet has cooled down some, give it another swipe with a paper towel to make sure the oil isn’t caking on. You want a thin, smooth layer.