Written by Tenley Haraldson.
Whether you’re a home cook or camping enthusiast, these are the best ways to clean a cast iron skillet – and they’ll keep your pans usable for years.
If you’re a cook, you already know that cast iron is a versatile tool for any home cook’s kitchen. While dealing with rusty cast iron can feel like a major annoyance, these kitchen appliances are built to last a lifetime when treated well.
Here, we break down the best way to clean cast iron so you can sear, bake, and fry to your heart’s content.
Why Is Cast Iron So Great?
Many non-stick pans can’t be used with metal utensils, but with cast iron, feel free to use whatever utensils you’d like. Because it heats more evenly, you’re less likely to see “hot spots” (or scorch marks) on parts of your food.
They withstand incredible temperatures and can go from stove tops to ovens to campfires. They’ll also retain heat, meaning that they can be used to keep food warm, long after pans have been removed from the heat source.
Whether you drop, scorch, or scrape them, cast iron pans are virtually indestructible – but you really need to treat them right.
How to Season Cast Iron
Some cast iron pans already come seasoned, so be sure to check the packaging on yours. If this is the case, feel free to start cooking in it. If not, follow these tips for seasoning your cast iron for a smooth surface to cook on.
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- Softly scrub the pan with some water and a drop of dish soap. Avoid abrasive tools: A washcloth should suffice.
- Rinse and dry your pan with a microfiber cloth, then drop 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into it. Using a paper towel or rag, cover the entire surface (don’t forget the handles and the bottom).
- Turn the pan upside down, place aluminum foil underneath to catch any drips, then bake in a 350ºF (175ºC) oven for one hour.
- If you ever notice that your pan is feeling rough or sticky, simply repeat the process again.
How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron Pans
Rusted cast iron can feel like it’s beyond fixing, but it can actually be simple to clean and reseason it.
- Apply a little water, a drop of gentle dish soap, and some elbow grease to your pan. For the best scrubber for cast iron, we recommend either a stiff-bristled scrub brush or balled-up aluminum foil. Get scrubbing!
- Rinse all of the gunk and goop out of the pan.
- Before cooking, follow the above directions to season your pan.
5 Tips for Keeping Cast Iron Pans in Good Shape
Once your cast iron is seasoned (or re-seasoned), you’re good to go. However, there are a couple of cardinal rules when it comes to how to care for your cast iron and how to clean cast iron.
- Never soak cast iron in water.
- Always clean your pan as soon as possible (preferably while it’s still warm).
- Always wipe it dry after cleaning, and add a thin layer of vegetable oil before storing it.
- Struggling with sticky food? Simmer some water for 1-2 minutes then try cleaning it.
- Avoid using chemical cleaners – you only need some vegetable oil and the occasional drop of dish soap.
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