How to Properly Clean and Maintain Cast Iron
As a specialty food and kitchen supply store we field a lot of questions concerning proper care for cookware. At the top of the list is what some consider to be the kitchen’s more stressful pan: cast iron.
Cast iron pans are durable and great for high-heat cooking, like searing steaks and charring vegetables. Perhaps the heaviest of pans, the benefit of using a cast iron pan is that it reaches high temperatures and stays hot, rather than thinner pans like aluminum, where heat levels fluctuate. To get the most out of your pan when searing meat, preheat the pan over the flame so it has time to absorb the heat. As an added bonus, cast iron is also oven-safe, so you can move it from the stovetop directly into the oven, making them great for frittatas and other recipes.
If you are just peeling the sticker off a new Lodge pan you’ll want to start by washing it with mild soapy water. The first wash will be the one and only time you should use soap. Others may disagree, but soap will strip the seasoning, so it’s a no-go when it comes to cleaning cast iron.
How to Season In:
Cast iron "seasoning" is the process that occurs when multiple layers of oil bake into the skillet, creating a rust-resistant and nonstick surface. Most cast iron cookware come with a factory seasoning on them, so no initial seasoning is required. However, you’ll want to create a hardier seasoning by cleaning up the pan and re-seasoning it. Meats especially enhance seasoning and to maintain the seasoning rub olive oil over the cookware prior to cooking. By using your pan as often as you can, you’ll set down successive layers of seasoning which will only make your pan better and better.
How to Clean It:
Wash your pan immediately after using it while it’s still warm with hot water and a sponge or scrubber to remove cooking residue. Our favorite cleaning tool is a chain mail scrubber which small rings easily remove stuck-on food bits. You’ll want to avoid metal scouring pads, which can scratch, damage, and remove the layers of seasoning and expose the metal.
Upon rising your pan be sure dry it well, as not properly drying your cast iron can cause it to rust. Place it on a burner on your stove and heat it until dry. Then take a tiny bit of cooking oil and rub it into the cooking surface of the pan with a towel while it’s still warm. Wipe with another cloth or paper towel to remove excess grease.
How to Store It:
Keep your cast iron cookware in a dry place with the lids off to avoid rusting. An easy way to store cast iron cookware is to hang them with a heavy-gauge hook (remember they are heavy!).