When it comes to cookware, cast-iron reigns supreme. Your grandmother probably used cast iron when you were growing up, and for good reason. You can cook pretty much anything on it, and it’s so durable that it actually gets better with age. How many things in your kitchen can you say that about?
Like any kind of cookware, though, cast-iron requires some maintenance. Knowing how to clean a cast-iron piece without removing the layer of seasoning that builds up over time is crucial. The seasoning is what keeps food from sticking to the surface. Whether you bought it new, pre-seasoned or have your own vintage model, follow these simple tips for seasoning and cleaning cast iron to make sure your cookware lasts for generations to come.
How to Season Cast Iron
The key to keeping cast iron's non-stick surface is regularly seasoning it. To season your cookware, line the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil to catch any drips. Heat the oven to 180˚C. Lightly coat the cookware with vegetable fat using a paper towel or plastic bag. Place the cookware inside on a rack, upside down so the excess fat can drain. Note: you can use vegetable oil for this, but it sometimes results in a sticky surface. Cook for 1 hour and then turn off the heat. Allow the cookware to cool completely in the oven.
How to Clean Cast-Iron
- Remove Leftover Food After you’re finished cooking and the pan is still warm, remove food residue with hot water, soap and a sponge. Avoid abrasive sponges that can scratch the seasoned surface, and never let it soak in water. Note: Despite what some say, using soap to clean your cast-iron cookware is completely fine.
- Dry Thoroughly Moisture is cast iron’s enemy, and you shouldn’t store your pan until it's completely dry. After you've cleaned the cookware with soap and water, rinse it off and dry it with a towel. Then, place it on a burner and let it heat up for a few minutes.
- Re-Oil the Skillet Take a towel dipped in cooking oil and rub the inside surface until it’s completely covered. Heat for a few more minutes, then take the cookware off the burner and allow it to cool. There is no need to bake the cookware each time.
Again, you want to avoid the potential for moisture, so store your cast-iron cookware in a dry place in your kitchen. Cast iron is durable, so don’t worry about stacking multiple pans. If your cookware is seasoned well, it shouldn’t get damaged by nesting multiple pots and pans inside one another. Hopefully, your cookware won’t be stored away for too long, because the best way to maintain it is to use it often. The more you cook with it, the better seasoned your cookware becomes (and your food will look and taste better too).
- Never soak cast iron.
- Do not wash cast iron in the dishwasher.
- Apply just enough oil or shortening to the cookware to restore the shine, but not be sticky.
- Never use cast iron in the microwave
- Do not slide cast iron on glass or ceramic cooktops.
- Cast iron can be used with all sorts of utensils, including metal.
- Because the cookware is generally one piece, the handles can become very hot. Use protection for your hands while handling.
- Highly acidic foods can damage the seasoning. Avoid cooking these until a solid seasoning is developed.
- If rust appears or the seasoning becomes damaged it can be cleaned using a potato and salt.