Well-seasoned cast iron cookware provides one of the best surfaces for cooking because it heats food evenly, whether on the stove or in the oven. That said, cast iron is a notoriously tricky material to maintain since it should never be washed clean.
So, how exactly are you supposed to remove gunk, grease, and leftover food from cast iron without sticking it in the sink or dishwasher? Follow this advice from the experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute on how to clean your cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, or grill to ensure that it’ll keep on cooking your food for years to come.
How to Season a New Cast Iron Skillet
As tempting as it may be to just throw food straight in the skillet and get to cooking, cast iron skillets require some care before you can get started. Seasoning your cookware creates a clean surface to evenly cook veggies, meats, and desserts. Follow this step-by-step — unless you opt for pre-seasoned cookware, of course.
- Wash your new cookware with hot, soapy water (the one and only time you should). Dry it thoroughly.
- Using a cloth soaked in vegetable oil, rub the entire surface of the pan, including the exterior.
- Heat upside down in a 350ºF oven for one hour. Turn off the oven and let the cast iron cool down completely in the oven.
- Put the greased item upside down in your oven and bake at 350ºF for one hour. Let cool and remove excess grease with a paper towel.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet After Cooking
The longer you use your cast iron skillet, the darker its color will be. A shiny black (a.k.a. a deep, dark patina) cast iron skillet is a sign that it’s well-seasoned, adding natural flavor to your favorite dishes. While food grease is an ideal flavor builder, clean any food residue —acidic foods, especially — to prevent rust.
Word to the wise: Never (we repeat: never) soak cast iron in water, put it in the dishwasher, or scrub it with metal scouring pads. Otherwise, you’ll have to restore the seasoning all over again, which is a total time suck. But when your cast iron needs a refresh, follow this dry cleaning method:
- Wash your cookware with dish soap and a stiff bristle dish brush, but don’t soak it.
- Take it back to the burner and turn on the stove for 30 seconds or until the water starts to evaporate.
- Once dry, turn off the heat and rub a few drops off vegetable oil onto the inner surface using a clean paper towel.
- Once cool, put a paper plate or paper towel in the mouth of your skillet to absorb moisture and store.
How to Remove Rust
Good news: It’s easy to bring a rusty cast iron skillet back to life. Rust is really a result of a good seasoning job, so it shouldn’t discourage you. Profile rusting, the most common type, can be removed with this step-by-step guide:
- Use a non-metallic scrubber to remove the rust.
- Wash with mild dish soap like Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, rinse well, and dry with a clean towel.
- Re-season the surface by coating its interior and exterior with vegetable oil.
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