Photo credit: Bruce
When my husband’s mother passed away, we inherited her collection of cast iron pans. This brought our household total to well over 10 pieces which, aside from being quite heavy, led to us cooking almost exclusively with cast iron. We have a few pots for boiling water and such, but the bulk of both our stovetop and oven cooking is done in cast iron. This means that there is ALWAYS a cast iron pan (or three!) sitting on the back burner or on the counter that needs to be cleaned.
Growing up in the Northeast, we didn’t use cast iron nearly as much as those raised in the Southern states, so I’ve had to quickly adapt and learn to cook with and clean these kitchen gems. There are many different theories on cast iron care, but I’m going to share what works for our family.
When we’re done cooking our meals, we set our cast iron aside to cool to a temperature where it can be handled without burning ourselves. Once the pan has cooled to handling temperature, simply rinse the pan out and run the soft side of a sponge along the inside and outside walls and bottom. If there are a few stubborn spots, use the scrubby side of the sponge but don’t be too aggressive! You don’t want to destroy the seasoning that you’ve been building up.
You can also use a sprinkling of kosher salt in your pan to help break up any burnt and stuck on bits. Add a little water to the salt and scrub with your sponge. You can also bring water to boil in the pan to help break up especially stubborn spots.
You don’t need to use soap on your cast iron (and many cast-iron aficionados would die at the thought of using soap!) because the high temperatures that the pans will be used at will make it sterile and clean. BUT, if the thought of not using soap totally freaks you out, you can use a mild soap solution. Be sure to dry it immediately afterwards and apply a thin coating of oil.
If your pan should develop a spot or two of rust, don’t panic. Use a scour pad to remove the rust. Rinse, pat dry, and reapply a thin layer of oil. If your pan is really rusty, you’ll likely need to reseason.
What you REALLY need to know about caring for your cast iron:
- Keep it dry and don’t let it soak. Water plus iron equals rust.
- Clean it as soon as possible. The longer it sits, the harder it will be to clean.
- Use it often. This is the best way to keep the seasoning.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid of your cast iron. It’s the most durable piece you can have in your kitchen and will likely last generations if it’s taken care of properly. Use it and enjoy it!