There is nothing like well seasoned cast iron cookware. Anyone who uses cast iron will tell you they are a full fledge addict! The only people who do not like this “cookware from the heavens” do not know how to care and clean it properly. In this guide I will teach you each step on how to restore, season, and how to keep your cast iron cookware clean.
One of my favorite flea market finds is a nice, cheap, old, rusted, dirty, cast iron pan. Most people look right past them because they are jaded by thoughts like,”why would anyone wanna cook on that rust bucket?” or “that looks like so much work”. Truth be told you are doing yourself and your kitchen a huge disservice. Cleaning cast iron is actually very simple if you know a few tricks.
The first step to restoring a cast iron pan is to dry scrub the pan with corse salt. I use a few standard non-scratch scrub sponge and a tablespoons of salt. I scrub the pan in circular motion and add salt as needed. When I see that much of superficial rust and grime has been removed I move on the the next phase vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar is my favorite to use in this cleaning process due to its acidity and pH levels. Typically you do not cook acidic foods in a cast iron pan. It removes the ‘seasoning’ and actually breaks down the iron. In this case it’s ok to use this “break down” to your advantage. Continue scrubbing in a circular pattern adding vinegar and course salt tablespoon at a time to remove the rust, rinsing with warm water periodically. It’s going to take some elbow grease to remove. If the cast iron is in really bad shape let the pan soak in the vinegar. Continue scrubbing, soaking, and rinsing until clean or very, very, close to clean.
In the picture above this pan has been cleaned and seasoned one time. If the cast iron is in very bad shape or your arm is about to fall off from all the scrubbing you can try using cast iron chain mail to scrub the rust off, a decent one will run you about $10. You may also need to season the pan a couple of times to get the perfect nonstick pan.
Seasoning Cast Iron
Seasoning cast iron is the final step of restoration and also should be done periodically to keep your cast iron nonstick and easy to clean. The seasoning process is very simple, oil and heat! I like to use a quality olive oil when seasoning my cast iron but you can use many different types and generally people use vegetable oil to season there pan. Use caution when using different types of oils as the directions may differ from my version. The following process can be used with olive or vegetable oils.
Things you need:
- Olive or vegetable oil
- A clean cast iron pan
- A fabric cloth, that you don’t mind ruining
- Aluminum foil
- A 350° preheated oven
- A few hours of time depending on the condition of the pan.
- Drizzle oil on to the cloth and coat the cast iron pan. A very thin layer is needed over the entire surface of the pan. Be sure to coat the interior, bottom, sides, and handle too!
- Place Aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch oil drippings. Place your cast iron into the preheated oven upside down, directly on upper rack.
- Bake the cast iron for one hour then shut off the oven leaving your pan inside to slowly cool off.
- Check out the results and repeat if necessary.
Handy Tips and Tricks
DO NOT use paper towels instead of cloth for this process as they leave behind tiny fibers. The fibers can create a fire hazard, burn away leaving unseasoned areas on your pan, or bind to the coating leaving paper towel residue in your next meal.
DO NOT forget to place you cast iron in oven upside down. As the oil heats it loses its viscosity and excess will drip off the pan. If the pan is right side up in the oven it will pool in the bottom and create a sticky, gooey mess.
DO let you cast iron cool completely in the oven. Doing so will let your cast iron cool at a slower rate which will let the seasoning adhere correctly. Proper seasoning will keep your food from sticking and will make clean up a breeze.
DO NOT cook highly acidic food in your cast iron cookware such a tomato. The acid will breakdown the seasoning and corrode the pan. There are exceptions but remember to check the seasoning and re-season if you see it breaking down.
DO use this amazing pan to cook sugary goodies as the seasoning will save you from any scrubbing nightmares
Cleaning and Care
If you took the above steps to properly season your cast iron pan then get ready for the easiest pan cleaning process. Say goodbye to endless scrubbing, soaking, and using harsh detergents. Your toughest baked on burnt on food clean up disasters are no match for your cast iron pan. There are just a few tips you need to know to clean your cast iron
- The first step to cleaning actually starts when beginning to cook. Always add your fat/oils to a hot pan.
- Always clean your pan while it’s hot.
- Never use soaps or detergent when cleaning.
- Use a non-scratch scrub sponge and keep it to use only with your cast iron cookware.
- Always thoroughly dry your pan using the stove top.
- If you notice the sheen of the seasoning wearing-off, re-season ASAP!
Now your a cast iron cooking master get out there and don’t be afraid to cook those stubborn prone to stick meals!! Like my Honey Orange and Garlic Chicken!! Stay tuned for my special recipe!!