Cast-Iron Skillet cookware has been around for so long that its origins are a little murky. What we do know is that cast-iron cauldrons and kettles were used for cooking for the first time in Asia about 1,300 years ago! (Do you believe air fryers will last that long?) Cast-iron pots and pans were the most popular option for home cooks for many generations, until the 1960s. When nonstick cookware was invented, cast iron skillets were replaced by their slick new Teflon relatives.
However, during the last decade or two, home cooks all over the world have rediscovered several advantages of cast-iron cookware: First and foremost, cast iron is inexpensive, highly durable, naturally nonstick, and has exceptional heat retention for even cooking and baking. Furthermore, it comes in a variety of sizes and types, including fry pans, grill pans, pots, skillets, waffle irons, and Dutch ovens. Finally, as a healthier alternative to aluminum and standard nonstick pans, more home cooks are turning to cast iron.
Despite all of the well-established advantages of cast iron, some individuals are still hesitant to make the move, and here’s why: Cast iron has a reputation for being difficult to clean and prone to corrosion, which is not entirely unjustified. Cast iron will rust and food will stick if it is not properly kept and seasoned. To make matters even more confusing, there is considerable disagreement over the best technique to clean cast iron and whether soap and water should be used.
To clear up any misunderstanding, present some fundamental information, and perhaps even persuade you to try cast iron, I’ve divided cast-iron cookware care and maintenance into three easy steps: cleaning, seasoning, and storage. Follow these guidelines for cleaning a cast-iron skillet, and your pots and pans will look like new for generations.
Cleaning a Cast-Iron Skillet
Most cast-iron pans may be cleaned simply by wiping them down with a dry paper towel or cotton dishcloth. Bits of scorched, stuck-on food will come straight off if the pan is adequately seasoned. Scrape away any remaining tough particles with a plastic spatula.
If dry wiping fails to clean the pan, try a scrubber and some water. Many individuals would recoil in terror at the prospect of washing cast iron in water, owing to the increased danger of rusting; yet, when done properly, there is nothing to worry about.
Place the pan in the sink, then add approximately 12 inches of warm water and a half cup of coarse Kosher salt. Scrub the pan immediately with a stainless-steel scrubber or a regular kitchen sponge. To cut through food leftovers, use the salt as an abrasive. Rinse the pan with water, then set it in a 350o oven for 10 minutes, or until totally dry, to avoid rusting. (Alternatively, you may dry it on the stovetop.)
If you see minor rust spots on the pan, apply the salt-scrub method described above to eliminate mild surface corrosion. For badly rusted cast iron, though, you’ll need to be a bit more aggressive: Scrub the pan with a steel-wool pad or, better still, a metal chainmail scrubber in hot, soapy water. If it doesn’t work, go outside and spray the pan with oven cleaning. Wait 10 minutes before scrubbing the rust away with steel wool and soapy water. Rinse the pan well with clean water, then dry it in the oven or on the stovetop before wiping it off with oil.
Season cast iron before using it for the first time, and then again after washing with hot, soapy water or oven cleanser. Seasoning the pan makes it easier to clean, avoids corrosion, and prevents food from sticking.
Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. After wiping off the pan with vegetable oil, place it in the hot oven for one hour. Remove the pan using a potholder, allow it to cool somewhat, and then rub a little extra oil into the heating pan. Wait a few minutes before wiping off the pan with a dry paper towel.
Remove the pan from the oven with a potholder and set it aside to cool for about five minutes. Then, while it’s still warm, sprinkle a little flaxseed oil, soybean oil, or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil into the pan. (Avoid using olive oil or bacon grease, which might get rancid.) Fold a paper towel into a tiny square and wipe the oil onto the cast-iron pan’s surface.
The final but most crucial requirement is to always properly dry cast-iron cookware before storing it. Even a small amount of moisture will cause the pan to rust, which is why cast iron rusts more rapidly in the summer than in the winter. In fact, it’s a good idea to put a paper towel in the pan to soak up any extra moisture or humidity.