|Cast iron clean up involves: hot water, a plastic scrubber, heat, and oil|
Caring for cast iron is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Your cast iron skillet or dutch oven wants to remain seasoned. The best way to keep your cast iron cookware seasoned is to use it often and follow these simple steps afterwards:
1. Wash the pan with hot water
2. Scrubbing off any stuck-on crust with plastic bristles
3. Dry the pan with heat
4. Lightly oil the pan while it is hot
Here are the steps explained in a bit more detail:
Washing with Hot Water
Some folks keep their cast iron dirty. They finish cooking in their skillet, and literally throw the thing—full of food residue—into the oven until next time. This doesn't make sense to me.
For starters, in our house we use a cast iron skillet for something every day. When I'm getting ready to cook the boys scrambled eggs at 7:00 am the last thing I need is to start with a skillet reeking of last night's pan-seared salmon. I get lots of questions about flavor carryover from one dish to the next in cast iron, and failing to clean up your skillet makes this problem worse.
Second, cast iron is made of iron. It is susceptible to pitting and other damage from acidic foods. Most human food is acidic. After all, one of only five flavors the human palette is capable of detecting is acidity or sourness. Leaving this acid sitting in your cast iron skillet for days, weeks, or months is just plain silly.
Wash your pans with hot water!
|I use a Dobie scrubber pad for my cast iron|
Steel wool and Scotch pads can be useful if you've ruined your cast iron through neglect, and need to rescue it. Otherwise stick to plastic.
For heavy soil or for the good of the planet, you can also use the plastic mesh bags that produce comes in to clean your cast iron.
Soaking Cast Iron Pans
If you have encountered sticking while cooking (this is tough to avoid in the early years of your pan with scrambled eggs), it is perfectly acceptable to soak the pan for a few hours. Do NOT soak it overnight or it will rust. The more you use your pan, the more non-stick it will get—and clean-up will get easier and easier.
Using Soap on Cast Iron
Applying soap to a well-seasoned cast iron pan isn't the end of the world, but this course of action is generally frowned upon. The key to healthy cast iron is a deep coat of seasoning and a shiny non-stick surface. While soap won't harm your seasoning, it works against you in the second regard because it cuts grease. Soap can also contribute off flavors to your food at high heat, and adds unsavory chemicals to your culinary projects.
Drying with Heat and Oiling
|Always dry your cast iron with stovetop or oven heat|
Once your cast iron pan has dried completely (generally just a few minutes on the stovetop, or 10 minutes in the oven), lightly oil it with some canola or other essentially flavorless oil using a paper towel or rag.
Leave it on the burner or in the oven until it cools... and put it away with its light coating of oil.
If your cast iron pan gets too hot during drying and loses that sheen of oil, simply turn off the heat re-oil it until the oil stays shiny and unblemished (no longer burns off or mottles). This heating and re-oiling helps contribute to the ongoing seasoning of the pan... so feel free to do this from time to time for the sheer sake of your pan's seasoning development.
|My paper towel after oiling a skillet|