I love my cast iron skillets. Yes, I said skillets…plural. I think I own every size they make! Cast iron cookware holds a special place in my heart because it is economical, durable, versatile, holds heat well, and cooks food evenly. Properly seasoned and maintained, cast iron can last for literally generations!
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I first introduced you to my favorite pan with this Chocolate Fudge Skillet Cake and have since featured it many other times in posts but I have, until now, neglected to share how I CARE for my precious pans! So today I’m going to do that! This is my super simple guide to cleaning and caring for your cast iron skillet.
If your pan is brand new wash it with mild soapy water JUST ONCE. From here on out you won’t be using soap or harsh scrubbers because they will only remove the “seasoning” we want to create in the pan. No dishwashers either I’m afraid.
Now it’s time to “season” your pan (if it’s new.) “Seasoning” simply means fat or oil that is baked into the iron and helps create a natural non-stick coating. The more you use your pan, the more “seasoned” it will become. My pans are quite mature now. :-)
To season the skillet, coat it inside and out with vegetable shortening or cooking oil, and bake in a 350-degree oven for one hour. Turn off the oven, and let the pan cool in the oven. Remove the skillet and wipe the remaining oil or shortening off a towel. Some new pans are labeled “pre-seasoned” but we recommend seasoning them at home as well to create a stronger seasoning bond.
NOW you’re ready to cook!
To CLEAN your cast iron, most of the time all you need to do is wipe it out with some paper towels or a dry dish rag. If you’re cooking something messy, wash your pan with hot water and a sponge or a non-metal brush. Do not let your cast iron soak.
Be sure to allow it to dry completely. Not properly drying your cast iron can cause it to rust. After rinsing, dry it well and place it on the stove-top over low heat. Allow to dry for a few minutes, then use a cloth or paper towel to rub it with a little oil.
For particularly stuck-on foods, or when you think the pan could use a good “exfoliating,” pour a cup of coarse kosher salt into a warm skillet and add enough oil to make a gritty paste. Any oil will work, I used canola.
Mix the salt and oil to make a paste and using a clean, dry dish rag, rub the paste all around the inside of the pan. The grit from the salt will scrape up any dried food and the oil helps soak it all up and leaves a nice sheen to your pan (adding to its’ “seasoning.”)
When all the stuck on gunk has been loosened from the pan, dump the salt out, shake out your rag, and wipe out any residual salt and oil with a paper towel or another clean, dry rag.
Use these techniques to clean and care for your cast iron pans, and they will last forever! Enjoy!
Ready to give your cast iron a test drive? Try this Skillet Cookie recipe! You can thank me later. :-)