Cleaning and maintaining a cast iron pan is easy. In this Ultimate Guide to Cast Iron Care, you can find out what is necessary to ensure that you can retain your cast ironware for a long time.
Cast iron is perfect for preparing delicious and healthy food. The heat is evenly distributed in a cast iron cookware, which leads to a beautiful cooking result.
I remember when my daughter excitedly purchased her first cast iron skillet, and then promptly shoved it into the cabinet never to see the light of day again. 😄
It took me a while to get my first skillet, but now I cook with it 90% of the time. Check out my recommendations for the cookware and recipes at the bottom of the post.
Cast iron care
If properly cared for, it is a lifetime investment.
After learning how to care for, wash, and store your skillet, it will soon become one of your most used and cherished kitchen gadgets!
Why use cast ironware?
There are many reasons why I prefer to use a cast-iron skillet and you should too:
- It's versatile – Start something on the stove, and finish it off in the oven. No need to transfer to another dish. You can even use it atop a campfire! Bonus: fewer dishes to clean.
- Cleaning is a cinch – all it needs is a little TLC every once in a while, but if it's properly cared for, just wipe it down after use and store!
- They last forever – If you've just inherited your great-grandmother's skillet, you can attest to this.
- They can add iron to your food.
- You can use it as a weapon. (Joking, but they are pretty heavy!)
The ultimate guide
Knowing how to use and care for a cast-iron skillet can seem intimidating, which is why I've compiled the ultimate one-stop guide to cast iron care.
Avoid this when cleaning your CI:
A few points one must observe when cleaning and maintaining your pans:
- It is not possible to clean CI pans in a dishwasher, as this can result in the loss of their natural protective layer and damage to the patina.
- Only use scouring pads to remove flaking or stubborn rust. Don't use it for regular cleaning as this will destroy the patina that gives them their characteristic aroma.
- You should avoid deliberately soaking leftovers sticking to your pans in water, as this can also damage the surface.
Never soak your cast iron or wash in a dishwasher!
How to properly care for my cast iron?
The great thing about caring for it is that you can't mess it up! Even if you've made a mistake, or it's acquired some rust, it is very forgiving, and you can usually rectify the problem.
The most important and the most intimidating part of owning CI cookware is seasoning.
Seasoning is lingo for forming a hardened or "polymerized" layer of oil, which will add a non-stick coating to your skillet and prevent it from rusting.
Read on for instructions on how to season your skillet and some other common questions and concerns.
How to remove rust?
Step away from the trash can! Rust on a
is no big deal, and your pan is easily salvageable with a little elbow grease and a little actual grease.
- Clean the skillet with warm water and soap if necessary. Wipe it dry with a kitchen or paper towel.
- Scrub it thoroughly with a scrubbing pad, or steel wool to remove rust.
- If your skillet is also flaking, add a handful of salt to the oil and rub it into flaky and rusty parts.
- Grease generously inside, outside, and the handle with oil.
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool in the oven.
How do I season my skillet?
If you search for this online, you will see a thousand different websites with a thousand different methods. I'm going to simplify it for you.
Step 1: Wipe the pan with a paper towel or soft sponge immediately after use. Make sure your skillet is clean and dry.
Step 2: Pour about 1-2 tablespoons of oil into the skillet (see below which oil to use).
Step 3: Rub the oil into and around the entire skillet with a clean cloth or paper towel. Remove the excess oil.
Step 4: Bake upside down for an hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Let cool in the oven.
Step 5: Rub another skinny layer of oil on the pan before storing it.
You will know that your pan is adequately seasoned if you have a nice shiny non-stick coat. You'll know it's time to re-season when food starts to stick, or your pan starts looking dry and dull.
1. What do I need for cleaning and seasoning?
- High smoke point oil
- Paper towels
- Kitchen towel (optional)
- Scrubbing pad (optional)
2. What oil is best to use?
Any oils and fats are okay, according to Lodge, but best is to use high smoke (or high burning) point oils. Those oils are:
How to clean cast-iron?
- It is generally sufficient to wipe the pan with a paper towel or soft sponge immediately after use. After your delicious meal of 15-minute Spanish garlic shrimp, let the pan cool a bit and then wipe out any leftover oil with a paper towel.
- Die-hard ironware fans will tell you to stay away from using soap, but if you need to get rid of harsh food residue, soap is totally fine to use, and here's why: If your skillet is seasoned correctly the oil is polymerized (hardened).
- Dish soap is not going to remove your seasoning but is not usually necessary to use in the first place. A gentle scrub and wipe, and you're done!
- Make sure you're not soaking your pan in the sink, as that will cause rust, and ultimately more work to restore it.
- Thoroughly dry your skillet after cleaning. If you discover seared food when the pan has cooled down completely, hot water can help to remove dried-on residues.
Pro tip: Dry your skillet on the stove over low heat while you do the rest of your dishes. Rub with a very light coat of oil before storing it.
To avoid damage, never "shock" the hot pan with cold water.
Pro tips/expert notes
- Make sure to remove all extra oil from your ironware before "curing". Too much oil develops a sticky residue.
- Depending on the state of your skillet, you might need to repeat cleaning it with salt a couple of times to remove rust successfully. Don't forget to "cure" it on the stovetop for about 5-10 minutes on medium heat in between; finish process in the oven (step 4).
- You might want to place a piece of aluminum foil on the rack below the skillet just in case. It might create some smoke.
Taking care and maintaining your pans and skillets is easy. You can use the same method to care for cast iron griddle and grill grates.
When it comes to enamel skillets and Dutch ovens, clean them as any other pots and pans you have. No need to "season" them.
Other common questions and concerns
1. My skillet is flaking
Unlike a Teflon pan, flaking does not mean that your skillet is ruined. It is time to re-season it, however.
Take some coarse salt or a scrubbing pad and clean until all of the flakes come off; rinse and re-season.
2. My skillet is sticky 🍳
The most common reason your skillet could be sticky is that you've used too much oil when seasoning it. To get rid of the gunk, use a scouring pad or some coarse sea salt to scrub your pan and rinse it out with water.
If you have a thick build-up, or it's more persistent, pop your skillet in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wipe it out and re-season.
3. Will it scratch the induction (glass) cooktop?
Do not drag or push heavy ironware on the glass/ceramic hotplate. If you lift the pan, you will avoid scratching the surface.
Never place cast iron directly on the heat. Heat the pan gradually.
4. How do I store it?
Never put a product that is still damp in the cupboard. Store in a dry place and use paper towels in between pans to prevent friction.
5. How to cook in it?
Cooking in your CI skillet is no different than cooking in any other pan! The trick is not to add food to a cold pan, so make sure you heat your pan through first.
One thing you should avoid cooking in your iron skillet is tomato sauce. The acidity in tomatoes can damage the non-stick coating or seasoning of your pan.
Always put food in a hot cast-iron skillet.
Cas ironware recommendation and what to cook in it:
Lodge mini skillets are perfect for individual servings. Watch your overnight guests swoon over breakfast frittata in these.
10 and/or 12-inch skillets are a must-have! Try one these recipes:
Cast-iron pot with lid and wire bail is ideal for camping, but I made plenty of crowd-feeding soups and stews in mine like these traditional recipes:
Last but not least, the Dutch Oven. From bread to soups and stews, this is one pot every kitchen should have.
You should also try these amazing dishes you can make in your CI:
This may seem like a lot of information, but I promise that you'll be a pro in no time. If you have any other questions about cast iron care, leave a comment below.