Your go-to cast-iron frying pan is tough, retains heat well and is basically indestructible. But cleaning cast-iron pans causes some confusion when it comes to what you can and can't use. Proper care is essential for keeping your pan well seasoned and preventing rust. Get into a regular care routine to keep your cast-iron frying pan clean and ready to use.
Cast-Iron Skillet Care Considerations
One of the biggest concerns with cast iron is exposing it to too much water, which causes the pan to rust. You don't want to toss it in a sink of soapy water and let it soak for extended periods. Food can also stick to cast iron, especially if your pan isn't seasoned well. Balancing the minimum moisture requirements with food removal is important for maintaining your pans properly.
Wiping Out Food
The easiest and least damaging method for cleaning a seasoned cast-iron pan is by wiping it with paper towels as soon as you're done cooking. Let it cool down slightly to avoid burns, but wipe the pan while it's still warm for the best results. The food doesn't have time to cool and harden onto the pan, so it's easier to remove.
You can also use a plastic spatula or similar utensil on the pan. This can help you scrape off any food that'a stuck to the surface.
Using Soap and Water
If your frying pan still has food stuck to it, you can use a little water and soap to help remove it. Traditional cast-iron skillet care methods say to avoid soap, but the gentler soaps on the market these days are safe for use on cast iron when needed.
Start by rinsing the pan under hot water while you wipe at the food. You can use a non-abrasive pad or a nylon bristle brush to help with the scrubbing. Add just a little soap if water alone isn't enough to clean off the skillet's surface. Rinse the pan well before drying.
Heating Up Water
If plain soap and water aren't enough, add a little water to the pan and put it over heat on the stove until it simmers. Let it simmer for a minute or two, then try scrubbing it again, being careful not to burn yourself. You can also add a little water to the hot pan as soon as you're done cooking if you anticipate the food getting stuck to the pan.
Scrubbing With Salt
Another option for stubborn food is cleaning cast iron with salt. Add water to the pan along with a generous amount of coarse grain salt. Scrub your pan with a nylon pad to work the salt into the surface and help remove the stuck-on food. Rinse the salt out of the pan, and ensure it's dry.
Drying Cast Iron Pans
Any time you use water to clean your cast-iron frying pan, you need to dry it well. Don't just let it air dry as you do with other hand-washed dishes. Use a lint-free towel to dry off any water droplets as soon as you're done cleaning. You can also put your cast-iron skillet in your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes to remove all moisture.
Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet
Seasoning keeps food from sticking to your cast iron, which makes cleanup easier. Any edible oil works for seasoning your pan. Some of the best oils to season cast iron include Flaxseed, grapeseed and vegetable oil.
Wipe the oil on all surfaces of the frying pan. Put the oiled pan in your oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. Rub a little more oil on the pan while it's still warm but not hot, give it a few minutes to soak in and then wipe the surface with a paper towel.
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.