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Cooking with cast iron can add tons of flavor to your food! But understanding how to clean a cast iron skillet is almost as important as the ingredients you add to your dish. There are so many rules to cleaning your cast iron cookware, it can be difficult to know exactly how to get those pans clean. This extensive guide to cleaning cast iron will give you everything you need to keep your cast iron skillets clean and looking like new for years to come.
Cast Iron Cleaning Don’ts
There are probably about as many don’ts when it comes to cast iron as there are tips for keeping your cookware clean. That’s because this popular cookware can be easily damaged if you don’t take the proper steps to care for your pans. Before you start cleaning your cast iron cookware, it’s important to know what cleaning methods to avoid. These important cast iron don’ts will keep you from damaging your favorite pans:
- Don’t soak your pan. Soaking your traditional pans after cooking is a great way to loosen stuck-on food and grime, but you should never let your cast iron pans soak in water. While a little bit of water on your cast iron pan won’t cause damage, soaking the pan for an extended period of time could result in rust.
- Don’t use soap (often). If you have some really stubborn stains or smells, adding a little bit of soap to your cast iron pan won’t cause damage. But washing your pan with dish soap after each use can cause the seasoning to come off, which could result in cooking issues later on. That’s why it’s best to avoid using dish soap on your cast iron pans whenever possible.
- Don’t wash your pan in the dishwasher. The high heat, water, and dishwasher detergent is a combination for disaster when it comes to cast iron cookware. Although it may seem like the most convenient cleaning option, placing your cast iron pans in the dishwasher will completely remove the pan’s seasoning. And all that water is sure to cause the pans to rust.
- Don’t use steel wool. Using steel wool on a cast iron pan is another sure-fire way to damage the skillet. The harshness of steel wool will scrub off the cast iron’s seasoning, which can lead to damage and rust down the road.
See also: In the market for the perfect pan for making Spanish-style Paella? Look no further, kit up your kitchen with our Spanish Paella pan reviews.
How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan
Now that we have covered the basics of what you shouldn’t do, you’re probably wondering how to clean your cast iron pans. There are several strategies you can take to ensure your cast iron stays seasoned and gets cleaned after you’re finished cooking. These easy tips will help you clean your pan without causing damage.
Clean While It’s Hot
The best way to avoid stuck-on food and grime is to clean your cast iron skillet while it’s still warm. Since you can’t soak your pan to loosen the food debris, taking the time to clean the pan while the debris is still warm makes it much easier to manage. Start by using a thin spatula to scrape all the leftover debris from the pan. Then, rub a dry paper towel over the top of the pan to wipe away grease and cooking residue.
Add Some Water
If there is still debris on the pan after wiping with a paper towel, add a little bit of water to the skillet and use a scrub brush to carefully scrub away the stuck-on bits. If the pan has cooled and you still have stuck-on food, place the pan back on the stovetop and bring the water to a boil to loosen the stuck-on food.
Sprinkle on Some Salt
Since you can’t use abrasive scrubbers on your cast iron pan, you’ll need another way to clean the pan without damaging it. Salt and baking soda are both great options when it comes to cast iron pan cleaning. Sprinkling a thin layer of salt over the pan and rubbing the pan with a paper towel will help loosen the stuck-on food and gunk without the abrasiveness of steel wool.
After rubbing the salt over the pan to loosen the cooking debris, run the pan under a stream of warm water to rinse the salt away. Then, dry the pan completely with a clean towel or place it back on the stove over low heat to safely air dry the pan.
Oil it Up
When your pan looks clean and clear of debris, take a minute to pour a thin layer of vegetable oil over the inside of the skillet. Wipe the oil around the pan using a paper towel to clear away any leftover residue. You can also wipe the oil around the exterior of the pan to clean splashes and other messes. Lightly buff the oil into the pan until all the oil has been wiped away.
Make sure your cast iron pans are stored in a cool dry place to prevent rust from forming between uses.