Cast Iron Cleaning: Most cast iron comes preseasoned these days, but older cast iron, or cast iron that has been put through the dishwasher or harshly treated, may need to be reseasoned. And all new pans, even “preseasoned” ones should be seasoned a few times to really get that nonstick coating established. Everyone has their favorite method, but this one is foolproof and old-fashioned. It’s also simple. Any cooking oil will work—flaxseed, canola oil, olive oil (though avoid extra-virgin), or even shortening.
Instructions: Line the middle shelf of your oven with foil. Preheat your oven to 325°F. First, remove any rust. Sprinkle kosher salt lightly on any rust spots and rub gently with the steel wool until the rust is removed. Do not go crazy with the steel wool—but now is the only time you can use it, before you season. Do not use steel wool after seasoning your pan. Next, quickly wash the pan in soapy hot water to remove any traces of rust, grime, and leftover gummy old seasoning. Dry thoroughly with lint-free towels.
Now pour a few tablespoons of the oil of your choice into the pan. Use a stiff brush to work the oil into every crevice of the pan, inside and outside. Add more oil if the pan soaks it all up. When the pan has soaked up the majority of the oil, place it upside down on the foil-lined rack in your oven. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and let the pan cool inside the oven.
The pan should now be slightly shiny and have a nice coating of oil that makes the pan nonstick. Any time the pan feels abrasive, or does not act like a nonstick pan, you may need to reseason the pan. Pans can be seasoned a few times to get this nonstick coating built up quickly.
Once your cast iron cooking surfaces are properly seasoned, cleaning is a breeze. There’s hardly anything to it. There are only two hard-andfast rules to remember: always wash by hand, and dry thoroughly. Any leftover moisture is the fastest route to needing to reseason a skillet, because rust thrives on moist cast iron. I know, I know, you thought I was going to say never use soap on cast iron. But that is an oldfashioned tenant, when soap was extremely harsh and ate at the seasoning instantly. A gentle soap now and again will be fine if it sets your germophobic mind at rest. Just don’t use any harsh or abrasive cleaners or bleach. But the basic premise is true: you don’t need soap to clean cast iron. Here are some ways to keep cast iron clean without the suds.
Light Soiling: Cast iron demands cleaning right after use, while still warm. This is actually good news, as it keeps your kitchen tidy by default. After each cooking use, simply wash the pan with hot water and a light sponge or stiff dish brush. Dry well with towels or let it dry out over low heat on a burner. Then, add a tablespoon or so of cooking oil to the pan and buff it in using a cloth or brush you keep for this purpose. Then turn the heat up to high and let that oil soak into the pan for a few minutes until it is no longer shiny. Let cool and it’s ready for the next use. If you don’t put the pan over heat after you oil it, the oil will turn sticky, collect dust and debris, and may go rancid before your next use. So always let the heat soak the oil into the cast iron.
Heavy Soiling: You overcooked the eggs or burned the bacon and your cast iron pan is looking worse for the wear. Or, your pan suddenly shows a few rust spots. No fear, you can easily scour the surface without ruining your beautiful seasoning.
To Use: Sprinkle the surface liberally with baking soda. Push hard with the potato while scrubbing the pan to release the raw juices that interact with the baking soda to clean your pan. Rinse well. Now follow the light soiling process to complete the cleaning.
Extra Tip: Many people store their cast iron skillets in the oven, throwing the clean skillet in the still-warm oven to dry out. Just remember to take it out before you preheat the oven next time, or use care and an oven mitt when removing it from a hot oven!
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