Simple Ways to Care for Cast Iron Pans: There’s a reason why cast iron cookware is passed down through generations. A well seasoned cast iron pan is one of the best nonstick surfaces around, doesn’t contain all those nasty chemicals found in many contemporary nonstick pans, and actually adds healthy iron to your foods. With proper care, these pans can last a lifetime—or even longer!
Avoid washing cast iron with soap, and never let it soak. The only time you may want to use soap to clean your pan is when you first buy it. The rest of the time, you should avoid using dish soap to wash cast iron because it may remove the nonstick seasoning. Cooking foods at high temperatures will kill any bacteria left behind. To clean cast iron, you usually need to only wipe it out with a dry cloth or paper towels. If you cooked something messy, rinse it out with hot water, wipe with a sponge or washcloth, then dry completely before storing.
Wash pans while they’re still warm. It may be tempting to leave the dishes until morning, but cleaning pots and pans is easiest when they’re warm. If you’re still having trouble with baked-on and burned-on messes, add some water to the pan, and boil it on the stove for a few minutes to loosen even the toughest messes in no time!
Season it before its first use. Some cast iron pans sold in stores today come preseasoned and ready to use, but it’s still a good idea to know how to do this since you may need to season your pan throughout its lifetime to keep its nonstick surface in good shape.
Nonmetallic sponge, washcloth, or stiff brush
Clean, dry cloth towels or paper towels
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Wash your new pan in hot, soapy water using a nonmetallic sponge, washcloth, or brush, then rinse and dry thoroughly with clean, dry cloth towels or paper towels.
- Put a small drop of vegetable oil into the pan, and rub the oil all over the surface of the pan, including the exterior.
- Put the pan upside down directly on the center rack in the oven, place a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack below to catch any oil drips, and bake the pan for 1 hour. Turn off the oven, and let the pan cool completely before removing. Now your pan is ready to use! Repeat this process anytime you notice food sticking to your cookware.
Use salt to scrub away stuck-on food. To scrub stuck-on food without removing the seasoning from the pan, sprinkle some kosher salt in the pan. Add a few drops of water to form a paste, and use your fingers or a cloth to scrub away the stuckon residue.
Be careful when cooking acidic foods in your cast iron cookware. Acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus juices, and wine can damage the nonstick seasoning on your pan and may give food a metallic taste. If your pan is well seasoned, you shouldn’t have a problem, but if your pan is newer or not in the best shape, it’s wise to wait to cook acidic foods in it until you can build a better seasoning on the pan’s surface.
Completely dry cast iron before storing. Cast iron pans must be stored in completely dry conditions to prevent them from rusting. Dry wet pans with paper towels or a clean dry cloth, or put a freshly washed pan back on a hot burner until dry. Place paper towels between nested pans to soak up any moisture that may crop up during storage.
Protect pans with cooking oil. After washing and drying a cast iron pan, place a drop of cooking oil inside the pan to help keep the seasoning in good shape. Rub the oil into the pan with a paper towel. Let it sit for 5 minutes before wiping the excess oil out of the pan with a clean, dry paper towel, then store.
Make a rusty cast iron skillet like new again with steel wool. Restore a rusty pan with this easy DIY method. Scrub the rust with a steel wool scrubber until it’s completely gone, then wash the pan thoroughly in warm, soapy water, using a scrub brush or sponge. Thoroughly dry the skillet with a clean, dry cloth or paper towels, and re-season the pan.
Remove rust with a potato. Having trouble removing that rust? Try a potato! Potatoes naturally contain oxalic acid, an ingredient in many household cleaning products that dissolves rust. Cut a potato in half, pour kosher salt into the pan, and use the salt and cut side of the potato as a scrubber. Once the rust is removed, rinse the pan, dry thoroughly, and re-season.
Avoid using metal cooking utensils. Use gentler utensils like silicone, rubber, and wood instead of metal to keep the seasoning intact. Occasional metal spatula usage is okay, but using these gentler tools will make building and maintaining the seasoning so much easier.
Use cream of tartar to loosen tough, burned-on messes. Burned-on food is one of the toughest messes to clean! Bring 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar to a boil in the messy pot or pan. Let it sit on the stovetop until cool, then wash with dish soap and water. The abrasive consistency and acid content in cream of tartar crystals make it effective at cleaning and polishing even the messiest pots and pans.
Remove burned-on foods with ketchup. If you want to use a more hands-off approach, try this method. Pour a thick layer of ketchup to coat the burned mess, and let it sit overnight. The next morning, wipe the pan clean in soapy water. The acids in the tomatoes and vinegar in the ketchup will eat away at stuck-on messes while you sleep.
Clean baked-on stains from pans with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Sprinkle baking soda on the pan, then spray enough hydrogen peroxide to wet the baking soda and make it foam. Add another layer of baking soda, and let it sit for at least a couple hours or overnight. Wipe the pan clean with a cloth or scrub sponge—no hard scrubbing required! Repeat this process as many times as needed to get the pan completely clean, then wash, dry immediately, and store.
Nix stains and tarnish from silverware in no time with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Pour 1 cup of baking soda into a small bowl, and add enough hydrogen peroxide to form a thick paste. (You can start with more or less baking soda, depending on how many pieces of silverware you’re cleaning.) Put on protective gloves, apply the paste to the silverware, then rub dirt and tarnish away with your hands, a cloth, or a scrub sponge. Once the stains and tarnish are removed, hand-wash the silverware, or pop them in the dishwasher.
Clean stuck-on cheese from your grater with a potato. Grate a raw potato with your grater to remove dried cheese from all the little cracks and crevices.
Restore tarnished silver with a hands-off mixture of baking soda, salt, and aluminum foil. Place silver in a bowl lined with aluminum foil. Add 1 cup each of baking soda and kosher salt, then fill the bowl with enough hot water to cover the silver at least partially (for larger pieces, you may have to work in stages, depending on the size of your bowl). Soak the silver for 5 minutes, then hand-wash and polish as usual.
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