Some might say a good cast iron skillet is a kitchen staple. They are much better at creating a nice crispy sear on your foods than non-stick skillets, a lot easier to clean and transferable from the stovetop into the oven or vice-versa.
Many families have cast iron skillets that have been passed down for generations.
That’s the great thing about cast iron. If you take care of it, it will last forever. There’s something about cooking in the same pan your Grandma used back in the day to make her signature steak.
Some people shy away from cast iron because they are afraid of ruining it, or they are paranoid about germs and think that a pan that you can’t use soap on could never actually be clean.
Well, none of that is true.
As long as your pan is seasoned correctly they’re very easy to clean.
So there’s no need to feel intimidated by your cast iron.
What Does “Seasoned” Mean?
A seasoned pan means that there is a well established protective coating on your pan that is created by fats and oils. This oil protects the pan and creates a wonderful non-stick surface.
The seasoning keeps foods from leaching into the porous pan, and it helps reduce the amount of stuck-on food. It also serves as a barrier to help protect the pan from rust.
How to Season your Pan
You should always season a pan that is new.
You might need to season it again after washing if you used a lot of soap, or if you have had to clean rust off your pan.
From time to time will notice your cast iron looking dull. That is how you know you need to re-season it.
- Start with a clean washed skillet (see below).
- Make sure it is completely dry. Water is the enemy of cast iron.
- Pour about 1 Tbsp of oil (any cooking oil is fine) into the pan.
- Rub and coat the entire pan, inside and out with the oil.
- Bake the skillet upside down in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. You may want to put aluminum foil at the bottom of the oven to catch any drips from the pan.
- Turn off your oven and let the pan cool inside. Once it’s cool, you can take the pan out.
- Now have a perfectly seasoned pan.
How to Clean Your Cast Iron Skillet
Washing Your Skillet
It’s best to clean your cast iron when it’s still warm.
Food sticks less to a warm pan. Use hot water and a sponge or stiff-bristled brush made from plastic, not metal.
It’s perfectly fine to occasionally use soap, especially if the pan is extra greasy. But try not to use it often.
While dish soap will not harm the seasoning or the pan, the skillet is porous, and soap could impart some flavorings into the pan. You probably don’t want your blackened salmon to come with a side of Palmolive.
Don’t use steel wool, it will scratch at your seasoning and then you will have to re-season it.
Never put any cast iron in the dishwasher. It could strip all the seasoning and the prolonged exposure to that hot wet environment could cause it to rust.
Scrubbing Your Skillet
While you are washing your pan, you may encounter some stuck-on particles. If you are dealing with a well-seasoned pan, it won’t be difficult to scrub off those little bits.
I like to use a small plastic scraper to scrape off anything that doesn’t easily wipe off with a sponge or the bush. Often, I don’t even need to use the brush, just the scraper and a sponge will do.
If you really made a burned-on mess out of your pan and can’t scrape off the stuck-on muck, you can make an abrasive paste by pouring a bit of kosher salt into a pan and rubbing it around.
That combined with the scraper should do the trick. If all else fails, you can boil some water in the pan and that should loosen it up.
Do not soak the pan or let it sit in water for long periods of time that could cause rust; causing more damage and work to fix.
Rinsing and Drying Your Skillet
Rinse your cast iron pan well and dry it with a clean towel.
I also like to let my pan sit out for a bit to make sure it’s completely dry before I put it away. Any little beads of water left sitting on the pan can cause rust.
I find that if I was working with a hot pan and hot water, the heat left in the pan is enough for the pan to essentially dry itself and any residual water will dry up very quickly.
If your pan has cooled down to the point where it isn’t drying itself, you can turn the stove on low just for a moment to heat it up and any layer of water left on the pan will evaporate.
Oiling It Up
If you think your pan needs it, you can rub some vegetable oil into it, make sure you buff it and don’t leave globs of oil in the pan.
Some thoroughly seasoned pans may not need this every time.
If your pan is looking extra dull, or that bout with stuck-on food was too much to handle, then you need to re-season your pan.
That’s it. It’s really quite simple.
Now that you know how to clean your Grandma’s cast iron skillet you can dive into some of her old family recipes.