How To Clean Cast Iron Cookware

We all have that one cast iron pan or skillet or pot that we love more than anything. Cast iron cookware is the most heavy-duty cookware you can find, and it has been around for generations. We love these pans because they distribute heat evenly, are non-stick, and they can last forever. 

But many people make mistakes when it is time for cleaning. Some people ignore essential steps hence leaving their irons rusty and very dirty. The good thing about cast iron cookware is that you can restore them easily. I am going to show you how you can clean, maintain, and restore your cast iron cookware.

Regular Cleaning:

This is the cleaning you must do after you have used the pan. Make sure you always clean it after use to prevent grease build-up.

Washing:

You can clean any cast iron cookware by hand. Use some water and a little bit of soap for cleaning. For stuck food, you can utilize a pan scraper. If the stuck food is hard to remove, put some water in the pan and simmer for around 5 minutes and let it cool. Use the scraper to remove the now loosened dirt.

Drying:

Do not make the mistake of letting your cast iron cookware air dry as this might cause rust. What you should do is to dry it immediately after using a paper towel or lint-free cloth. There might be some residue left on your towel, but that's seasoning and is normal.

Oiling:

Oiling is a crucial step to ensure the longevity of your cookware. Rub a light layer of cooking oil, and you can use seasoning spray if you have it, on the pan or skillet's surface. Use a paper towel to wipe the oil off until no residue is left behind. But what if the cookware has formed rust?

Removing Rust from Cast Iron Cookware

When cast iron cookware starts losing its seasoning, it starts to rust. You can't remove rust with a scrubber, but there is a better process you can follow to remove the rust. The following process is going to help you know how you can clean and restore your cookware.

Requirements:

  • Rubber gloves, to protect your hands
  • Oven cleaner
  • Rag or kitchen cloth
  • Dish soap
  • Clean towels
  • White vinegar
  • Plastic bag
  • Steel wool or scrubbing pad

These are the steps to follow for restoration;

Stripping

This step involves the removal of built-up grime. Use an oven cleaner for this step and work in a well-ventilated area.

  • Find a wooden or concrete block and place the cookware on top. You should also wear rubber gloves and spray the oven cleaner all over the surface, both inside and out. Do not let it come into contact with your skin.
  • Put the skillet in a plastic bag and wrap it tightly. Doing this ensures the cleaner doesn't evaporate and removes the grime. Leave it outside for 24 hours.
  • After the time elapses, remove the bag and scrub the skillet. Use steel wool or a rough scrubbing pad and hot water with detergent to remove the residue.
  • Rinse. Scrub it a second time then rinse again.
  • Combine equal parts distilled white vinegar and water and pour it in the pan. Let sit for an hour. You can use two cups of water with two cups of distilled vinegar. If your vinegar is not distilled, use one part vinegar with eight parts of warm water. The water and vinegar mix is for removing rust.
  • Remove the solution and scrub the pan. Use warm, soapy water with steel wool to scrub it thoroughly.
  • Pour the solution out and rinse the pan/pot. Use paper towels to dry it immediately after.
  • Rub some oil over the surface and wipe off the excess.
  • Place it in an oven at 500 degrees for one hour. Remove the pan/pot and let it cool.

Seasoning The Cookware:

Seasoning refers to the slick layer of oil that you leave on the pan. This happens when you heat fat or oil to the smoke point. The seasoning layer makes the cookware slippery and durable; it also makes the surface non-stick.

The oil you use for seasoning should be polyunsaturated. These are oils or fats that oxidize and polymerize faster than regular vegetable oils creating durable seasoning. You can also use vegetable oils like sunflower.

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Q: Can I soak a cast iron pan?

A: You should not soak a cast iron pan as soaking it in water will cause the formation of rust. You can use a scrubbing brush or a pan scraper to remove stuck-on food. You can also simmer some water in it for a while to loosen the dirt then scrape it off.

Q: Can I clean a cast iron pan in the dishwasher?

A: There is some dishwasher-safe cast iron cookware, but not all of them are. You must confirm whether your cookware is dishwasher-safe or not before cleaning. Putting cast iron cookware in a dishwasher can remove the seasoning and might cause rust. Hand wash your cookware to prevent this.

Q: Can you wash cast iron with soap?

A: While using soap when cleaning cast iron is not a requirement, you can use it. You just need to make sure you use only a small amount. Large amounts can strip your pan's seasoning that can lead to rusting. Just use a little bit of soap and lots of water to clean.

Q: Can I clean using a metal scrubber or steel wool?

A: Yes, you can. However, you need to be careful with it, as this might damage your cookware. You can use a pan scraper to remove the residue. The only time you can use a metal scrubber or steel wool to remove grease and rust.

Conclusion

Cast iron cookware is the beauty of any kitchen. To maintain the beauty and intelligence of the cookware, you will need to clean it regularly. Just use warm, soapy water and a scrubber, non-metal, to clean it, rinse and then dry using a paper towel.

You should also check to see whether the cookware still has its seasoning. If not, you can easily season your pan or pot yourself. Keep the cookware in warm, dry places to prevent rust build-up. These simple instructions are going to help you keep your cast iron cookware in tip-top shape.

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