A cast iron skillet is a vital tool in every home chef’s arsenal. The versatility of cast iron has made it a long-term favorite cookware item, even with all the modern cookware options out there. If you find yourself a proud new owner of a cast iron skillet, you should know there are some hard-and-fast rules of caring for your new pan.
Understand the Importance of a Seasoned Skillet
You may have heard about a cast iron’s “seasoning” in passing. A well-seasoned cast iron pan will ensure a nonstick surface when you are cooking. In essence, seasoning is oil baked into the cast iron. The more you cook and care for your pan, the more oil or fat can molecularly bond with the pan to create another layer of seasoning. Since a well-cared-for pan can last for generations, it’s easy to see why the art of seasoning is vital knowledge. If you’re not lucky enough to get grandma’s skillet, you can buy them pre-seasoned for ease of use out of the box.
Never Put Your Cast Iron Pan in the Dishwasher
Cast iron may have its advantages, but hands-off cleaning is not one of them. Your pan should never be put in the dishwasher. Between the high heat and strong detergents of the dishwasher, your pan’s seasoning will be stripped away and will leave your pan likely to rust. Clean your cast iron cookware by hand only.
Avoid Dish Soap
If cleaning by hand makes sense to you, but you’re ready to reach for your trusty dish soap—stop right there! While dish soap and warm water won’t be as harsh as using a dishwasher, it will still serve to strip your pan’s seasoning. You will also want to avoid using harsh or abrasive cleaning tools, such as steel wool, and never let your pan soak to get off stuck-on bits of food. A cast iron pan soaking in water will rust.
Properly Clean Your Skillet
You may be wondering how you can clean your pan with all of these limitations. Rinse your pan and remove any food debris. If you find any stuck-on food bits, you can use a paste of coarse kosher salt and water. Once your pan is clean and rinsed, thoroughly dry it with a lint-free paper towel. Finally, rub a light layer of cooking oil or seasoning spray onto the surface of your cookware and use a paper towel to ensure no oil residue remains.
Caring for any cast iron cookware can seem like a chore at first, but eventually, it will become second nature and you too will be a cast-iron convert.