Cast iron is nearly as indestructible as a government program. However the seasoning layer on it is not. Using the wrong cleaning tools or cooking the wrong foods in your cast iron cookware can completely remove seasoning that took years to build. Previously I showed you how to buy cast iron cookware, now we are going to tackle how to care for it.
The key to caring for cast iron cookware is to do as little cleaning as required. E.g. don’t use the swat team if you are tackling the cleaning equivalent of writing a parking ticket. The gentler you are with the cookware the less chance you have to damage the seasoning.
Use the following list as a progressive guide to cleaning your cast iron. To successfully clean your cookware use the first method on this list that gets the job done.
- Do nothing if it looks clean.
- Wipe clean with paper towel if there is light residue
- Scrub with small amount of kosher salt if there is stuck on residue.
- Boil small amount of water in pan to loosen tougher residue.
- Use plastic scrubber to remove stubborn residue.
Under no conditions should you do the following as it will remove your seasoning:
- Place cast iron in your dishwasher.
- Use dish soap on cast iron.
- Use steel wool to remove debris.
- Cook acidic foods such as tomatoes.
Once cleaned, cast iron should always be stored dry to prevent rust. You can dry pan in the oven or on a warm burner to quickly remove moisture. Towel drying will not remove all of the moisture and can encourage rusting.
Contrary to popular belief, the cookware should not be re-oiled after each use. That causes the pan to be sticky and collect dust and grime between uses. The non-stick properties of cast iron are due to the carbonized oils burnt onto the pan; therefore wiping fresh oil into the pan after each use will not accomplish anything. Instead just add fat/oil to the pan prior to cooking food.
Finally, plastic, wooden, and metal utensils are all acceptable on cast iron. However avoid metal spatulas that have sharp edges, particularly sharp corners. A flat edged spatula with rounded corners is ideal. Rounded corners will be less likely to gouge the seasoning.