Cast iron makes for excellent cooking pans: durable and with superb heat distribution. Well looked after, they will last a lifetime. Here’s everything you need to know about how to care for cast iron cookware.
Caring for Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware is wonderful: versatile and durable, usable both indoors and out, on the stove top (including induction), on a direct flame or in an oven.
- How to season cast iron pans
Properly looked after, it can last a lifetime. However, a cast iron pan does need a little care to extend its lifespan. Don’t worry, though! It’s not an onerous task.
If you have a new pan, start by seasoning it. Then follow the guidance given below about cleaning and storing to preserve the non-stick surface and make sure the pan doesn’t get rusty.
If you think that the details sound a bit overwhelming, then relax; caring for cast iron is easy! Here are full details what to do.
How to wash and maintain cast iron cookware
Everyday cleaning of your cast iron pan and cookware takes only a few minutes. The most important things you need to remember if you own cast iron cookware is never to leave it in water for any length of time, and never clean it in a dishwasher.
Also, don’t shock your cast iron pan. It is quite brittle. Your cast iron skillet might warp or crack when the temperature drastically changes. Never pour cold water into a hot pan.
After making fully loaded dirty chips, for example, it’s time to wash and clean your cast iron pan.
Step One – Wash
- The main rule is: less is more. Wipe out as much of the cooking residue as possible with just a piece of kitchen paper. If necessary, adding a little boiling water to a hot pan can really help here.
- If something is stuck on and can’t be wiped off, then a slightly more aggressive approach is needed. A good scrubbing brush and boiling water makes all the difference.
- A good abrasive that can help is coarse salt. Empty the pan of water (otherwise the salt will dissolve), and scrub with salt and your brush.
- If nothing else is working, then it’s time for soapy water together with your brush or a scrubbing sponge. The one thing not to do is to soak the pan for any length of time in water. This will cause it to rust.
Step Two – Dry
- Rinse well and dry the cast iron pan. Use a dish towel or paper towels. I then place cast iron cookware over low heat on the stovetop or inside a warm oven at 100–150 °C (200–300 °F) to evaporate the remaining moisture. This is very important to prevent rust.
Step Three – Oil
- Coat the cast iron pan with a very thin layer of oil. Use neutral oil such as vegetable, sunflower, rapeseed (canola) or linseed oil. You can use the same cooking oil you use when you season your pan. Don’t use vegetable shortening, butter, or coconut oil, because some oil residue remains. Coat the vegetable oil all over the cast iron skillet with a paper towel. Ensure every part, including the handle and bottom, is coated with a thin layer of cooking oil. Remove excess oil with paper towels.
Whatever your cast iron – a skillet, grill pan, Dutch oven, or other cookware – these three easy steps will keep it in top condition for years to come.
How to remove rust in a cast iron skillet
If there is a little rust on your pan, first try a scrubbing sponge, hot water and dish soap. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to use some coarse salt with the sponge or brush, again with a little water.
If this is still not working, then try some steel wool, a little water and washing up liquid/dish soap.
If your cookware is covered with a thick layer of rust, mix a vinegar and water solution. Submerge your cast iron skillet in equal parts vinegar and water. When you see fizzing, that means it’s working.
Don’t soak your cookware for too long. Check every hour. When you notice that most of the rust has gone, remove the cast iron pan. Then rinse with running water and gently scrub off the remaining rust on the cooking surface.
When you are satisfied that your have removed the rust, wash, dry, and re-season your pan.
Storing cast iron pans
Cast iron must be stored in a dry environment and preferably a cool one. Humidity and warmth combined can quickly lead to rust forming.
Also, don’t stack! Cast iron is sturdy but the coating from seasoning of the cast iron pan is delicate, so take care.
The ideal place to store cast iron cookware is hanging near or on the stove. It is very convenient, and you can easily grab your pan when you are ready to cook beef curry, cheesy padron peppers, and other meals.
Having well-maintained cast iron cookware and a dutch oven at home is one of those lovely everyday gifts you can give yourself, especially if you are an avid cook. It is versatile, durable, practical, and useful for indoor and outdoor cooking. But for your pans to last for decades, you must care for and maintain them properly.
Make sure you have a couple of minutes to clean and re-oil your cast iron regularly. This is not an all-day job, but just taking that moment to look after your cookware means you’ll never have to buy another pan again.