Those who own cast iron cookware are always in the dilemma when it comes to cleaning the utensil. Their primary concern is if they give it a thorough clean, they might end up ripping off all the oil and grease that gives the cookware the shine and makes it nonstick. Cleaning cast iron cookware is the trickiest of all utensils because they should never be washed clean. You are supposed to clean the leftover food, grease, and gunk from cast iron without putting it in the sink or dishwasher. So, how exactly would you do that?
We will teach you how to clean cast iron cookware in this ultimate guide. And we will also share some tips on how to care for your iron cast utensil, from everyday upkeep to overhaul duty.
Let’s get started.
Cleaning the cast iron cookware
Different people have different theories about cleaning the cast iron utensils. And, there are a lot of “don’ts” that you have to keep in mind. Some of the common don’ts associated with cast iron cleaning include:
- Do not put the cast iron utensil in a dishwasher
- Do not use steel wool
- Do not use soap
All of this is enough to scare a newb off from cast iron completely. But believe us, it is not as overwhelming as it sounds. Just follow the guidelines given below, and you will be able to keep your cast iron utensil clean, well-seasoned, and rust-free.
What will you need?
Here are some handy materials you will need to clean your cast iron skillet or pan.
- Warm water
- Kosher salt
- Vegetable oil
- Paper towels or clean, dry cloth
- Stiff brush or sponge
- Stove (optional)
- First things first, clean the cast iron immediately after use. This is because when the skillet is still warm or hot, it gives you the ability to scrape off the unnecessary grease and gunk off its surface quite easily. Else, you will have to apply force, which can lead to you scrubbing off all the seasoning. If it isn’t hot or you haven’t used it, you can heat it over the stove for a few minutes under low flame. Never soak the cast iron in the sink or leave it in the dishwasher because it may rust.
- Always use hot or warm water to clean the cast iron. Pour some warm water into the skillet and use a sponge to gently wipe its surface. If the grease is notoriously heavy, you can consider using a stiff brush. But do not overdo it with the brush. And always refrain from using a steel brush or any other hardcore utensil cleaner as it may strip the skillet’s seasoning.
- The hard-to-remove stuck-on bits can be dealt with using vegetable oil and kosher salt. Remove the water from the pan. Pour some oil into it and add kosher salt. Using the sponge, thoroughly apply the mixture all over the cast iron. You will notice that the stuck-on bits slowly start to soften up. And then you can scrape them off using a brush. If you do not want to use kosher salt and vegetable oil, you always loosen up the stuck-on bits and residue using boiled water. Just make sure that the skillet doesn’t remain in the water for too long.
- Once cleaned, make sure that there isn’t any residue left. Using a kitchen towel or a clean, dry cloth, gently wipe down the cast iron starting from its surface. There will still be some water left. We recommend that you should not leave it to dry itself. Instead, heat the stove and put the cast iron on low heat for a couple of minutes to let the remaining water and moisture evaporate. This is the easiest way to dry off a cast iron pan after cleaning.
- Once it is completely dried off, it is time to do some oiling. Oiling is the best way to preserve the seasoning as well as prevent it from rusting. Simply apply a light layer of vegetable oil all over the cast iron, including the outside. Buff and wipe to remove any excess. Oiling after cleaning is important and never forget to do that.
- Finally, store the cast iron pan in a dry place, away from moisture.
This is a question that people ask many times. Well, the thing is there is no harm in using soap for cleaning a cast iron skillet. But people avoid using soap because there is a risk of it washing away the seasoning. Another reason why people don’t use soap is that it isn’t effective for cleaning cast iron, and the chemicals in the soap might bond with the grease.
You can always use kosher salt to clean the cast iron. It is not only natural but also edible. So, even if it isn’t completely removed from the pan, it poses no harm.
Removing rust from cast iron
If yours is an old cast iron skillet or you recently purchased an old cast iron cookware from a garage sale or a thrift store, there is a possibility that its seasoning is wearing off or it has started to rust. If the pan is not seasoned regularly, it can become dull or damaged.
So, if your pan has started to rust, you can breathe new life into it by stripping the surface and reseasoning it again. You have to make sure all of the old seasoning surface or layer is completely ripped off the pan before you reseason it. This time, you can use soap to dilute the hardened grease or seasoning. Or you can use a vinegar-water solution to strip off the grease. And you can also use steel wool to give it a thorough scrub.
Once done, immediately dry it off and start the seasoning process, else it will begin to rust again. Season it 5-6 times before you can actually use it for cooking.
This is how to clean and restore a cast iron cookware. Make sure to clean it once a while to keep the gunk and grease off its surface.