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Tips for Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware

Tips for Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware

 

Once upon a time, cast iron cooking pots and pans played an essential part in nearly everyone’s kitchens. But as we entered the age of the non-stick pan, cast iron sadly fell out of favour. It is, however, starting to make a huge comeback following concerns relating to the health implications of non-stick chemicals such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). When treated properly, cast iron boasts non-stick properties without the potentially harmful chemicals – and it distributes heat much more evenly than aluminium – so it’s fast becoming the go-to material for cookware.

 

If you’re hoping to clean rusty cast iron pans, or a wok, be aware that these things will need special treatment – so rely on rust or wok-specific cleaning tips. If you’re just thinking of purchasing your first cast iron pan or griddle, however, here’s how to keep it working well:

 

  • Wash the Pan When it’s Warm

Whether you’ve been using your pan or griddle on the stovetop or in the oven, it’s going to be burning hot once you’ve finished cooking. Let it cool just enough so that it’s comfortable to the touch, but not so long that any leftover foods or juice have started to solidify or stick – this will make the cast iron more difficult to clean. When the food residue is still warm, it’ll wash off relatively easily, making your job a quick one.

 

  • Skip the Dishwashing Soap

It’s been drilled into us from a young age that we should wash our dishes and cookware with dishwashing soap, or with dishwashing detergent or tablets if using a dishwasher. When it comes to cleaning cast iron, however, avoid soap at all costs. Cast iron pans and griddles should be washed with warm water only – no detergent at all. Cast iron requires seasoning after each use (we’ll describe the seasoning process later), and washing with soap can remove the built-up layers of seasoning.

 

  • Don’t Leave Cast Iron to Soak

As with other types of iron, cast iron is susceptible to rust. When left in wet or damp conditions, the material reacts with oxygen, creating rust. It’s always best to wash your cast iron cookware immediately, rather than leaving it to soak. If the food residue has cooled to the extent that it’s difficult to remove, soak the pan for just one minute – no longer. This should be enough to just gently soften the grime, while still protecting the cast iron.

 

  • Scrub Gently with Kosher Salt

As well as detergent, scouring pads, steel wool, and even stiff-bristled brushes can also damage the seasoning layers, and potentially even damage the pan or griddle itself. The best way to scrub cast iron clean is to place a sprinkling of kosher salt (or any other sort of large, coarse salt flakes) on a soft cloth, and wipe away at any stubborn stains or crusts. You can also use this method to remove small areas of rust.

 

  • Dry Immediately

To reduce the risk of rust, always dry your cast iron cookware immediately rather than leaving it to drip dry in a drying rack. There are no special methods for drying cast iron, just wipe with a clean tea towel – preferably a soft (rather than scratchy) towel to avoid any potential damage.

 

  • Season Well

When you first buy your cast iron cookware, you’ll notice it has a very rough surface. The surface feels slightly bumpy, and it’s very porous – it’s also not yet non-stick. That’s why it’s hugely important to season your pan before first use, and after each subsequent use. To do this, after you’ve dried your pan thoroughly, apply a thin layer of neutral-tasting oil, such as vegetable oil. Spread the oil so it covers all surfaces. You could also heat the pan gently on the stovetop and add coconut oil, allowing it to melt and soak into the porous surface. Your pan will seem greasy and oily, but don’t be tempted to wipe the oils off – you’ll build up a layer of oil each time you use your cookware, creating a non-stick surface.

 

  • Store Properly

There are two considerations to take into account when storing your cast iron cookware. Firstly, you’ll want to protect it from the moisture in the air so that it doesn’t rust, and secondly, you’ll want to wrap it so that it doesn’t cover its surroundings in grease. The solution is simple – wrap your well-oiled pan or griddle in plastic sandwich bags, ensuring you’ve removed as much air as possible before securing into place.

 

Cast Iron Requires Care, Not Effort

 

Some homeowners are reluctant to buy cast iron because of the ‘effort’ it takes in cleaning and maintaining the pans and griddles, but there’s really nothing to worry about. Cleaning cast iron isn’t any more effort than vacuuming your carpets, cleaning your fridge, or changing your bedding, but, like many things, it does require a bit of special care. Cast iron is hardwearing, durable, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s safe to use. Follow the simple cleaning tips above, and your cast iron cookware should last you a lifetime!

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