Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Everyday Cleaning and Care of Your Cast Iron

I decided to go ahead and post my first set of tips today instead of tomorrow.  I am very excited about this blog and I sincerely hope that all of you find something that you can use.  I am passionate about cast iron cookware (CI for short) and I hope you are too.

One of the most common mistakes people who are new to using CI make is in the everyday cleaning and care of their cookware.  I have run across countless people who will tell me things like, "Things always stick to my CI when I use it," or "I bought a piece of CI at big box store and I can't stop it from rusting and they said it was pre-seasoned."  More often than not after talking with them for a few minutes it becomes clear to me that they do not understand how to properly care for and clean their CI.

The simple guidelines I am about to give to you have worked for me for years but I realize that there is always more than one way to do things.  If your mother or grandmother have a method that works for them that differs from mine, I would love to know what it is.  With that said, let's talk about cleaning!

First, the best tip I can give you is to clean your pan while it is still warm.  Noticed I said warm and not hot.  Let it cool down a bit so that it is just warm, but cool enough to handle.  Please do not soak you CI or let it sit in standing water or you run a chance of rusting it.

Wash you CI by hand using ONLY hot water.  I recommend using a stiff brush made for hand washing dishes (you can find them at the grocery store) or a sponge.  DO NOT use soap, steel wool, abrasive pads, or put your CI in the dishwasher as all of these can strip the seasoning from the pan.  As a side note here, never ever put cold water into a piece of hot CI. It can actually cause it to crack/split, and then your prized CI is pretty much useless.

If you have stuck or cooked on foods you can remove them one of two ways.  First you can put some Kosher salt in the pan along with a little water and use it as an abrasive to scrub the pan.  Alternatively you can boil a small amount of water in your pan and it will generally help to loosen stuck on food.  I have also found that those little plastic scrapers that come with stoneware also work very well.

Always dry your CI after washing it.  You can either towel dry it by hand or you can put it onto your stove burner and turn it on its lowest setting for a few seconds to a minute.  You want to warm it just enough to help evaporate the water.

Until your CI is heavily seasoned, I suggest you put a thin film of oil on the cooking surface.  Just take a paper towel and wipe a very very light coating of vegetable shortening (I prefer Criso) on the cooking surfaces.  Some people like to use liquid vegetable oil or a spray, but I suggest you stay away from using them.  They can actually cause the surface to become very sticky when they dry and cause problems when you are cooking.

Finally, make sure you store it in a dry place.  Under the sink is not place for your CI.

If you do find a situation where you feel like you have to use steel wool or soap, it isn't going to ruin your cookware.  You will probably have to re-season your CI, but don't worry I am going to cover re-seasoning in my next post.

If you do happen to find a small rust spot on your CI, don't worry.  Just use some steel wool to rub it out, and re-season.

If you follow these simple cleaning and care instructions you will get more than a lifetime of use out of your CI while protecting that all important "seasoning" that gives it that wonderful non-stick surface.

For those of you who have a piece of CI that has lost its "seasoning" I will be giving you instructions in the next post for what I think is the best process for seasoning.

See Ya Then.


  1. I'm assuming that lard or bacon grease would probably work as they didn't have crisco in the old days. I know my mom used to cook everything with bacon grease and when she finished, she just wiped the CI pan out with a paper towel and water didn't come into the equation unless she was making gravy. (Gall stones much?)

    1. You are correct, lard or bacon grease can be used and a lot of people still use it today. I prefer Crisco for 2 reasons. First it is vegetable based which to me at least seems a little more healthy. Secondly, if a piece of CI is not used for some time there is a chance the oil used to season the pan can become rancid and lard or bacon grease seems, at least to me,to turn rancid faster than Criso.

      I remember my grandmother keeping a bean can that she would always put her bacon grease in to. I think she use to put a spoonful of that grease into everything. I know she used it to season green beans. It wasn't healthy, but man did it taste good.