Compared to all the modern cookware options, cast iron may seem to be a relic from the ancient past.
The truth of the matter, however, is that cast iron is one of the most versatile, reliable and long-lasting forms of cookware available.
Each pan is made to last a lifetime, without nonstick linings that tend to disintegrate over time.
Additionally, cast iron heats uniformly, and can go from oven to stove, and vice-versa – attributes not many modern sets can lay claim to.
As long as a cast iron skillet is well maintained, it can provide high quality results for a lifetime.
Here are the best methods to clean and maintain your cast iron skillet.
Cast iron is highly susceptible to rusting, thus, water is its number one enemy.
If your skillet has minor food debris, such as crumbs or remnants that can be easily removed, then avoid using water.
Instead, simply pour a little vegetable oil (or olive oil, depending on preference).
Next, take a cloth or paper towel and wipe the pan out until all food particles and oil are gone.
This not only removes the food, but it also keeps the skillet well seasoned (oiled).
Sometimes your skillet will have residue that oil and a towel alone won’t clean.
The best method for cleaning a skillet under these circumstances is to use cornmeal or sea salt.
The coarseness of these ingredients will provide an abrasive nature to the cleaning.
Using a cloth or paper towel, scrub the pan with the salt or cornmeal, loosening the food residue from the pan.
When the pan is clean, be sure to rub down with a thin coat of oil, keeping it safe from rust.
For instances when there is food that is really stuck on – either as a result of burning or the pan not being well seasoned, then more drastic measures are called for.
Place the skillet in the sink and run hot water into it.
Next, use either a piece of steel wool or a non-abrasive scrub pad (the sponges with plastic netting on them) to remove the food residue.
Once the pan is clean, rinse it and remove from the sink.
Be sure to dry your skillet THOROUGHLY.
Any water, even moisture in the air, can cause a cast iron skillet to rust.
One trick to drying a cast iron skillet is to put it on the stove for a few minutes on a low heat.
This will evaporate all water safely and thoroughly.
Finally, rub down with oil.
This article has referenced the use of oil on a cast iron skillet after each method of cleaning.
This may seem counter intuitive, as most of us consider an oily pan to not be clean.
The truth of the matter is that a thin coat of oil, well massaged into the skillet, is essential to keep it from rusting.
Dry cast iron will rust even from humidity, let alone actual water contact.
Therefore, it is essential to rub some oil into the pan after each use.
This is what is called ‘seasoning the pan’.
Cleaning a cast iron skillet is simple, albeit a bit bizarre compared to what we are accustomed to.
Still, once you understand the reasoning behind it, and you experience how the pan looks and feels after such a cleaning, then it will make better sense.
One cast iron skillet, well cleaned and well seasoned, can provide delicious, home cooked meals for generations.
Happy cleaning, and happy cooking!