Why and How to Clean Cast Iron Pan?

How to Clean Cast Iron Pan

Second to grandmas China wear is a lovely cast iron pan as the most valued kitchen equipment. The fact that they are naturally non-stick, retain heat like a dream and they can last for generations make cast iron pans one of the best cooking tool.

Unfortunately, most people are apprehensive about buying or receiving a cast iron pan because they are said to be high maintenance. Since you can’t put them in the dishwasher, scrub them with steel wool or even use soap to clean them, some people feel like they are too delicate to handle and maintain. However this couldn’t be further from the truth as cast iron pans are extremely easy to take care of and they are very forgiving even if you mess up.

But first things first, what is a cast iron pan and how does it work?

As the name suggests, the pan is made of cast iron primarily which is why it’s so durable and strong. However, cast iron is not non-stick on its own so a layer of factory seasoning is put on the interior of the pan to make it stick resistant. Seasoning is basically when a thin layer of polymerized oil bonds on the cooking surface to make that non-stick slick texture. It happens when oil is heated to smoking point until it turns plastic-like and sticks permanently to the cast iron surface. What you need to protect when using a cast iron pan is actually that seasoning because if it comes off, you have a sticky pan on your hands.

Why Does the Pan Need to be Cleaned and causes?

It goes without saying that you need to clean all kitchen tools especially those used to touch food directly for hygiene purposes.

However, there are some extra reasons why you need to clean a cast iron pan.

It’s also important to note that you should clean the pan immediately after use and you shouldn’t let it stay on the sink or the cooktop with all that grime because it will cause rust and other bad reactions you don’t want.

Remove factory residue. When you buy a brand new pan from the store, it can be tempting to just use it because it looks so new and clean.

However, it’s very important to wash off that factory residue caused by the factory seasoning before frying your egg.

You can even use soapy water just this once to remove any chemicals off your pan.

Remove rust. If the pan is not very well taken care off or stored properly, it can start to develop some rust patches.

Rust is cause by moisture on the pan that happens if you leave the pan in the sink, store it in a moist place or store it without wiping off the surface dry.

The only way to remove that rust is to clean the pan and season it again. The process of cleaning a rusted pan will be outlined below.

Re-seasoning. Accidents happen and sometimes your pan will just lose its original seasoning for one reason or another.

Seasoning can come off if your pan rusts, or if it’s cleaned the wrong way and uses to cook foods with acids in them. Cleaning the pan is the first step to regaining that shiny surface.

Keep it in tiptop shape. The only way to maintain your cast iron pan is to clean it properly.

There is a simple process that goes into cleaning the pan to retain its seasoning and failure to do so will ruin your beloved pan.

Tools Needed to Clean Cast Iron

  • soft sponge
  • plastic bristled brush
  • paper towel
  • cloth towel
  • kosher salt
  • vegetable oil

How to Clean Cast Iron Pan 

The best way to clean a cast iron skillet is immediately after use so you should never soak it in the sink. 

Ideally, you let the pan cool off a bit and then add some hot water on it and use a sponge to clean off the food particles and oil.
If there are stuck-on bits on the pan, you can use a soft brittle brush meant for cast iron to scrub off before rinsing with warm water.

You should never use soap, steel wool or anything abrasive on your pan because it will mess up the seasoning.

Once the pan is clean, wipe it off with a clean towel and dry it on the stove on very low heat.

Apply a light coat of vegetable oil on the cooking surface and wipe it off gently using a paper towel.

You can store the pan in a clean dry place and if you think there is some moisture in the room, line the inside of the skillet with a paper towel to keep it dry.

How to Clean the Cast Iron Grill Pan

A cast iron grill pan is perfect for searing steak, chicken and fish. It’s a normal cast iron pan with the addition of ridge-topped cooking surface that gives your meat those nice grill marks.

The ridges make the pan a bit harder to clean than an ordinary egg pan so here are the steps;

After you finish searing your meat, pour some water on the pan while it’s still hot and bring the water to a boil.

Some of the food particles will begin to come off due to the hot water. remove the sticky ones with a plastic knife or spatula

Once the water has cooled, pour it down the drain and rinse out the pan with clean hot water

Use a towel to dry the pan and wipe off any remaining food particles.

If the pan is not clean still, you can use kosher salt to cover the entire cooking surface and add a little water to form a paste.

Use a soft sponge to scrub off the food particles with the salt especially focusing on the ridges and then rinse off with hot water.

As always, dry the pan completely with a cloth and dab some oil on the surface to season it. You can place it back on the stove for a few seconds and then completely wipe off the oil with a paper towel before storage.

How to Clean Cast Iron Pan Rust

If you leave some water drops on the pan or store it in a moist place, it will most likely rust. 

You can start by spraying some oil on a paper towel and using it to scrub the surface of the pan.

If this doesn’t work, you might want to use something more abrasive like kosher salt and water paste and a sponge.

Rinse it off with warm water or wipe clean with a paper towel. Place it back on the stove on low heat for a few minutes and then repeat the first step again.

Continue to scrub with a lightly oiled paper towel until all the rust is gone and then season it the last time using a fresh oiled paper towel.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Fry Pan

A cast iron pan can be used to sear vegetables, fry some meat and even cook fried food like sausage and bacon.

Once you have fried your egg, bacon or sausage, you can wipe off the excess oil using a paper towel and then store the pan.

However, if you want to clean more than that, some running hot water and a sponge will suffice before you apply some oil and wipe it off
for seasoning.

Conclusion

Taking care of a cast iron pan is not as hard as most people think. You just need to be careful with the seasoning and always store it in a
cool dry place. Fortunately, you can re-season the pan even if you make some mistakes that will ruin its original glory and still use for another decade.

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